See also: Part 1
The far-reaching ramifications of the Devyani Khobragade incident has likely sent a wave of dread upon all foreign diplomats in the US: Can they still depend on diplomatic immunity? Will the US continue to wink at their domestic arrangements, their parking tickets, and their sometimes more blatant abuses? Evidently not. So they have a choice. Either face the wrath of Form Nation or leave. Foreign diplomats in the US have been put on notice. They would do well to pack their bags and return home en bloc, until the US comes to its senses. What Ms. Khobragade has learned is that any US law enforcement official is able, whimsically, to make a mountain out of molehill, and this is because of a category of law which we have dubbed “Form Crime”.
Form Crime begins with the sociopathic obsessions of politicians and bureaucrats. Evidently, they sit in their offices fuming about people using their God-given freedoms to act outside of the control of government. For example, if you decide to take your money out of the US but fail to fill out a form, you could be guilty of a felony and have your money confiscated to boot. The US is not the only place where there is Form Crime. In 2010, Canadian Robert Docherty once tried to carry just less than CDN $10,000 without making a declaration. But by the time the security dogs sniffed out his baggage on his way out of the country, the exchange rate had increased, so that his US dollars caused him to exceed the CDN $10,000 reporting threshold. The Canadian government didn’t think that was funny and has never returned his money to him. He is a victim of Form Crime. In the context of Form Crime, people that thought they thought they lived in a free country get caught not filling out a form or making an error on a form. This is not a crime on their part, per se, unless there is an underlying offense. It is rather an egregious example of government as control freak.
Form Crime results from a proliferation of new laws designed to prevent the transgression of other, sometimes more important laws. Thus, reporting requirements at the border ostensibly have the purpose of preventing money laundering or tax evasion. But in the process, travelers have lost an important freedom: the right to private property. In essence, if the King must know how much you have on your person as you leave the country, he is suggesting that your property is public and does not belong to you to do with as you wish. You are now the King’s slave. Governments through their central banks then regularly debase their currency, so that the threshold of $10,000 routinely decreases without cost of living adjustments, thus tightening the strangulation of freedom. This we see in the FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) threshold of $10,000, which in 1970 when the Bank Secrecy Act came to be, was easily the equivalent of $60,000 (see inflation calculator). What in 1970 was a tidy sum that could even buy a house has now become a university student’s living expenses for one term. And there is now no question that control-freak governments are using this power to their advantage.
Devayani Khobragade is not a criminal. She did no wrong to bring private staff to the US and pay her according to the laws of India; the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations bestows upon her this right and it is not a case of human trafficking. But the USA is Form Nation and therefore importuned the Lady Diplomat to fill out a form which the Vienna Convention explicitly waives. She apparently wrote her own salary on the DS-160, and so the USA has charged her for lying about how much she would pay her nanny. Lying on federal forms is a felony. Her underpaying Sangeeta Richard, which would normally be a misdemeanor for which she would clearly have diplomatic immunity, has now morphed into a felony, which the US unjustly counts as a grave crime worthy of criminal charges. The diplomatic incident demonstrates how Form Crime destroys freedoms and rights and replaces it with unbearable burdens. It is unjust rulers who perpetrate Form Crime on innocent people. Jesus criticized lawmakers in his day: “They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” Our lawmakers are doing the same today.
I like your analysis. I can only offer a generalization by saying Form Nation arises everywhere and at all times when government bureaucracy has unshackled itself from the burdens of serving the people. It is the sign of Decadence, when a society has reached the peak of its economic strength and vigor, and now contemplates the other side of its upward slope; a slow, doddering decline into sleep. It will be ever-hampered by the sclerotic mass of bureaucratic cells clinging to its limbs as it roars in frustration.
Go to places like Brazil and Argentina and you will see a living, breathing monster employing one third or more of the population, that strangles the economy and makes life generally twice as difficult as it should be. One gets the impression this monster has been allowed to break away from its original charter to become a separate leviathan that exists in its own right. Try to cross it and it will tear you to pieces.
In a legally obsessed society like the US, Forms are the specific manifestation of that beast, as well as its tentacles.
You described the USA as a beast with tentacles. The new USA spy satellite is an octopus with tentacles. You described the form monster’s twin. The spy octopus is engulfing the world and its motto is “Nothing beyond its reach”
I requested some information from US Department of State in September, 2012. They told me my expected completion date was November, 2013. I called them just before Christmas, 2013. They said my new expected completion date is February 2014. They were quite honest that they don’t know where to look for the information and pointed out that it is information that is 40 years old–so it seems they haven’t looked anywhere for 15 months.
Contrast that with my request for information from 40 years ago from Citizenship and Immigration Canada. I had it within a few weeks. When I requested information from an Ontario file from 1975, I had it in three days.
The US does not know how to do anything simply or efficiently. FATCA is just one more example of that.
Another example is how IRS expects complex, convoluted forms and filing, but doesn’t even send out any confirmation of an income tax assessment.
I can do my Canadian income tax myself, send it in electronically and have my refund in my account within about two weeks. A Notice of Assessment arrives a couple of days after that via snail mail.
This whole debacle has given me a fresh appreciation for the workings of the Canadian government and CRA.
But, I’m still ticked off Canada has been “negotiating” our rights for so long with a foreign government!
re; “Another example is how IRS expects complex, convoluted forms and filing, but doesn’t even send out any confirmation of an income tax assessment. ”
And when they send out one of their bills, they can’t explain how the assessment was calculated, and don’t keep their promises to call back with an explanation (with the exception being those agents from the Taxpayer Advocate http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/ ).
Speaking of which, the next Taxpayer Advocate Report to Congress http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/Annual-Reports-To-Congress/Reports-To-Congress should be coming out soon.
It’s interesting to contrast results with 40 years ago. Technology has allowed processes to leap from paper to databases and yet why does it take many times longer to get the same result today? It’s because during that time, government has added layer upon layer of “cells,” each needing to fed and its existence justified by injecting itself as a gatekeeper in the process. Government addition of cells and departments and agencies far outstrips the private sector bounty of technological evolution foretold by Moore’s Law.
In the US, my last will and testament was a document nearly 30 pages long, written by a lawyer. In Switzerland, it is on one,hand-written page. Quite a dramatic difference.
As a kid, I remember reading that the Roman Empire’s bureaucracy grew by leaps and bounds, even as the barbarians arrived at the gates. Eventually it could not support its own weight and became a collapsed star. Unfortunately the Roman model of bureaucracy has been adopted by many Latin countries.
Also, we should realize it is the bureaucracy itself that is the primary cause of our woes, and not this individual or that party. Only a huge faceless bureaucracy causes outcomes such as the ones written about daily on this blog, the contradictory maze of regulations and legislation. And the beauty of this beast is that it allows its executioners and those individuals at the levers to slough off all responsibility for their deeds. Such as FATCA Father Richard Harvey proclaiming, “Oh, my creation is not really mine. I’m just following orders from Congress.” If you ask, you might get this line from dozens of functionaries and agents. Meanwhile the Congress can say, “Oh, we’re sorry about your case. We’ll refer it back to the machinery. They’ll sort it out.” And so on…
I agree with you about the bureaucracy with IRS. In my 23 years of filing I never received any acknowledgement from my US tax returns, which I did myself. One year I received a two thousand plus tax refund! I never worked in the USA since coming to Canada. I called IRS and told them and was advised to send it back. I did with a registered letter. My registered letter receipt was the only confirmation I ever received from the IRS. I never got an explanation why I was sent this refund cheque.
I am waiting for my CLN, backdated to 1993. It is almost 6 months that I went to the US Counsel.
Well northernstar they obviously believe you owe them a living rather than the other way around. Hope your CLN arrives soon.
We have to remember that these US government bureaucracies are comprised of individuals, most of whom are decent people, trying as best they can to do their jobs and make a living. Most do not harbour any ill will nor have any malevolent intent. I’m sure that if you could sit down over a beer they would be the first to admit that the system is out of control and often produces outcomes which are just plain wrong.
They are just as powerless to change things as we are. In a strange way, I sort of feel sorry for them because we can eventually escape from the madness; they cannot. It truly has become a monster that has taken on a life of it’s own. I think the only part of the US government that is still functional is the military because of it’s more structured form of command-and-control. Unfortunately that military has an ignorant ideologue for a commander-in-chief.
@maz57, Wellington: Thanks for the great comments.
Yet I will exonerate neither the bureaucrats nor the politicians.
@ Petros Yes, they are our enemies, whether intentional or not. If the elephant crushes you it doesn’t matter why it rolled over; you are still flat as a pancake!