By now we are all aware that the government can seize your car, your house, your money, etc if they believe the items were purchased with the proceeds of drug transactions. However, the practice of seizing property is actually far more common than that, and far, far more sinister.
Are you aware that the government can steal your house, even if you don’t owe a dime on it, and sell it for as little as one year of back taxes? On top of that they pile on additional extortion fees, and you’ll end up either paying the taxes and fees, or being homeless. They’ll sell it for a small percentage of what the property is worth, and there are predators who actually make a living by buying houses this way, only to resell them.
Are you aware that if you are caught driving a motor vehicle with an expired registration, the government can steal it and place it in an impound, where you will be forced to also pay a high towing fee plus a shocking amount for it to just sit there (usually between $25 and $50 per day) until you pay their extortion fee? Are you aware that if you don’t pay that extortion fee (which at that point includes the fee to the towing company for towing and storage, plus the registration, plus the taxes, plus whatever ticket you got for not having an up-to-date registration) within a short period of time, sometimes as little as 30 days, they will sell your vehicle and you will no longer have any rights to it?
There are predators who actually make a living buying cars that way for resell, too, not to mention the predatory towing companies in cahoots with the government, who make all that extra money for doing nothing (in some places, the government has its own impound lot, but in most, the impound is merely the towing company’s premises).
So, what gives the government the right to take something which doesn’t belong to them, and the right to sell it and give you back nothing no matter how much it was worth, even if you owned the property free and clear?
Only the laws the government has written for its own benefit give them that right, of course. Nothing else gives them that right. There certainly is no constitutional right for the government to steal your property, nor is there a natural right for the government to do such a heinous thing. Extortion, especially on that level, is illegal for everyone except the government.
You are actually far more likely to fall prey to this government extortion scheme if you don’t owe money on your property. Of course, the government knows whether you own it free and clear or not, since they have specifically written laws stating that any lien interest must be filed with them.
Those who fall prey to these schemes are not just those who protest taxes. Instead, most victims are simply good people who fell upon hard times, and many times those hard times are directly caused by government extortion which snowballs.
Let’s say you inherited a home from your parents, and you have a car which you worked and paid for yourself. The home is bought and paid for as well, so you own both your car and your house free and clear. Then let’s say that you work too far away to get there any way except by automobile. You didn’t get your registration paperwork in the mail (not at all unusual in my experience), so you simply forgot it was due. You get stopped by the police because your registration is expired, and they ticket you and impound your vehicle.
At that point, you don’t have the money to get the vehicle out – it will cost you the towing fee, plus daily storage fees, plus personal property taxes, plus registration – and you can’t even make that kind of money because you have lost your job for missing work. You also can’t pay the fine you were levied because you didn’t have an updated registration, so your license is suspended until you pay that, plus about $50 to the DMV to reinstate your license (which in reality requires only a mouse click on a computer).
The only job you can get to feed yourself and your family, and be able to get there and back since you no longer have a car or a license, pays minimum wage. There is no way you will be able to afford to get your vehicle back. So you tell yourself, “that’s okay, I’ve been in hard times before. I’ll eventually I’ll get back on my feet again, and pay the fine and get another car. We’ll scrape by.” In the meantime, the government sells your car right out from under you.
A friend has an old moped they no longer use, and they let you use it so you can get back and forth to a little bit better job. There is no license plate or anything on it, so you assume you don’t have to have that. It’s slower than a bicycle, after all. You are pulled over by the cops, and hit with multiple tickets. You are ticketed for not wearing a helmet, for not having a license plate on it, for not having insurance on it, for not registering it and paying taxes on it …. the list goes on. You are fined hundreds of dollars, even though the vehicle isn’t even yours, and they impound the moped, too. To make sure it gets back the maximum return, the towing company actually sends a tow truck to transport a moped. You also go to jail for driving on a suspended license, even though no one with more than one brain cell would assume you need a drivers’ license to drive a moped, given that they are not supposed to be ridden on main roads because they are so slow.
Once you pay your bail with the little bit of money you’ve saved up to try to get back on your feet, you’re back to zero again. Chances are you’ve lost your latest job because you missed a shift and didn’t call in (since you are in jail, after all).
You get a notice for property taxes, but you can’t pay it so you figure you’ll pay them when you pay everyone else. The government can’t take your house, you think, because it’s paid for and you own it free and clear.
You get another crappy job, and start riding a bicycle to and from work. You are stopped for not having a license on your bicycle, and for not wearing a helmet. More fines ensue, and they impound your bicycle.
You start walking back and forth to work, taking the only job you can find within walking distance, and everything seems okay until a cop shows up giving you legal documents saying your home has been sold for back taxes, and you have only a short period of time (usually 30 or 60 days) to “redeem” what is yours. What’s worse, it has been sold to a stranger for only the amount of the taxes.
Where do you get the money to buy your house back from the extortion agents? At that point your credit is destroyed, so you can’t borrow it.
In many cases, you don’t get the money. The government sells your house and you end up on the streets, with no choice but to depend upon the government to feed and shelter your children, since you lost the good job when your car was impounded, lost another job when the moped was seized and sold and you were arrested, lost your bicycle because it didn’t have tags on it, and eventually ended up having to take whatever crap job you can find where you can walk to and from work. By this time you owe the government thousands in fines, you’re working and supporting a family on minimum wage, and now – as if all that isn’t bad enough – you’re homeless.
The government wants it that way. The more people depend upon it for basic necessities, the more power it has over all of us. It is nothing but communism in action: the people own nothing, because the state has the power to take anything it wants without compensation.
There are many people, every single day, who have encountered these problems, thanks to the many government extortion programs. In fact, I know people who have had these specific problems, so I know for a fact that it can happen, and that it does happen all the time. The mainstream media doesn’t cover it, because to get many stories they must have the cooperation of the politicians who enacted and support these extortion programs. However, whether we see it on the news or not, it is so common that the only thing I find surprising about it, to be quite honest, is that to my knowledge no one has yet snapped and killed someone for stealing their home. You will notice that I said “yet”. It will eventually happen, of that I have no doubt. When it does, I certainly hope libertarians will stand up loud and clear in their defense. I know I will.
As libertarians, we spend a lot of time complaining about federal income taxes. That’s all well and good, but what we should be doing as well is working to stop this kind of rampant government extortion on the state, county, and local level, which destroys the lives of hardworking American families every single day.
If they want to charge taxes, fine; if the taxes get too high, eventually no one will live there, and they will have slit their own throats. However, we should never allow the government to steal property due to nonpayment of taxes, especially when those taxes are levied simply by virtue of owning the property in question. Extortion by force is always wrong, no matter who is doing it, and it must be stopped.