Monthly Column by James Robertson, Feb. 1995

In a previous article (October, 1994), I gave some theory and examples on effectively "Leaping Outside Bureaucrats." Last month, I gave an example of a person in Arizona who has had a long fight with "city hall" over some zoning regulations - and that while most freedom-oriented individuals would have sympathy for him, probably he could have dealt with the matter more effectively. This month, let's look further into effectively dealing with bureaucrats by "going around them."

Key Principle #1: Bureaucrats Think Differently About the Very Same Activity, If It is Outside Their Self-Perceived Jurisdiction or Domain.

Part A: What does a bureaucrat perceive as his/her jurisdiction or domain?

First, of course, the perceived jurisdiction must come from obeying the order of a perceived higher-ranked bureaucrat. If perceived higher-ranked bureaucrats change those orders from time to time, the bureaucrat "in good standing" will follow the new orders and only pursue jurisdiction resulting from the latest "order from higher authority." Since the bureaucrat believes he/she is doing a proper job by following orders, whether it makes sense to assert jurisdiction over a matter, whether it benefits anyone other than him/her in "doing my job," whether it in fact harms anyone, whether such assertion is an efficient use of time, and whether such assertion is really important compared to other things, are only minor considerations (if they're considered by the bureaucrat at all). Obeying orders is the paramount concern. Foremost, the bureaucrat bases perceived jurisdiction on the orders of others.

Second, the perceived jurisdiction must contain appropriate geographic location. A bureaucrat enforcing "speed limits" on a freeway in Los Angeles does not believe he/she has jurisdiction over "speeders" in New York. A bureaucrat enforcing "zoning ordinances" in Arizona does not believe he/she has jurisdiction over how people conduct their business or use their private property in Texas. A university professor acting as a bureaucrat in making a course-exemption decision at the University of California does not perceive jurisdiction over such course material at the University of Florida. Bureaucrats in general treat "international boundaries" as substantial limits to their domain.

Third, the perceived jurisdiction must contain appropriate subject matter. A bureaucrat enforcing "speed limits" on a freeway in Los Angeles does not believe he/she has jurisdiction over "zoning ordinances" in Los Angeles. A bureaucrat enforcing "zoning ordinances" in Arizona does not believe he/she has domain over "speeders" in Arizona. A university professor acting as a bureaucrat in making a course-exemption decision at the University of California does not perceive domain over medical personnel decisions at the University of California.

Fourth, the perceived domain must be the concern of the particular individual bureaucrat in question (or at least his/her particular bureaucratic office). If "nearby fellow bureaucrats" (as to subject matter, geography, and so on) are "supposed to take care of the matter," the bureaucrat may not bother to pursue a matter any further - although sometimes the bureaucrat may follow-up to be sure.

Fifth, the perceived jurisdiction must fall under the general bureaucratic organizational category the bureaucratic rules call for. Bureaucrats at "city hall" won't perceive they have jurisdiction over a "Federal tax question," even when the "client" (victim) is local to them and the subject matter concerns taxes. Bureaucrats at "EPA" won't perceive a dispute concerning "local zoning ordinances" to be within their domain, even though the "client" (victim) is in their geographic area and the subject matter concerns land use.

Sixth, the perceived jurisdiction must fall under the "bureaucratic whim" of the moment. If all of the other requirements for perceived bureaucratic jurisdiction are met (order following, geographic location, subject matter, and so on), the bureaucrat may still not attack you because it doesn't meet the whim of the moment. For example, the whim of the moment (or time period) might be to "go after adulterers" and use existing statutes to jail people who have affairs with persons other than their spouses; if such a fad is not the "whim of the moment," bureaucrats may not attack you in this manner even if they perceive all the other jurisdictional requirements have been met in your case. If "collecting unpaid parking fines" is the bureaucratic whim of the moment, you may find your car booted for unpaid tickets; the next month this whim can "change with the wind" even though the appropriate bureaucrat still perceives possible jurisdiction over you on the matter. A bureaucrat may not perceive "relevant actionable jurisdiction" over you even if he/she perceives all the other jurisdictional requirements are met; in other words, the "bureaucratic whim of the moment" may effectively eliminate, in the bureaucrat's mind, any relevant domain he/she might otherwise have perceived over you in any particular circumstance.

[This month's column is limited to the bureaucrat's perceived jurisdiction. Sometimes what you think is a bureaucrat's jurisdiction is different from what the bureaucrat sees as his/her jurisdiction. For example, you may in good faith believe you are not subject to certain statutes - you don't challenge the existence of the statutes, only whether a particular statute applies to you personally. Some bureaucrat may disagree with you. Such situations will be covered in future columns. The scope of this month's column is limited to what the bureaucrat perceives as his/her jurisdiction, as opposed to what you think is the bureaucrat's domain.]

Part B: How could the very same activity be perceived differently by different bureaucrats?

The key here is: Does the bureaucrat consider the matter to be within his/her jurisdiction?

To answer this question "yes," the bureaucrat usually is going to have to answer "yes" to all (or almost all) of the points in Part A, above. Therefore, all you have to do is induce in a bureaucrat the perception that "it's not in my domain" due to any of the Part A reasons! This applies to almost any matter. (About the only other concern is making sure he/she doesn't feel obliged to "pass you along" to some fellow bureaucrat in a different domain - a subject for a future article.)

In a previous article (October, 1994), I gave several examples of "leaping outside bureaucrats":

(1) Why did the solution to the vehicle emission (smog) test dilemma work? Because the rural bureaucrats did not perceive geographical jurisdiction (or any concern at all) over the matter.

(2) Why did the solution to the course prerequisite requirement work? This one's a little different. Here, there's a timing of events principle at work. The university bureaucrat had no perceived choice at the point in time his decision had to be made, except to grant the request.

(3) Why does driving very fast on the Autobahn work, without hassle from bureaucrats? (a) Local bureaucrats don't perceive any subject matter domain over "speeders" on the Autobahn; (b) Bureaucrats elsewhere don't perceive geographical jurisdiction over "speeders" on the Autobahn.

(4) Why does smoking marijuana in Amsterdam work? (a) Local bureaucrats don't perceive heavy-handed bureaucratic control over personal users in Amsterdam; (b) Bureaucrats elsewhere don't perceive geographical jurisdiction over personal users in Amsterdam.

(5) Why does unmarried consensual sex with someone ages 16 to 18 in Canada not result in confrontations with bureaucrats? (a) Local bureaucrats don't perceive anything wrong has occurred by this event; (b) Bureaucrats elsewhere don't perceive geographical jurisdiction over this subject matter in Canada.

(6) Why is there no problem with bureaucrats over "selling unregistered securities" in many countries other than the USA? (a) Bureaucrats in those countries don't perceive anything is wrong with honest business dealings and that no "registration" is necessary; (b) Bureaucrats elsewhere don't perceive geographical jurisdiction over "securities" sold outside their geographical boundaries.

Last month, I described the Arizona man who has had all sorts of trouble with local "zoning ordinances."

(7) The Arizona man could have: (a) Not publicly and loudly challenged the local bureaucrats initially. (b) Moved his business activities to a nearby - but different - location. Such a tactic would probably not have involved undue time and expense. The local bureaucrats would then have dropped the matter because they would not have perceived geographical jurisdiction. (c) Told them truthfully only a portion of what he was doing in his business activities. Without lying, he then would have induced in the bureaucrats a reaction of "no jurisdiction" for lack of subject matter.

Key Principle #2: What a Bureaucrat Doesn't Know About, You Won't be Attacked On.

Low-profile is preferable to high-profile.

One way to combine the two is to begin with low-profile, and only progress to high-profile interactions with bureaucrats if and when absolutely necessary.

Be low-profile when possible. If attacked, you may need to switch to higher-profile methods.

How Can You Be Low-Profile? One way to be low profile is to obey all bureaucratic orders all the time no matter what (sometimes those orders conflict with each other, so you might have a difficult time with this - but that's still another matter). Often it's prudent to obey the orders exactly. Most freedom-oriented individuals, however, probably resent acting like slaves unless absolutely necessary. There is a certain challenge to being freer than this. There's also the moral satisfaction that comes when you don't have to always live like a slave. (Keep in mind also that sometimes it's actually higher profile to always obey. Sometimes "out of sight, out of mind" is actually lower profile.)

KEY LOW PROFILE METHODOLOGY: You can be low profile by minimizing the amount of information about you that falls into the hands of bureaucrats, to the extent that such information can be linked to you and might cause bureaucrats to try to harm you. This includes many types of information: financial data, information about who you associate with, large purchases, travel information, political affiliations, unusual occupations, unusual personal habits, and so on.

You may do well to "compartmentalize" your life. If you have income or accomplishments from an unusual occupation, you may not want to flaunt it. Flashy displays of wealth or accomplishment should be only to those who are your friends, not to bureaucrats or other enemies.

Harmless information you don't need to be concerned about. Of course, you need to make prudent judgments about what constitutes harmless information. Such judgments usually are situation-specific - the same information (in the hands of bureaucrats or other enemies) that can gravely injure you in one situation may be completely harmless in other situations.

Information must be linked to you to cause you harm from bureaucrats and other enemies. You can use many techniques to minimize the links between information and you: Pure Contract Trusts (refer to the Pure Trust Package), Offshore Trusts, mail receiving/forwarding services, pseudonyms, trusted friends, and so on. You could consider prudent use of some of the information from such controversial publishers as Eden Press and Loompanics Unlimited. You can consider methods involving international jurisdictions such as the privacy techniques explained by Scope International in England.

The Morality of Being Low-Profile: Some people equate being low-profile with being sneaky. Other people say that to morally engage in political protest, you must openly declare to all of your enemies all of the time your full and true political opinions. I disagree.

I respect those who very openly, all of the time and to all who ask (and even to those who don't ask!), state radical opinions and radical actions. I think the problem here is that martyrs often achieve ineffective results.

If a private thief wants information about you so the thief can rob you or mug you, you probably don't think twice about giving less than full and complete information to the thief so you can avoid being harmed and so you can live your life effectively. Is there any moral difference if the thief is a public thief [bureaucrat]? In fact, I think there's a strong argument that you have an even greater moral obligation to protect yourself from public thieves, with regard to confidentiality of information (being low-profile). Most public thieves earn their living by committing immoral acts against human beings as a matter of routine; is it moral for you to make it easier for them to do this? Perhaps even more important: to what extent do you exercise your personal power? Why would you surrender your personal power (control of information about you) by routinely letting important information about you fall into the hands of your enemies?

What a Bureaucrat Doesn't Know About, You Won't be Attacked On. Unless some specific bureaucrat knows some specific information about you, that can be linked to you and is harmful (in that situation) to you, you won't be attacked! This sounds simple enough, but most people fail to apply this principle properly.

[Llast month, I described the Arizona man who has had all sorts of trouble with local "zoning ordinances." He could have very quietly - low-profile - gone about his business activities inside his property. Apparently he chose to be high-profile right from the start, at the first hint of being wronged by the bureaucrats. Then, he compounded the problem by calling them "Nazis" verbally and painting words to that effect all over the exterior walls of the building he was in. At that point, the bureaucrats had no choice but to accelerate the attack on him because they would lose face and credibility if they allowed his outburst to go unpunished. The problem was actually much worse at that point for the man, because now not only did the man and the bureaucrats know about the matter but many people in the state did. The bureaucrats now had a lot at stake and dug in much harder for a full-fledged attack. If no specific bureaucrat had ever known about his private business activities inside his property, he would never have been attacked in the first place! Clearly low-profile is most often the best path.]

The specific information may come about because of computers, some paperwork reporting, and other nonhuman methods. But a human being (or a computer programmed and operated by a human being) must become aware of the harmful information about you, link the information to you, and decide to take action against you. Unless all of these events occur, you won't be attacked!

You can't be attacked by an abstraction. An attack against you must come from individual bureaucrats (though of course they will probably work together much of the time, and often use computers). Many people have an irrational fear of some huge bureaucratic monolith. Certainly rational consideration of genuine threats to you merit your careful consideration. But consider this: unless specific bureaucrats know specific information about you, that can be linked to you and is harmful (in that situation) to you, you won't be attacked! When you are able to fully integrate this concept into your life, you will be much freer and have a much higher degree of personal power.