Q. Why did you become an Australian citizen?
A. I recently bought one of those Australian hats with a wide brim, and I feel like a tourist when I wear it. As a citizen, I will feel more confident about wearing that hat since, legally, I won’t be a tourist.
Q. Where did you buy the hat?
A. Sea World gift shop on the Gold Coast.
Q. One of Australia’s key tourist destinations.
A. Yes. You can only get real, authentic Australiana stuff at hokey tourist traps.
Q. Where do real Australians get their hats?
A. I haven’t seen many Australians wearing hats like that. Probably because they don’t want to look like tourists.
Q. What did you have to do to become a citizen?
A. I had to live here for at least 5 years as a resident. They changed it from 3 to 5 years as soon as I arrived.
Then fill out some paperwork, take a multiple choice test, wrestle some crocs, wrangle some snakes, fend off a great white shark, box some kangaroos, and finally say a pledge.
Q. Did you really have to do all that?
A. The paperwork, test, and pledge are part of the process. The other stuff is just a typical commute across town. You also have to watch out for spiders.
Q. Is the test hard?
A. It’s 20 multiple choice questions. You have 45 minutes to complete it. I finished in under 3. It took less than 3 minutes to demonstrate that I was good enough for the Aussies. I think they have pretty low expectations.
Q. What’s the pledge all about?
A. It’s an oath of loyalty to “Australia and its people” although it’s not clear what the term “Australia” refers to –
The land mass?
The government, which by this terminology owns the people?
The people, as a collective entity, which would be redundant?
Some other imaginary construct? Whatever it is, I’m loyal to it.
Q. Spoken like a true patriot.
A. You can also choose to include or exclude the words “Under God” at one part.
Q. Did you include this part?
A. Yes. I figured that if I was signing up for one imaginary construct, why not have it witnessed by another?
Q. What is that supposed to mean? Are you an atheist?
A. I don’t like that term, mainly because that atheist guy Richard Dawkins comes off as an insufferable jerk. He is so arrogant and dogmatic that I actively try to be more accepting of religion just to spite him.
Q. Tolerance is so often realized through spite.
A. I thought the whole point of atheism was that you didn’t spend time worrying about religion, and that guy makes it a full time job, and has hordes of evangelical followers who treat him like the second coming.
People shouldn’t put too much faith in the assertions of any priests/authorities/experts/scientists/bloggers without doing their own critical thinking.
Q. At least everyone knows that bloggers generally have no idea what they’re talking about. Oh – except for this blog of course. You’ve got it all figured out.
A. That’s correct. Readers of this blog should assume that I’ve done all the thinking for them, and that nothing I say needs to be questioned or fact-checked. I expect the comments to be a series of fawning expressions of gratitude for relieving readers of the need to think for a while.
Q. Isn’t that what faith is all about?
A. Something like that. Anyways, there are more relevant dead-end arguments than religion that I would prefer to spend time beating my head against the wall over (ed. – see entire conversation below).
Q. So you’re some sort of nihilist?
A. I don’t even know what that means. I’m probably more of an “apatheist,” which I thought was a clever new pun until I Googled it and found out it’s a real thing. Now I’m worried that it inadequtely represents the amount of apathy that I have.
Q. Praise be to Google. So now that you have taken this oath, are you no longer a US citizen?
A. I am a dual citizen, which means I now have to try not to lose two passports when I travel.
You only lose US citizenship if you formally renounce it. While I regularly denounce the US government, I have not renounced my god-given right to continue filing US tax returns and TD-F 90-22.1 forms every year.
Q. What the hell is a TD-F 90…uh..?
A. Oh, sorry – they renamed it to FinCEN Form 114 this year.
A. The cool kids call it the “FBAR” form. Anyone with foreign bank accounts, which means most US Citizens living abroad, has to report the details of all of their accounts to the US Treasury every year.
Q. There are cool accountants?
Q. So FBAR means “Foreign Bank Account Reporting.”
A. Or “Fourth Bloody Amendment Repealed.” There’s a minimum fine of $10,000 or half of your offshore assets if you don’t file it. That’s if it’s unintentional.
If you can’t convince a judge that any error or omission was unintentional, the fine starts at $100k. So the “innocent until proven guilty” and “no cruel and unusual punishment” clauses are out the window too.
Q. Why is it so draconian?
A. It is supposed to prevent money laundering to terrorists and drug dealers.
Q. Do terrorists and drug dealers fill out beaureaucratic paperwork?
A. No. It didn’t take long for the feds to start going after supposed “tax evaders” using this. Which probably includes a lot of people who have no idea this form exists.
I only found out about it by reading blogs discussing legal tax avoidance strategies which I will probably never be wealthy enough to implement.
Q. Are there any tax benefits to becoming an Australian Citizen?
A. No. Australia is one of the few countries with a higher individual tax burden than the land of the free. I already pay taxes here since they are generally based on residency, not citizenship.
Except for the US, which taxes you on all worldwide income based on citizenship regardless of where you live. The only other country that does this is Eritrea, and that’s only a 2% flat tax.
Q. Does this mean you pay double taxes?
A. There is a tax treaty to prevent double taxation, but I still have to report all of my earnings – even though they are exempt. And foreign earnings require a lot more paperwork.
So every year, I file a 15-page US tax return to report zero taxable income.
Q. Poor you. So what are the other benefits of citizenship? You must have the right to vote now.
A. Actually, I now have an obligation to vote. It’s compulsory here. I’m not thrilled about that part of it.
Q. But now you have a voice.
A. Yes, I have a voice that is one in 23 million. 16 million are eligible voters, so I control 0.000,006% of Australia’s political future. “I am the 0.000,006%.” Put that on a T-shirt.
In the US, “I am the 0.000,000,8%.” My influence has increased tenfold. I feel empowered.
Q. But voting is important. Otherwise how could you make sure that the majority of people got what they wanted?
A. In 2012, 29.4% of eligible US voters voted for Obama. 27.1% voted for Romney.
42.5% didn’t vote. There’s your majority. “I am the 42.5 percent.”
Q. Put that on a T-shirt.
A. So really, 70.6% of Americans haven’t expressed any consent to be governed by Obama and friends. “I am the 70.6%.” That might fit on a hat.
Q. Dubya’s numbers were probably worse.
A. Yup. And I’m not sure that the Obama voters got what they wanted. Paraphrasing H.L. Mencken, they got what they deserved, good and hard.
Q. But Australia doesn’t have that problem, because of the compulsory voting. Everyone has to vote, so the result has to reflect the majority’s wishes.
A. Unless they wish not to spend 45 minutes standing in line on a Saturday just to turn in a ballot that won’t be counted anyways, since they will use the ballot to scrawl a polemic essay titled “Compulsion is Slavery,” subtitled “Why I Should be Compensated for the 45 Minutes I Just Spent Standing In Line.”
Q. What are the party choices in Australia?
Q. What’s a minarchist?
A. Someone who thinks that government is inherently, thoroughly, and incorrigibly incompetent and corrupt, and that the one issue most important to them can only be addressed competently and justly by the government.
Q. But don’t different minarchists have different ideas about what is important?
A. Yes. That’s why a bunch of minarchists like the Liberal Democratic Party end up supporting a big government.
Q. So what does “liberal” really mean?
In America today, it means someone who thinks that large monopolistic corporations rip off their customers and ignore their voting stockholders, and that the solution to every problem is to grant more power to the world’s largest monopolistic corporation because they think it will serve them as customers and listen to them as voters.
Q. You mean Apple?
A. I was alluding to the US federal government, but good point.
Q. And “liberal” in Australia?
A. Someone who doesn’t pretend to dislike large monopolistic corporations.
Q. This isn’t making much sense. You’re not very good at explaining things.
A. Labor is the party that pretends to want to help the poor, and Liberal is the one that pretends to want to lower taxes.
The Liberal Democrats pretend that politicians are capable of reducing the size of government.
Q. Ok, So there’s a pretty standard range of choi-
A. There are also Greens, who pretend to want to help the environment.
Nationals who genuinely want to deport anyone not born in Australia (except their own parents and grandparents, of course).
And the Bob Katter Party, which is Bob Katter and a few other guys, who pretend to be different from the Nationals.
Then there’s the Stop Population Growth Party who want to kill off everybody right now so that some people won’t suffer a hypothetical reduced quality of life later. They view people as liabilities rather than assets. Basically it’s the Malthusian crackpots who were too crazy for the Nationals and the Greens.
Q. Terrifying. So with all of these –
A. And the Wikileaks Party, who pretend that Australian politicians are either willing or able to get Aussie citizen Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorean embassy.
There are some local socialist and communist parties, whose posters are hand drawn on low quality construction paper. At least they have the decency to honestly demonstrate the quality of services that they have to offer.
And Family First who are just weird.
Q. Ok. Got it. I thought you were finished back ther-
A. And something called the Sex Party, which probably results in disproportionate turnouts and subsequent disappointment at their events due to people misreading their posters.
And of course, the Clive Palmer Party, which is just Clive Palmer.
So there’s a wide variety of parties spanning an indiscernible range of actual policy differences under a big government paradigm.
Q. Wow, the presidential primaries there must be crazy.
A. Australia has a prime minister, not a president. And the people don’t vote directly for him/her/it.
That reminds me – I forgot to mention the Republicans, who pretend that seceding from the irrelevant British Empire and then electing an Australian president to do whatever the Queen does will somehow give them more freedom.
Q. Then how is the prime minister chosen?
A. He/she/it is chosen by “the powers that be” of whichever party wins the majority in parliament.
Sometimes they just change out him/her/it on a whim and ditch the old guy for some sprightly young lass, mid-term, with zero public consultation. Then a couple of years later, they bring back the old guy to take the fall in the next election.
It’s democracy in action, at least for the ten or so power brokers who make those decisions. That was on the test.
Q. Is Julia Gillard a sprightly young lass?
A. I think she might be a robot. That’s why I keep saying he/she/it. Political correctness is very important to me – I don’t want to offend anyone.
Q. Let me see here… sarcasm about political correctness… “big government paradigm”… polemic essays… You’re a Libertarian! You must be a gun nut.
A. I think that anyone who isn’t a Libertarian is a gun nut. The first, and often only, solution offered to any problem by Democrats/Republicans/Greens/Occupy/Tea Party and all of the aforementioned Aussies is to get some government goon to:
a. point a gun at someone and force them to do something,
b. point a gun at someone and force them not to do something, or
c. point a gun at someone and take their money, call the loot “taxes for the common good” and then use that money to pay someone else to do something.
d. Or, in the case of various corporate and individual welfare programs, they point a gun at someone, take their money, and pay someone else to do nothing.
e. And of course, sometimes they point a gun at someone and just pull the trigger. The neocons love that one. So do the (American) liberals, especially if the recipient says something that isn’t politically correct.
I don’t like goons pointing guns at people in my name, so I don’t regard these as solutions. These are the basest, most obvious dumb-guy approaches, and they are the cornerstone of enlightened modern government.
People are capable of being more creative than that – if they didn’t have so many guns pointed at them all the time.
Q. Has a goon ever pointed a gun at you to make you pay your zero dollars worth of taxes?
A. I do pay Australian tax, smartass. Taxes come out of my paycheck automatically before I even see the money.
But if I tried to go to the Treasury building and take that money back, I’d probably run into a few gun-toting goons. I’m enough of a coward that the implicit threat alone is enough to compel me to pay up.
Q. Isn’t the Tea Party libertarian?
A. No. Like Occupy, they’re just very confused people who enjoy protesting, because it makes them feel like they have more than 0.000,000,8% of a voice for an afternoon.
Q. Now I’m confused. If Libertarianism isn’t about guys with beards and unwashed flannel shirts sitting on their front porch with a shotgun shouting “Git off my property!,” then what is it about?
A. While some Libertarians aspire to that lofty status, the core idea is that nobody has the right to initiate violence, coercion, theft, or fraud against anybody else, except in self defense. That includes corporations and people who wear badges and comically oversized sunglasses, no exceptions.
This is called the “Non-Aggression Principle”. The cool kids call it “The NAP”. In “Ethics of Liberty,” economist/historian Murray Rothbard used this simple concept to derive an entire system of –
Q. Hang on, did you just say that there are cool libertarians?
Q. No. I think being cool means you slick your hair back and drive a hot rod. Like John Travolta or the Fonz.
A. There are probably some libertarians who do that.
Q. So you’re talking about some anarchist utopia where everyone just gets along? You are a nihilist! I knew it!
A. I still don’t know what that means. I want the services that governments pretend to provide, but I want more than 0.000,000,8% of a choice in who provides those services. Not by voting, but by only buying the services I want from whoever can serve my unique needs best.
And I want whoever that may be to be free to provide those services without obstruction from some irrelevant third party.
That’s real democracy – people freely interacting with one another. It’s that simple.
Q. But there would be no regulations or antitrust protection – a bunch of corrupt monopolists would buy out everyone else and form a dystopian corporatocracy! With no voting!
A. I don’t see how that is substantially different from the corrupt monopoly states that we have now. The US has over 2,000 federal agencies, none of which have elected positions. Australia has over 200, which is about 1 agency for every 10,000 people, and that’s just at the federal level. Also not elected. And these are the only people in government who actually do anything.
Many of the regulations enforced by these agencies have the effect of preventing new competitors from entering the market. On the free market, monopolies and cartels can’t be sustained without force.
Actual governance could be achieved more effectively, efficiently, and equitably without a “one size fits all” monopoly state. Private police, courts, industry watchdogs, non-profits and even for-profit charities would all have to compete for your business.
If government is so great, why not have more than one to choose from?
Q. You mean competing police departments in the same town? That would lead to perpetual warfare!
A. Like the War on Terror?
Q. No, I mean here, in the western world where real people live – endless gang violence in the streets!
A. Like the War on Drugs.
Q. Yeah, there would be a bunch of psychopathic mafia thugs running the show.
A. Like the neocons. I wouldn’t subscribe to their security service.
Without a guaranteed tax income stream, they couldn’t afford the War on Poverty, which they seem to think means bombing all poor people out of existence.
Q. But wouldn’t the private police only protect the rich people who could afford them?
A. Private security is expensive now because any low cost options are crowded out of the market by the “free” police that everyone is forced to pay for. And police might not be the best method of preventing crime in every circumstance.
Q. Then what is the best way to prevent crime, smart guy?
A. I don’t know. I don’t have to know. Different entrepreneurs who specialize in security could come up with a diverse array of solutions to meet specific individual circumstances, including those of poor people.
That’s how entrepreneurs survive. The ones who can’t give the people what they want go broke and join the ranks of the poor people who other entrepreneurs are serving more successfully.
I only need to know enough to choose the best coverage plan for my situation, just like buying insurance.
Q. Doesn’t Obamacare provide everyone’s insurance now, so you don’t have to worry about choosing?
A. Yeah. That’s what it does. Flawlessly.
Q. This all sounds nice, but you’re being too idealistic.
A. I’d say that anyone who thinks they can make a difference by checking a few boxes on a piece of paper every 2 years is more idealistic than I am.
Real change comes from individuals taking entrepreneurial risks, solving problems, and building real capital for the long term.
Q. So where are those entrepreneurs now? Aren’t Australia and America free markets?
A. No. The US Congress produces 60,000 pages of new regulations every year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia tops that. How many of these actually benefit consumers, or the environment, or whatever other BS excuse is used to justify them? Who even reads them?
In both countries the organization who can’t deliver the mail reliably (Australia Post once lost my US passport for a week on a “next morning” shipment) has an enforced monopoly on crime prevention and the courts.
The state has no market pricing mechanism, no feedback in terms of profit or loss, and no real incentives to perform in accordance with customers’ complex array of needs.
Q. But they have crime statistics.
A. Yes, They have statistics of how many crimes they failed to prevent each year, quotas for how many parking tickets to write each month, and ever-increasing budgets to try to paper over previous failures.
Politicians and bureaucrats don’t go broke. As long as they’re around to bail out their buddies, there is no free market.
Q. Well, that all sounds fine and dandy, but…
A. We’ve already discussed religion.
Q. Uh, ok… Look, I just don’t feel comfortable with all of this.
A. I understand. It can be very confronting to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t want to point a gun at you. Non-violence is a radical, extremist position these days.
Q. This is starting to sound pretty subversive. Aren’t you worried that the NSA is reading this?
A. I’d be shocked if anyone besides the NSA bothers to read this. But it’s nice to know that my zero US tax dollars are paying for a captive audience. I need the clicks.
Q. What if they come after you in retribution for their sheer boredom while reading this?
A. I’m sure the Australian government would step up to protect my first amendment right against the NSA’s violation of my fourth amendment right. Just like they did for Julian Assange. Oh wait…
Q. Does Australia have a bill of rights?
Q. Then where do Australians get their rights from?
A. The bill of rights doesn’t grant rights to people. It is a list of things that the US Federal Government can’t do to violate inherent human rights.
The bill of rights is supposed to protect everyone in the world equally against the US government – it doesn’t say “for US citizens only, screw everyone else.” It says, “Congress shall make no law…”
Q. So what happens if the US government violates the bill of rights?
A. Since the Constitution is what defines the federal government as a legal entity, you could argue that anyone calling themselves the US Government who breaches the Bill of Rights is just a gang of gun toting goons committing a massive fraud and protection racket on the American public.
But who’s splitting hairs? Almost 1/3 of us voted for Obama two years ago, and that’s all that counts, right?
Q. What protects people’s rights against the Australian government?
A. Incompetence and irrelevance. That was on the test.
Q. OK, well, that’s good enough for me. I’m sold. What forms do I fill out to become a Libertarian?
A. Really? Wow, that’s the first time in internet history that a person has changed their mind about something because of a political rant on a blog. Great!
Q. Except that I’m just an imaginary construct that you created to make your insufferable dead-end diatribe seem less arrogant and dogmatic.
A. Right. Oh well.
Q. Now that I’m a hardcore Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist voluntarist, I have a few new questions.
You are now a citizen supporting two oppressive police states run by the bankster military industrial complex and their GLOBALIST NEW WORLD ORDER ILLUMINATI EUGENICS AGENDA! YOU FILTHY STATIST HYPOCRITE!
A. Stop listening to Alex Jones.
Q. Whew, thanks for that. So what are you doing to further the cause of liberty, besides posting long-winded rants that only the NSA reads? Do you do protesting?
A. The only good that comes from protesting is that people who enjoy mindlessly chanting things that rhyme with “hey hey, ho ho” have a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
Anyways, protests would be mostly irrelevant in a free market.
A. Under “one size fits all” electoral democracy, a minority whose needs aren’t being met has to resort to protesting to be heard. This is almost always ineffective because they would have to gain support of a majority of apathetic voters in order to have an effect. And apathetic people tend to find protestors annoying.
In the market, that minority is called a “niche,” and the first entrepreneur who listens and finds a way to meet those needs can get rich.
Q. But that’s exploitation! Aren’t profits evil?
A. Exploi-?! What the -! I thought you were a hardcore Rothbardian now. Don’t start going Chomsky on me!
Q. Sorry, Mr. “Libertarianer Than Thou.”
A. Marx was essentially correct that there are two classes in society. However, he incorrectly defined the classes. It’s not “Rich vs. Poor.”
Profits at gunpoint are evil, and this includes all subsidies, bailouts, preferential taxes, and most industry and market regulations. Not because of the profits, but because of the gun.
Profits from production and services in voluntary exchange are what makes those activites sustainable. And these goods and services are obviously considered beneficial by whoever willingly pays for them.
By the way, I think the correct grammar is “Libertarianer Than Thee.”
Q. No, it isn’t. So what else are you doing to take down the Politically Connected class?
A. I’m not interested in taking anyone down. There are more profits to be made by helping Everyone Else. You don’t need to secede from the state if you can supersede it with better solutions. Think email vs. the post office.
But the most effective thing I can do is to help myself and those closest to me. People tend to get hung up on big issues and can miss the real opportunities at their fingertips.
So I’m trying to become less incompetent at gardening. My eggplant is the 1%, in terms of veggie survival rates. I have a habit of planting seedlings the day before a week-long heatwave, so they all die immediately.
Q. Because CLIMATE CHA-
A. ANYWAYS… That’s why I bought the hat. My ears stick out the sides of my head like solar panel arrays on satellites. It’s also a good hat for hitting the beach or barbecueing.
Q. Throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate!
A. They’re called “prawns” here, mate. Nobody says “shrimp.” That was on the test.
Q. I don’t get it, how does gardening help to promote liberty?
A. I don’t know, but with the amount of resources the feds put into raiding family farms with paramilitary SWAT teams these days, there must be something about growing food that really pisses them off.
Q. Wow, you’re a real revolutionary.
Q. What about the American Revolution?
A. That one had a few good speeches, but the colonists ended up with a tax burden that was worse than the one they went to war over. That’s why the Whiskey Rebellion, Shays’ Rebellion , and Fries’s Rebellion happened. These were put down by the venerated founding fathers, including Washington – who was the largest whiskey distiller and gained a comparative advantage from the whiskey tax which put many smaller distillers out of business. Just a coincidence, I’m sure. Cronyism then, cronyism now.
Now the burdens of the state on everybody’s private lives are far more intrusive than under King George III in 1776. To paraphrase Lysander Spooner, the Constitution has either created this mess, or it has been powerless to prevent it.
Q. Cool. But now you’re a subject of George’s great great great great granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II, so you have essentially reneged on everything the founding fathers fought for.
A. I think that means I could be knighted someday.
Q. Good luck with that.
A. She’s also his great great great granddaughter on her grandmother’s side. Those royals are all a little bit inbred, which is why they’re all so goofy looking. That was on the test.
Q. Are big ears considered to be goofy looking?
A. That’s actually a trait of true nobility.
Q. No, it isn’t. So you haven’t answered the only question that anyone who might bother to read this, besides the NSA, might actually care about:
Why did you really choose to become a citizen? Do you want jury duty so that you can try to nullify some unjust laws in the courtroom?
A. No. It’s really just the thing with the hat. And maybe some fear of what would happen if the Nationals ever gained significant power and tried to put me on a boat back to the dystopian hellhole that I came from.
Q. You mean New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state, home of the Free State Project, no income tax, no sales tax, and no seatbelt laws. Which you left for a place with no bill of rights.
A. I was referring to the layover at LAX.
Q. Oh, yeah. I’d take Turkmenistan over LAX any day.
A. By the way, New Hampshire does have seatbelt laws for kids under 18.
A. Also, I was recently there for Christmas. I’ve gone soft living down under – It was really cold.
Q. Because CLIMA-
A. Are we finished here?
Q. I think anyone reading this finished about 40 questions ago. Including the NSA goons.
Anyways, don’t vote for those Nationalist guys.
A. That probably depends on some ballot counting goon’s interpretation of “Compulsion is Slavery.”
Originally posted in May 2014 at Asinine Analysis
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