They’re Shooting at You

The fact that the restrictive legislation introduced in the name of the war on drugs is here to stay underlines the basic need for reports such as this. In the modem predatory world, privacy has become a valued commodity that you can never have too much of, even if you have nothing to hide. Just as you can never be too rich or too good-looking, you can never have too much privacy.
Once upon a time, two good friends, let’s call them Henry and Howard, were relaxing in the living room, discussing architecture and the passing of the seasons. Occasionally they would glance out into the big garden to enjoy the colors of the trees in autumn. In the middle of their conversation while they were taking in the view of the falling leaves, five police cars shrieked to a halt in front of the house, all with flashing lights and sirens at full blast. Howard opened the window to see what was going on. Three cops leapt out of each patrol car. They immediately sought cover, drew their guns and started firing round after round after round towards the house.
Howard threw himself down on the floor, but Henry kept still in his chair with his legs crossed and a glass of port in one hand. He was still enjoying the view when Howard yelled, “Get down, get down NOW!”
“Why?” asked Henry, “I didn’t do anything wrong!”
This little tale is a fairy tale. Of course anyone in dear Henry’s situation would seek cover the minute bullets started flying. The irony is that while most people would be sensible if presented with such a life threatening encounter, they do not exhibit a similar instinct for self-preservation when the threat is more subtle, even though the result can often be equally disastrous. Not all use common sense or demonstrate rational thinking when the issue turns to personal and financial privacy. Most of those who will seek cover when the police start firing, do not seek cover when the tax man goes on the war path or when some other triggerhappy government bureaucrat feels like opening a case.
The fact of the matter is that you may not have anything to hide, but you would be unwise not to seek some measure of privacy. With a bloated government virtually bankrupt and out for blood-money, even the most honest taxpayer can find himself in the line of fire. Not seeking some form of cover is dangerous to your financial health. If you manage to annoy the bureaurats enough you could find yourself at the receiving end of a phoney criminal case. This has happened to thousands of US tax payers who could not prove their innocence when they were charged with scheming to defraud the IRS. All received jail sentences of at least one year. They didn’t commit a crime, but they had to do the time. All had their property attached even before the case got to court. Eventually their assets were confiscated and later sold at auction to fill the tax man’s coffers.
Do not think this won’t ever happen to you. As I will explain in greater detail in the following chapter, in criminal tax cases, unlike other criminal cases, the defendant is assumed guilty unless he can prove otherwise. This flagrant piece of human rights abuse is accepted not just in the US, but in most European countries. An OECD special session, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, even drew up a model treaty on ways the government can take your property away from you without prior trial. The way the treaty was implemented in at least one country, means that failure to file just one of some forty-five different forms automatically puts your entire worldwide assets at risk.
Do not think that privacy is only for those who have something to hide. Do not claim that low profile is for those whose dealings cannot bear scrutiny in the light of day. It may have been like that in Utopia many years ago. Today the world is simply not so. Privacy and low profile have become urgent necessities for all of us. A criminal investigation can hit any of us from out of the blue. You do not need to be a criminal. Today, it is the criminals who go free. The easiest victims to nail are hard-working citizens who prefer to be low profile in their daily dealings and don’t like to share their salary with a government or a political system with which they cannot sympathize. An unfounded out-of-the-blue criminal case can be opened on even the best of us. Usually the reasons are flimsy. Take steps today to lower your profile. Don’t put it off. No one likes to be under surveillance and no one likes to live with the fear that one day a vicious law, that never should have been there in the first place can wreck his life.

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