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Freemen of the land: an instance of Blair’s Law

Newton, Maxwell, Einstein and Tim Blair have described the universe. Blair’s Law is “the ongoing process by which the world’s multiple idiocies are becoming one giant, useless force”.

On the 15th November, the Guardian gave over its comment pages to people from Occupy London. Most of the resulting articles were produced by earnest but weak-minded hippies. Two of the articles made the hippies look sensible.

The first of these was sad. It was the last of a set of three mini-articles by Occupiers on welfare, education and law; the law part being by written by a person “commonly known as dom.” It is important to him that you use that formulation, including the lack of an initial capital letter. He says,

Most days I walk around the site teaching people about the legal system, about the law, about how they’re being enslaved by a body of rules and statutory instruments. The prison without bars is made by bits of paper.

Bits of paper like your birth certificate. All registered names are Crown copyright. The legal definition of registration is transfer of title ownership, so anything that’s registered is handed over to the governing body; the thing itself is no longer yours. When you register a car, you’re agreeing to it not being yours – they send you back a form saying you’re the “registered keeper”. It’s a con. That’s why I say I’ve never had a name.

I must stress that I do not dispute the right of the entity commonly known as dom to call himself what he pleases, and in politeness I shall act in accordance with his preferences if ever I meet him. Apparently he wears one of those jester’s hats with bells on it. Later in the piece he suggests that we google “lawful rebellion”. I did, and soon it came to me that I had heard that phrase before, on this post and others on the EU Referendum site. That post in turn links to a site called The British Constitution Group. One glance at the site is enough to show its appeal to libertarians, Tory Anarchists and allied trades. I want to like it. I’m usually a complete sucker for a bit of Magna Carta and the Rights of Englishmen. But on reading around the various links within the site, not that complete. Someone has been reading too much Artemis Fowl. In those books, if you recall, a fairy cannot enter a human dwelling unless invited in. In the British Constitution Group website under the heading “CONSENT – The Most Important Word in the English Language” you will see the following:

An essential part of the arrest procedure is to read you your rights and then ask you ‘do you understand’ – the word ‘understand’ is synonymous with ‘stand-under’ – they are asking you whether you are prepared to ‘stand-under’ their authority… and when you answer yes – you are giving your consent.

…And because Persephone had eaten food in Hades, be it only six pomegranate seeds, she was doomed to return there. The concept of the hero being safe so long as he does not inadvertently perform some symbolic act that gives his enemies power over him is an ancient one and has great mythic power, but do not try this on irritable cops late at night.

The second Guardian article, by one Jon Witterick, was more clued-up and more sinister than the one by t.p.c.k.a.dom. Its title is Yes, defaulting on debts is an option. At first I thought it was about the financial situation in Greece and passed on to another story, thus nearly missing the tale of how Jon Witterick has avoided paying his debts and how, he claims, you can too. The key idea seems to be that debts cannot be sold on, and once again we meet the concept that you are safe so long as you do not speak the forbidden words:

I also realised how debt collectors trick us into contracts with them, by asking us how much we could pay. When you agree to one pound a month, which costs more to administrate, they now have a contract with you, where none existed

Topping and tailing this admission of fraud and theft are a genuinely pitiable account of what it is like to be pursued by debt collectors and a genuinely repulsive attempt to argue that his decision not to pay what he owes is Iceland writ small. He does not say what he spent the money on, back before he decided it was not real.

Witterick’s website, to which I prudishly will not link, contains the following message:


Your Credit Card Agreement is an unlawful contract as it is ONLY signed by you- constituting a unilateral agreement. (Contract Law)

All contracts, in order to be valid, must be signed by someone able to bind the corporation in contract. (Contract Law)

Banks create money out of thin air- they have no money to lend you. (Fractional Reserve Banking)

It is not possible to actually pay the outstanding amount as the currency is based on worthless paper and ‘electronic funds’ on computers. (Fractional Reserve Banking)

You do not have to pay statements, only invoices. (Bills of Exchange Act 1882)

You are not lawfully bound to pay anything which is unsigned. (Bills of Exchange Act 1882)

The uppercase name on the credit card is not your name, but a ‘corporate entity’. (Blacks Law Dictionary)

The banks have been so desperate to get us into debt, that they sold people mortgages, who they knew could NEVER afford to pay them back.

The governments are so desperate to keep this racket going, that they will bail out ANY bank that gets into trouble! Being in debt is one of the consequences of playing the game

Why do you think your government is in debt?

There is not enough Money in circulation for everyone to pay off ALL the debts!

The whole system is totally fraudulent…

There are a few small nuggets of sense floating in a stew of foolishness there. You can see why Witterick was welcomed to lecture at Occupy’s Tent City University, and you can also see why it might appeal to some here.

However if anyone reading this is in debt and desperate, be advised that following his legal advice will make your situation worse. (You would be far better off speaking to The Consumer Credit Counselling Service. You will not be charged for their advice, and, for those who care about such things, this body is funded by the credit industry, not the taxpayer.) The strategies Witterick advises might have worked for the first few people who tried them, as debt collectors decided to go for easier targets. But they, and judges, can spot a “freeman” a mile off now. Calling yourself “john:smith” or “John of the family Smith” does not hack it any more. The Guardian partly redeemed itself for publishing Witterick by also publishing this response by a legal blogger. The comments to both Witterick’s piece and the response are also well worth reading. Even Guardian readers normally sympathetic to the Occupy movement thought Witterick was a charlatan.

I wish I did not have a presentiment that some people with whom I share many beliefs will be hurt by this post.

15 comments to Freemen of the land: an instance of Blair’s Law

  • Stonyground

    What I don’t get about the Occupy movement is that they don’t seem to have any demands or objectives. Their cause seems to be just to act pissed off about things and let the world know how pissed off they are without any suggestions as to how to make things any better. If it was just the MSM I was depending on to inform me, I might suspect that the authentic voice of the movement was simply not being reported, but I read quite varied blogs and have not heard anything from anywhere. Can anyone here help?

  • Dale Amon

    That is exactly it. There are a lot of pissed off people. Some of them are younger and OWS; some of them are older and TP. The Ron Paul people have been doing a good job of mining the OWS for support. A lot of Libertarian Anarchists have also been there.

    You should rejoice in hearing the above statements. People who are trying to develop their thoughts and ideas are taking bits of libertarian ideas into their mix instead of the old fashioned 200 proof hard left drink. It is a sign that we are winning the culture war where it matters.

  • Laird

    That is exactly it. The is a Howard Beale moment. People are shouting from the windows in impotent rage but, just as in Network, they have no idea how to fix things. Part of that is due to their execrable “education” in state-run schools. Part is due to endless repetition of the usual left-wing idiocies from the MSM, big-name entertainers and most politicians and other soi-disant leaders. And part is due, I believe, to the simple fact that things are so far gone that there really is no solution short of a major collapse and a “reboot” to the system. So the rantings emanating from the various Occupy sites are at best inconsistent and at worst incoherent. (Incoherence seems to be the default position.) How could it be otherwise?

    As a group their motives are mixed, their desires conflicting and their proposals largely irrational, but the core anger is one more sign that the fabric of society is under severe strain. There is every reason to expect it to explode into violence. At the latest, I expect that to occur next November. Whoever wins the presidential election, the losers will be legion and very, very angry.

  • RRS

    In the past, in the U S (and perhaps at times in the U K and other areas where there have been loosenings of social constraints [traditions,etc.]) there have occurred AWAKENINGS, usually related to belief systems (most often religious in nature) that have been the subjects of scholarly studies and writings. The most recent here as I recall was titled The Third Awakening, as an example.

    We may be witnessing in these “gatherings” (for that is all they are – gatherings) the sort of comings-together in search of, or confirmation of, some commonalities of belief in something – but lacking that of the religious impulses which formed the AWAKENINGS which have been noted in past cultural history.

    If we examine the lacking force of these gatherings as compared to those that formed the AWAKENINGS, we may find some understanding of the nature of our present social structures, and the motivations that have led to stagnations in Western Civilization.

  • Something may yet come of it.
    as said above, the fact that sensible thinking starts to percolate through the gatherings (and the fact that they are happening at all, all over the world) is heartening.

  • guy herbert

    “Freemen” are a noxious and bonkers cult, and you are very lucky not to have encountered them. They are serial commentators in all sorts of places for a start.

    Elsewhere I have described their approach as “somewhat less relevant to law than Dan Brown is to history”.

  • I would go further than Guy Herbert and say that the whole concept of ‘Freemen on the Land’ is almost designed to appeal to those most desperate and in need of decent credit counselling and proper advice.

    It’s just an excuse to form a media friendly madhouse for the local press circuit whenever the prosecutions for non-payment of council tax come around. The fact that they ignore the processes and procedures (and even the dignity) of a local magistrates court with their idiotic shenanegans is bad enough, but what really grates is when their disruption causes the court to be cleared and rescheduled, they deem this as a victory for their ‘lawful rebellion’.

    It’s time for some of them to be charged with contempt of court – as this is exactly what they are doing.

  • veryretired

    The occupiers are everything they’ve been raised and educated to be.

    Most of all, they are the blooming flowers of a modern, value-free, pc, multi-culti education.

    Why are you so surprised?

  • I’ve been reading more since I wrote this post. It seems to me that the freeman belief system can be split thus:

    1a) Certain statements about what the law says
    1b) A belief that these arguments will actually work in court
    2) Beliefs about what the law should be, and from that about what society should be, what is good, etc.

    The freeman beliefs about 1a), both for the US and English law versions (does it exist anywhere else?) are mostly mistaken and often childish. The ludicrous business about “birth” and “berth” for instance, or the belief that something changes when you write names in capitals. There is the shadow of something better there, however – I could well believe that this is what happens when many amateurs read up on the law (in itself, an excellent thing) and then explain their findings to others, who in turn pass them on and it ends up like a game of Chinese whispers.

    On 1b), I can scarcely believe any of this ever works any more, if it comes to a court appearance. This is the aspect of freemanism which gets vulnerable people hurt. There are probably freemen still getting away with sending letters to bailiffs and so on who haven’t got sued yet because they are small fry but wrongly attribute their continuing escape to the letters themselves.

    The thought of people desperately waving their legal dictionaries and getting stamped on reminds me of the belief that sprang up among some Lakota Sioux in the 1890s that if they wore specially blessed “Ghost Shirts” then they would be immune to the white man’s bullets.

    Finally, (2), the ideology. This generally seems pro-liberty, albeit in an inconsistent and incoherent way. A wide spread of ideologies could be tacked onto the beliefs above. Some individuals might swing more socialist, and they end up in the Occupy camp, sometimes literally.

    My dominant impression is of pathos.

    Finally, which is it “freemen” or “freeman” and “on” or “of”. Or doesn’t it matter?

  • I hate to pour cold rain on some parades here, but I’m rather inclined towards this interpretation of OWSs. (H/T is due to veryretired, although like the author of that article he is prone to mislabeling the phenomenon in question as ‘anarchism’ – while it is anything but).

  • Johnathan Pearce

    For me, the acid test has to be whether they have any respect for, and understanding of, property rights. If the “Occupy” bunch see the light on this, then this is a sign of progress.

  • guy herbert

    Some useful comments at the end of this thread:
    http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/2011/02/samizdata_quote_780.html

    And IanB in particular points to a great summary here:
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Freeman_on_the_land

    The whole Freeman nonsense being a form of what Damian Thomson calls counterknowledge is entirely invulnerable to reason or education: ideas from the real world will be taken as evidence that those presenting them are ignorant dupes. Only by rehearsing the right magic formulae can we be freed.

    Depressingly much public discourse has similar properties if you look at it closely: arbitrary assertion; categorical reasoning from labels; disagreement taken as false consciousness, membership of a slave army.

  • Mike Lorrey

    The legal professions history of use of latin phraseology in order to exaggerate its exclusivity and esotericism in order to justify its expensive rates contributes to the magical thinking meme, as it is akin to popery, i.e. the latin mass as if saying latin over water and wafer makes it the blood and body of Christ. People go into court and hear the lawyers say this and that, or see them say it on legal tv shows, and very easily get the idea that knowing the magic words is what the legal professions wizardry is all about.

  • mdc

    These “freemen” people have been around for a while and despite the obvious wrongness of their claims they are completely serious. Many of them are awaiting or being tried for various tax ‘crimes'; at one point a mob of them even “arrested” a judge in a council tax dispute – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1364091/Council-tax-protesters-storm-courtroom-arrest-judge.html

    Their goals are pretty good, but their reasoning is rubbish. Why would they expect the state law made by feudal monarchies to enshrine some sort of individualist anarchism? Unfortunately they’re pretty much the standard bearers of activist libertarianism in this country.

  • Paul Marks

    There is something odd about the British “Occupy” people.

    They really do not seem to be the standard Marxists that dominate teh Occupy movement in other countries (including the United States – although the msm there do their best to cover up the fact).

    A lot of the British people seem to be rather eccentric (both charming – and not so charming).

    I have feeling that, for example, “Occupy Oakland” would eat them alive.

    And I am not sure that I am just using a figure of speech.