This article was originally published in americanchronicle.com on Nov. 21st, 2008.
The word soviet means council, as in city council or a committee. It is a democratically elected body of people set up with the purpose of controlling the lives of others. These people would get together and plan the lives of those in their local communities, answering to higher up, larger soviets until they reached the Supreme Soviet where the central planning happened. That is basically how the Soviet Union was run, with the consent of the governed. The community soviets would lay their plans, make their laws, and institute their plans and if you didn´t like it, tough. The people in charge of the soviets had their visions and come hell or high water they were going to see to it that those visions were made into reality. In the Soviet Union, if you thought better of the local soviet´s plan and spoke your mind or dissented, the punishment was severe. But then again in the Soviet Union most people were dependent on government for their existence. Why, their whole lives were planned for them from cradle to grave by the government. At least, that´s what I was taught.
Today, we have similar institutions in the United States. We have city councils. We have county boards. We have committees that pass laws and make their plans for your property and the property of your neighbor. They believe that since they have the power to do such things and since they collect your money in the form of taxes that they can tell you what you can and can´t do with your property, the same property that you are paying for, that you are supposed to be the sovereign of. A meek and docile public hardly ever takes the time to even question what these people are doing, they simply assume these people have the best interests of the general public at heart and obey the dictates that are thrown their way. They go along to get along. And if they violate an ordinance and are cited and fined for it, they mostly merely grumble, pay the fine, correct the problem the soviet – I mean the bureaucrats – have with it and move on with their lives as if nothing happened. How easy it seems for these people to forgive, or how hard it is for them to figure out they´ve been ripped off.
In Keene New Hampshire there is a person known as the city planner. Her name is Mikaela L. Engert. Judging from her bios and the information she posted about herself online, she seems rather proud of her position in the local soviet, I mean the city government. She seems particularly worried about the effects of climate change in Keene and is making plans to help the residents there deal with their greenhouse gas emissions. Good thing, because I´m sure the citizens of Keene contribute mightily to the greenhouse gases in this world with their gas lawn mowers and they would want to do their share to make things right, particularly if it means giving more of their hard earned money to government in the form of greenhouse gas taxes. But, we shouldn´t worry about that. I´m sure these bureaucrats know exactly what they´re doing and they have only your best interests at heart, and that´s why they should be able to tell you what to do with your private property.
Certainly Ms. Engert has a vital role to play in the central planning of the city of Keene and its growth. It seems she has a vision. She explained this vision and the "visioning process" on an episode of a radio show called "Talkback" that airs in and around Keene New Hampshire. During that episode, a gentleman named Sam called in to ask her about the violence inherent in the system by explaining what would happen to him if he tried to build on property he owned without first asking permission from the "authorities." As his points became clear she suddenly didn´t like the tone of the conversation and ended it. Later, one Ian Freeman, AKA Ian Bernard, called in to question her on the "visioning process" as she called it. He wondered if his vision would count and she answered it would, but she didn´t seem too convincing. He then asked her if she would advocate aggressing against her neighbors and she said "I wouldn´t advise aggressing against anybody."
One week after this occurrence, Ian had his first encounter with Carl Patten, Jr., AKA the couch enforcer. Things went down hill for Ian pretty quickly from there. The authorities were immediately demanding payment claiming some obscure, archaic city ordinance had been broken because his tenants had put a couch out in the yard to sit on while bird watching. Ian refused to cooperate, electing instead to question authority and settle the matter between neighbors through dialog, something else Mikaela had claimed she was in favor of. Ian´s actions of questioning the system and trying to do the right thing ended in a sentence of 93 days in jail for him.
One might wonder what drove this woman to take such drastic actions against Ian. She had said she wouldn´t advise aggressing against anybody, and yet she aggressed against him less than a week later. Could it have been a political thing? Could she have felt threatened by Ian voicing such a naked truth in such a fashion? Could she have been in denial when she realized that government wasn´t the benevolent institution she thought it was and so she sought to punish the messenger? Or perhaps she knew exactly what she was doing and had been scheming the whole time. Perhaps she´s really one of those people who thinks it´s ok for someone to force compliance from another even if the other´s private property is involved. Perhaps she´s happy Ian was incarcerated and believes he got what he deserved for defying the state. And perhaps the state people are happy too, after all there are many of them who would like to see him shut up as he continues to burst their statist bubbles.
If Mikaela is sorry, truly sorry that Ian was jailed and sees now the immorality of using government force against a fellow human being, then she should be forgiven and even welcomed into the society of freedom loving individuals. If, however, she still has no problems telling others what they can and can´t do with their property and aggressing against her neighbors, the citizens of Keene had better watch out. The vision they have of what they want to do with their private property might very well clash with the vision their city planner has for Keene. The people of Keene had better start asking her if it's ok before they mow their lawns with that gas mower. They might want to check with her before they get patio furniture, or that wind chime that they think is so nice looking, or that garden gnome, or that gazing ball, or any statuary, for you never know what she might consider tacky or what doesn´t belong in her visioning process. Make sure you get the leaves raked up and the bags to the curb in a timely fashion, for we wouldn´t want to get an ordinance violation. Make sure the walks are shoveled right away, for I´m certain that the city planner´s vision of Keene does not include snow clogged sidewalks.
Some of you might think I´m being silly, but in all honesty it´s a slippery slope we go down. Once authority is accepted by the populace, you never know how far that authority will take its power. Ian, thank god, only served three days of his sentence, the rest of the ninety days were suspended by the judge, probably because they realized they had made a huge mistake and didn´t want to compound it. He did accomplish one thing in showing everyone the violence inherent in the system. He showed everyone just how far the government would go over something minor like a couch in a yard. He showed everyone that the government has nothing but force to back up their "laws" and that they are not afraid to use that force and aggress against peaceful people who have harmed no one. It was also shown how much support he has from peaceful people who just want to live free and be able to make their own decisions about their own lives and property. Let us hope that some of the people entrusted with power have learned a lesson and will be more hesitant to use that power the next time someone questions their authority in regards to a situation where there is no victim.