The Bizzle

"Saving your ass since 1999"

Down the rabbit hole

I started this week thinking I might write something passive aggressive about having to work while I’m on holiday. Somehow, I got distracted along the way… 

I don’t really want to go on about the freemen too much longer, because I know it’s my passive-aggressive ranting about sales managers that really brings all the boys (and girls) to the yard. But I hope you’ll indulge me in just one more post on the subject, about the reaction from the woo crowd to all this attention. 

Things can get pretty rough below the line on Comment is Free, so I expected some personal stuff in the comments on my post about Getoutofdebtfree. As it happens (perhaps because I’m a bear, rather than a woman), pretty much the worst I got was “corporate shill”*. 

What’s more interesting is the detailed commenting and exposition from FOTL believers further down the thread. These start with the suggestion that we attack Witterick because we find him threatening, and devolve into long and rambling incantations of FOTL theory. 

As with many conspiracy theories, remarkable contortions are performed to sustain the (non)logic. The lawyers are obviously corrupt (“we tend to call them liars in secret”, apparently), but that’s standard; we need to do more to explain why we can’t get a fair deal. 

So, the courts and the judges have to be in on the conspiracy as well: 

Look at the cases involving children to see how corrupt our treasonous courts have become. 

But then you have to explain how that’s allowed to happen, so the Government must also be drawn in: 

The banks control everything including the government and … the courts are really just offices doing business… 

From there it’s just a small step to the monarchy: 

The Queen and the government have sold us out to Europe so they are all guilty of treason.

So, that’s lawyers, bankers, politicians and the royals, plus miscellaneous Europeans; at this point it’s starting to look like we’ll end up with more people inside the conspiracy than not. Frankly, I’m feeling a bit left out – maybe my invitation to the meetings got lost in the post? 

Then there’s their remarkable attitude towards language. It’s like a toxic combination of pedantic literalism and witless punnery that would shame a ten year old. 

So, we have this: 

Then you get a summons that states you must appear at court and you truly believe that you must appear. If only you’d checked up that Blacks Law Dictionary again and discovered that must is synonymous with “may”. 

…and this (from a tweet that a Canadian freeman sent to me): 

accordng 2 Black’s Law Dictionary, “includes” means “To confine within” which means it’s limited to, in this case, corporation 

…and this: 

Did you ever hear the phrase “UK PLC”? Did you miss that the country is a corporation? 

…and, spectacularly, this: 

Birth = berth as in the berthing of a ship, your body is the vessel

I could go on, but there’s an odd buzzing sensation in my head. 

When it suits, the freemen will have a word carry only a single, preferred meaning (“includes” can only mean “to confine within”, and never “encompasses this and other things”). When it doesn’t, they’ll crowbar in a completely unrelated meaning to support their theory (”birth” = “berth”). 

If that’s not enough ad hoccery, they also chuck in some frankly wilful misinterpretation of stuff like Magna Carta (no government without consent) and the Cestui Que Vie Act (which says that we’re all dead, apparently). If those documents are too new-fangled for you, they can drag up the Roman doctrine of “capitis diminution maxima”**. 

The theory is so complex, and so interconnected, that each brick has to be defended to the hilt lest the entire edifice fall. Just that single word “includes” can’t be admitted to also mean “encompasses this and other things”, because then a person and a corporation wouldn’t necessarily be synonymous. 

One day I might test your patience by devoting a post to a thorough rebuttal of each FOTL claim, if only to ensure that it’s available to curious googlers. For now, I’ll restrict myself to the observation that the theory is so complicated, and so dependent on contingent and disprovable assertions as well as the concerted efforts of at least a few hundred thousand people, that the chances of it being a useful explanation of reality are vanishingly small. 

For what it’s worth, I think the disconnect is the difference between wishing that the world were ordered in a particular way and believing that it actually is so ordered. The freemen look back to a time of “common law” (as they understand it), in which an individual could consent or not to being governed, and instead of working to return the world to that condition they act as if it is already there. 

That is not to affirm their beliefs about the past, which are at the very least debatable. But many people have a different conception of how the world might be, and that is not in itself a bad thing. 

Instead of working to gather enough support to bring about the system that they believe in, however, the freemen have constructed a theory that denies the reality of the system that exists. That actually militates against them being able to achieve their goals, because the theory is so easily disprovable and they can be so easily characterised as marginal loons. 

Sure, there are plenty of people who have a vested interest in the present system remaining as it is, but that’s not the same as a conspiracy against the truth. You can change the system if you get enough support, but until then it still is the system. 

I’ll finish with a couple of personal points: 

  • As to whether I’m a corporate shill: I wrote my original article and the CiF post because I’m worried that people who are in debt might find their circumstances worsened by following the Getoutofdebtfree strategy. That view may or may not accord with the interests of my employer – I haven’t thought about it too deeply, to be honest.
  •  My personal views about politics and economics are almost certainly not what the freemen would believe them to be. If this were a politics blog I might write about the changes that I’d like to see, but it’s not, so I won’t. I just don’t think that I’m necessarily a vested interest myself, is all. 

And finally, a promise: no more woo (at least for a little while).


*The comment has been removed by moderators (not at my request, and I wouldn’t have thought that it was because of such a mild insult).

**Freemen think “capitis diminution maxima” means stripping someone of personhood by capitalising their name. Benjamin Gray, who had a better education than I, translates it as “maximum losing your head”, and says that classical Latin had no lower case in any event.

9 responses to “Down the rabbit hole

  1. lawrence serewicz November 20, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    The core issue with fotl is the incorrect understanding of social contract theory. We are not free to renegotiate the social contract as an individual, but only as a people. However, even this line of thinking assumes that scoal contracts really exist. In a sense a constitution, is a close approximation of a social contract.

    When we are born, we are not free to negotiate that “contract” we are born into an existing system. The context is set. Now, what makes a fotl problematic is that it actually puts them as an enemy of the state. By self-abnegating their rights, which accrue as a human being and a citizen of a state, they lose all protection of the law. Do they really want to be in that position without the 2nd amendment? As such they would return to the state of nature, which Locke Hobbes, and Rousseau all saw as a frighteningly dismal place. To put it differently but directly, Aristotle said that a man outside the city (laws) was either a beast or a god. As they are not gods, they will have lost the equality of law necessary to be treated as a human, and thus are in danger of being treated as a beast. In turn, that makes them the enemy of the state and all who reside in the state.

    Fotl sounds romantic if we lived in 13th century europe where the strength of your sword let you be your own law. 800 yrs later we have a world of laws (thank god) and anyone seeking to thwart it or undermine it is a threat to all law abiding people. I would suggest they get better lawyers or get better politicians to change the laws because the movement has no philosophical foundation in the 21st century.

    • legalbizzle November 20, 2011 at 6:27 pm

      Thanks for this comment – I briefly considered doing a post along these lines, but it would have taken me too long.

      There is one easy way to exit a specific “social contract”, of course, which is to physically absent yourself from the territory in which it applies. There are places where there is no effective government, and one might suppose that freemen would be able to live there according to their own precepts of consent and law.

      So perhaps the freemen would like to remove themselves to Somalia at their earliest convenience?

      • loopedstranger November 20, 2011 at 8:24 pm

        Thanks for your recent stuff about the FOTL phenomenon, which I had never heard of before your post on the CiF. I’m a local authority solicitor and part of my brief includes advising on traffic orders and parking. I now understand the thinking (or lack of it) behind a couple of recent FoI requests and parking appeals based on the idea of having “consented to obey statutes”, and jumbled references to magna carta, common law, and the rest.

  2. Nigel Henry November 20, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    You have missed the point entirely that it is all a conspiracy, going right to the top. The courts, the government, the monarchy, all owned and run by the banks. Oh, and Tesco – presumably the management, the workers all in on it, the people that shop there… (come to think of it, All the supermarkets). Anyone with a name or a bank account, or who uses moeny – It’s all one massive conspiracy. Obviously you’re in on it, hell even I’m in on it. It’s only the wise folk at FOTL who are the 99%.

    • Neo (The One) November 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm

      Have you not come across their comparison to “The Matrix”? They are the !awoken” who can see the code running down the walls, where we are the sleeping. That’s why they’re always exhorting people to “wake up”!

      We’re not consciously in a conspiracy, because we’ve all been misled to believe in a false reality that only they can see through. It’s not clear who the controlling mastermind constructing this false reality is, though.

      • legalbizzle November 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm

        Yeah, I’ve seen that. The analogy doesn’t hold, though, because the law is a social construct and by definition can only be what “society” (embodied in the government, courts, etc) says it is.

        The law that they look back to (to the extent that it existed at all) was itself a social construct, and therefore subject to supercession. There can’t be any hidden or secret law that is being kept from the masses, because there’s no extra-societal source for such a system.

        I can’t believe that I’ve sunk to rebutting The Matrix…

        • Neo (The One) November 22, 2011 at 11:42 am

          Oh, I don’t know; The Matrix, deeply flawed as it is, still makes more coherent sense than most of the Freeman woo.

          And I think it’s very relevant, as the likes of Witterick and his merry band, exploit their ownership of arcane secret knowledge hidden to the rest of us. They are, in their own deranged way, the Gnostics de nos jours.

  3. loveandgarbage November 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Capitis diminutio – is a maxim used for a change or diminution of status and the expression is derived from roman law (justinian Institutes 1.16 – translated by Birks and MacLeod as “status-loss”). It appears in Scotland’s leading book on Latin maxims, Trayner (most recent edition from 1993 is a reprint of the 4th ed of 1894). Status in roman law involved concepts of citizenship, liberty, and family according to Trayner (although Justinian seems not to include family in the discussion in the Institutes) and maxima diminutio capitis saw loss of citizensip and liberty through becoming a slave. Justinian gives the example 1.16.1 where a sentence of penal slavery is given. Media diminutio capitis occurs where a person loses citizenship rights – for example through exile (Justinian gives the example of banishment to an island). Minima capitis diminutio is where a person changes family while retaining liberty and citizenship (so for example this would cover adoption).

    Manumission (freeing of a slave from slavery) is expressly excluded from capitis diminutio by Justinian ( 1.16.4); loss of honour is not covered (so Justinian excludes exclusion from the Senate as having effect to diminish status).

    In the Institutes this is found in the discussion of the law of persons in the middle of various titles about guardianship.

    What it has to do with capital letters is beyond me.

    Justinian’s discussion mirrors that in the earlier Gaius’ Institutes I, 159 – 162. Gaius suggests maxima capitis (or kapitis depending on the text you look at) diminutio will apply if you evade the census – as the remedy for failure to complete the census was an order to be sold.

    The best discussion I can see in the English language roman textbooks is in ch 43 of JAC Thomas Textbook of Roman Law. He traces the doctrine (which he calls capitis deminutio) back to the late republic and stresses that understanding the concept is dependent on understanding of the roman law division of free men. Citizens were a class of free men. Those with family rights a class of citizens.

    Sadly CiF closed the comments before I could quiz the freemen on their penchant for classical roman law doctrines.

  4. jason @ personal injury lawyer November 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    The easiest way to live on this godforsaken planet is to “Trust No One”.

    No men, no women, no boys, no girls…no one.

    No papers, no internet, no radio…nothing.

    Live in your own personal bubble and all will be well with the world.

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