Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: August 23, 2010

Beware – revenue hungry Leviathan

Keeping with the previous post’s theme, and noting we’ve made the claim in earlier posts that government’s at all levels are revenue hungry (they want to maintain the size of the ravenous beast they’ve developed over the years and they want to do it with your money), this should come as no surprise to anyone:

Between her blog and infrequent contributions to, over the last few years she says she’s made about $50. To [Marilyn] Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it’s a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut. In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.

“The real kick in the pants is that I don’t even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous,” Bess says.

I have no idea what Bess blogs about, but unless it is specifically set up to generate income I don’t see any justification for the tax/license. I do see a possibility of a First Amendment issue.

Certainly a blog that generates $50 has an income of sorts. And if, as the story mentions, it was "dutifully reported", then she probably paid whatever taxes were due during that dutiful reporting.

But, as Leviathan loves to do, government just decided to invent a new category of "fees" and licensing (to avoid the tax word) to suck up more revenue. And, most likely, recognizing that most blogs don’t make much revenue they opted for a licensing fee. For instance, if you’re government, which would you rather have from almost 99% of the blogs out there, 5% of their revenue generated or $300?

So, given the nature of blogging and the fact that it has democratized social commentary, could a $300 bogus "licensing" fee be considered a bar to entry? And doesn’t that have First Amendment implications concerning free speech?

You have to love the irony of the license name. A "privilege license". Government, for a measly $300 will allow you the privilege of putting your opinion on line.

Really? I thought that was what the First Amendment – incorporated over all the states – guaranteed without impediment by government. Did I somehow misunderstand the intent?

But the city of Philadelphia – once the seat of freedom – sees it differently:

Even though small-time bloggers aren’t exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any "activity for profit," says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies "whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year," he adds.

So even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there’s the potential for it to be lucrative — and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising — the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business. The same rules apply to freelance writers.

Essentially, what this will do is have those who wish to blog without interference or “licensing” by government drop any advertising they might presently carry – even the $11 one other blogger the story highlights made in a year.  I.e bloggers will be forced to drop advertising to avoid the fee.  99% will.  Of the possible 1% that make more than the $300 fee, my guess is most will attempt to find a way to claim, legally, that their blog isn’t located in Philadelphia proper.  I’m not sure what you’d need to do to do that, but I’d guess it is possible (have a silent blogging partner who “owns” the blog and is resident in some other part of the country, I suppose).

But, this is government.  This is what it does.  Government, with the economic downturn, is on steroids.  And as it searches for more and more revenue to support itself, it will intrude into your life and on your freedoms more deeply every day. 

A jackal can’t help but act like a jackal – especially when it is hungry.


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Beware, techno – Leviathan

’m referring, of course, to the growing intrusiveness of government at all levels.  No longer is the sole focus of government the protection of individual liberty by preventing or punishing those violate those liberties by the use force or fraud against others.

Government has become an power unto itself and is engaged in behavior modification intended to make the proles conform to the governmental agenda.  Many times that agenda is increasingly aided by evolving technology.  It’s almost like a bad science fiction movie. 

For instance – if government has decided that recycling is no longer and option, but a requirement, technology enables it to determine that.  Instead of spending tax money on the services necessary to protect your rights, it instead spends that money on monitoring your behavior and punishing you with fines for that which doesn’t conform to its agenda.

It would be a stretch to say that Big Brother will hang out in Clevelanders’ trash cans, but the city plans to sort through curbside trash to make sure residents are recycling — and fine them $100 if they don’t.

The move is part of a high-tech collection system the city will roll out next year with new trash and recycling carts embedded with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes.

The chips will allow city workers to monitor how often residents roll carts to the curb for collection. If a chip show a recyclable cart hasn’t been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash for recyclables.

Actually, it isn’t a stretch at all to say “Big Brother” is hanging out in trash cans, because that’s precisely what this is.  It seems such a mundane thing.  It’s not.  Cleveland, apparently, has no other urgent priorities upon which to spend $2.5 million of their tax dollars on than to monitor your trash.

And it’s all about what is good for government:

Recycling is good for the environment and the city’s bottom line, officials said. Cleveland pays $30 a ton to dump garbage in landfills, but earns $26 a ton for recyclables.

So citizens are fined for not doing the government’s bidding and what was once a misdemeanor – for goodness knows what reason – is now a “civil penalty”.  That, one assumes, is simply a new name for Big Brother’s “incentive” to recycle as it demands.

This is what creeping government control over every aspect of your life looks like.  As one might say, it demonstrates the banality of evil.  Something as mundane as trash pickup – a service that should be private anyway – has been assumed by government and is now used as one more event in which the government controls your life. You dance to its agenda, whether you want to or not.

Freedom is choice.  Freedom is the lack of coercion, as Fredrick Hayek once declared.  In Cleveland, one more choice, and one more bit of coercion has taken another bit freedom away.  Call it death by a 1,000 cuts, but freedom and liberty are becoming more and more threatened –a process aided and abetted by today’s technological advances.


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