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Q: I'm 16 and a libertarian, and my parents don't understand my need for freedom. Recently, they've begun treating me like even more of a kid than they used to. I can't take it anymore! What I want to know is, should I just run away from this control circus or should I become an emancipated minor? Which would be less hassle now, and until I turn 18?
Frank, New York
A: Well, Frank, either choice is pretty drastic--both have advantages and disadvantages. Some of the latter are pretty heavy duty. If you take off, you become a fugitive, and you have to worry about staying hidden, which gets in the way of getting work and taking care of himself. If you try to use the law to protect you from your parents, you set yourself up for all kinds of expenses and heartache (not to mention giving sanction to some laws that coerce young people). You might first want to make sure there's no way you can improve the situation at home before you look to leaving. Have you read Sunni Maravillosa's article on increasing your freedom at home?
Here are some ideas you might want to consider before taking more drastic measures:
1] Really talk to your parents, make sure they understand how you feel, and ask them to work with you on finding a solution. "Make sure they understand" is key; don't just yell at them, but explain to them, and ask them to tell you what they think you're saying. Keep doing this until what they say matches what you are trying to say.
2] Increase your independence. If you haven't already, get a job, buy your own car, and pay your own way. For example, if you have to ask to use your parents' car, they have every right to dictate how it gets used. But if you have your own car, pay for your own gas, insurance, etc., you have the right of property ownership on your side.
3] If you are already largely independent, see if you can get them to help you set up on your own. They might surprise you and help because A) they don't think you can hack it and want to "teach you a lesson", or B) it sure beats having you run away or divorce them. If you want more freedom and think you're ready to handle it, then living on your own and supporting yourself is the best way to show that you are, in fact, an adult, regardless of what the law says.
There are more possibilities; these are just some to think about. The bottom line is that as long as you are taking money and help from your parents, they do have a right to call some of the shots. If you are independent, or are willing and able to be, but they insist on controlling you where they have no right, then more drastic measures may be worth considering. In cases of serious abuse--violent or sexual abuse--it's certainly worth getting out ASAP. If things are really that bad, simply leaving may be better than getting all tangled up in legal proceedings, but leaving safely is anything but simple. Just grabbing a back pack and sticking your thumb out on the highway can get you into serious trouble very quickly. It's better to plan and pick a destination before you leave, and even better still if you can get a trusted friend or family member to help you get set up in your new place.
If you do decide to take more drastic action, there are pros and cons to both of your suggestions. If you run away, are you prepared to see your face on milk cartons, for example? And how will you go about supporting yourself without being in the system? (It's fairly easy to track people using the Socialist Security Number, you know, and you need that card to get a "legit" job.) You can work outside the system, but it usually takes more time and effort to get set up, and often pays less--can you manage with those challenges? How will you handle the do-gooders who'll want to know why you aren't in school, where your parents are, and other such questions? Sure, you'll get more freedom real fast by running away, but being completely on your own is serious business, and you may be jumping in over your head.
Going to the state for permission to be free--that's really what getting declared an emancipated minor (EM) is all about--doesn't sound all that great, frankly. It'll put you in yet another statist database--not good for someone who really wants to be free. But, it'll also get the nosy folks and do-gooders out of your way more easily. States vary greatly on the requirements for being judged an EM; many require various kinds of "proof" of independence, and it may take you until you're 18 to accumulate enough to satisfy them! Some states also require your parents' cooperation--all the more reason to try to work things out with them before making a decision.
You're facing a tough situation and a tough set of choices, Frank, and I hope you come through it okay.
Q: After reading Sunni's article [Taking Freedom Personally] in the preview issue, I'm ready to increase my personal freedom... but I have no idea where or how to start! Any suggestions?
Taking the Leap, South Carolina
A: First off, congratulations! Many people live with the disquieting knowledge that they're lacking something, but don't choose to try to discover what's missing. Sunni will be addressing this topic again in our next issue, but to tide you over until then, here are some suggestions.
Think of something you've always wanted to do, but haven't, because of some unreasonable fear, and act on it. Suppose, for example, that you've always wanted to rent an X-rated video but haven't because you're afraid someone will see you in that section of the store. Or suppose you've wanted to wear brighter clothes but your mother taught you not to because you'd look "like a floozy". Remind yourself that what you think is more important than what others might think, and that if it's important to you, it's worth doing--and do it! Your hands may still tremble as you put the video on the counter, or you may feel like everybody's staring when you go to work in a bright yellow dress or shirt, but you will have taken a big step with that one small act; you'll have done what you want, rather than being chained by others' expectations or approval.
Or, find some small habit you do--perhaps biting your lips or chewing your fingernails--that you've wanted to change, and work toward changing it. As the example suggests, it doesn't have to be freedom-related. The idea is to become familiar with the process of creating the person you want to be, and how the changes feel, so that when you tackle the bigger issues, it'll likely be less intimidating for you.
Spend some time each day thinking about what's most important to you. There are lots of ways to do this without cutting in to your time--if you have a daily commute, you can think then, or while you're taking a shower, walking the dog, cooking dinner... any time you can create a quiet environment for a little while to really look deep into yourself. You can think about how you'd describe yourself, and whether your actions match your self-description, or examine your life philosophy more explicitly, and see if your life is more or less consistent with it. You can also look at how to make your life and your way of being more consistent with it.
In other words, break a few of the minor chains that have been holding you back, and begin to get in touch with the person you are, deep down inside, and the person you want to be. By doing so, you'll experience some of the happiness that comes from stepping out of the things that have held you back for a long time. You'll also get a better handle on where you want to go, and how you want to grow. Taking these small steps and feeling the greater freedom and self-confidence they produce will make it easier to tackle some of the bigger issues that will almost certainly arise as you work to freeing yourself.
It's a wonderful journey, and I wish you well as you begin on it!
Q: After a few years of thinking about things, I've finally decided to become a tax resister. Is there any way I can get some idea about whether I'll become an IRS target?
John Q. Public, Anytown USA
A: Well, if you knew someone who worked at the IRS and had access to that kind of information, s/he could tell you--but you'd probably rather not have this conversation with such a person. The official odds of getting audited and rates of non-compliance are not to be trusted. It's really an unknown gamble as to whether you'll attract "Imperial Entanglements" or not, and with the IRS's recent increase in audits of poor people, it's safe to assume they've become more interested in making examples out of all kinds of people than just getting money with their ugly tactics.
Having said that, it is possible to take steps to minimize coming to their attention. Before you drop off their radar screen, transfer any significant assets you may have to someone else you highly trust--perhaps a spouse or child (in the form of a trust). This includes property, stocks, other investments, and any banking accounts that have significant sums and draw interest. If you own licensed vehicles that have value (luxury or antique cars, boats, and the like), transfer the title to someone you trust. You'll need to do this over a period of time (or in one big step, as in setting up a trust for a child/children) so that these actions don't attract the attention of feral agents. The more net worth you have according to the IRS, the more likely it is that they'll suspect that you must be making more money that you're admitting to, and come looking for you. If you have time, it would be safer for the income from any jobs you have that report your earnings via your SSN to diminish over a number of years. If you decide to drop all jobs that report your annual income and all that crap, you'll want to move, change bank accounts, and sever any connections that can trace your old reported income and whereabouts to your new situation. (On the bright side, just think how nice it'll be come "tax season"--you'll be without the stress and nausea induced by the impending submission to rape!)
Also, being private about your decision, actions, and strategies will make it less likely you'll come to their attention. There are documented cases of individuals going for years without detection, until they've gone public with their tax resister status, and then getting clobbered by the IRS goons. This tactic serves the JBTs two ways: the resulting publicity is usually heavily slanted against the tax rebel, making it unlikely that others will see their example as a positive one; and it instills a fear of the possibility of such actions or even talk among individuals, making it impossible to know how many fellow tax rebels exist.
So, there's really no way to objectively tally up the evidence and assign a probability of getting caught. It depends a lot on your strategy. However, you can minimize that likelihood by being smart about what you do, and who knows about it. I know of individuals who've been non-filers for decades and who've not been bothered. These include people who are otherwise still in the system to varying degrees. So take heart, your decision is a good one: removing your financial support from the beast means there's that much less it can "help" us with. With some care on your part, you can live quite pleasantly and without undue fear of the knock at the door in the dead of the night.
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