Sovereign citizen

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It's not even
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The sovereign citizen movement claims that a person has the right under common law (or at least their bizarre sham definition thereof) to declare him/herself as essentially a nation unto themselves, and therefore may not be subject to the law of the land where they live. It is closely associated, among other things, with such extreme right-wing causes as the tax protester movement and the militia movement in the United States. The term freeman on the land is a pseudolegal term assumed as a title by some would-be sovereigns, deriving from a complex and not-easily-explained conspiracy theory involving admiralty law and the Uniform Commercial Code. Racists who believe that only white men have rights, as sovereign citizenship adherents they believe the ratification of the 13th Amendment was illegal and therefore slavery still legally exists, and the 19th Amendment being also illegal women have no right to vote and any election in which women vote is unconstitutional and null and void and a violation of the rights of sovereign white male citizens.

Though a few stateless people exist in the world (most in permanent diplomatic limbo due to lack of any citizenship), and in the United States a few have somewhat arcane legal status allowing them to be citizens of their place of residence (currently recognized only in American Samoa and Swains Island) but not the U.S. at large, the idea that one can renounce one's citizenship in order to evade the laws of the land is not a right recognized in most countries. (U.S. courts generally consider this argument frivolous.)

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[edit] Scams

This claim is also associated with a few bizarre "debt elimination" scams which hold that if somebody files all the right paperwork with the government declaring themselves a sovereign citizen, they then have access to unlimited funds from the U.S. Treasury to pay off all their mortgages and other debts, similar to the theories of the redemption movement. The gist of the argument is that the Social Security Act established accounts at the U.S. Treasury for every American citizen and that declaring oneself a "sovereign citizen" gives one the legal right to issue "sight drafts" or "bills of exchange" which draw on your personal U.S. Treasury Account to pay off debts. This is not true, and those who have fallen for this scam have found the only person who gained access to any funds as a result was the scammer who charged them money to learn about this bizarre debt elimination method at his seminar.

An indication of the intellectual limitations for many members of the movement is indicated by the response of a Texas motorist to a December 4, 2008 traffic stop. "I am Texas Republican sovereignty. I do not recognize this as a legal traffic stop."[1]

[edit] Political sociology

The sovereign citizen movement appears to be a direct descendant of the Posse Comitatus movement. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the movement may have as many as 300,000 members.[2]

Although populist anti-statism is associated with rural and small town whites in the American West, it has also appeared among urban African American squatters in the American South.[3] The Atlanta Journal Constitution has described them as "paper terrorists" for having the effrontery to squat in empty luxury homes in south Dekalb County.[4] DeKalb Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Melvin expressed class outrage when he commented that, "It's amazing that these groups of citizens who like to proclaim they're Robin Hood only choose million-dollar homes. Shocking." Presumably they should do their squatting in mobile homes or hovels?[5]

These people's willingness to act on, rather than merely propound, their ideas, together with the selection of valuable properties for squatting, makes the movement resemble the "social banditry" that erupted in the past in predominantly peasant societies presenting extreme income inequality. This is egalitarian redistribution of wealth tricked up in the familiar, traditional language that politically legitimizes action. That it is occurring in an advanced industrial society, in the alienating suburbs of Atlanta, is novel. Great job, America.

[edit] Sovereign Hypocrites

The problem with the sovereign citizens movement stems from its hypocritical stance that relies upon a flawed understanding of how the social contract works. In their case, rather than wholly obeying it a country's social contract, sovereign citizens like to cherry pick parts of it they want to follow and which parts they don't all the while arguing all the time that they're exempt from obeying government.

Sovereign citizens fail to understand that you don't get to do that. By using documents of common law, such as the United States Constitution, and using any part, or select parts, as a justification for being exempt from being government citizens, they're in fact doing the opposite: they acknowledge the social contract has validity and thus are still government citizens. Their strategy is about as logical as an employee in a company saying he is exempt from having to work while selectively pointing at parts of the contract which, no matter how he cuts it, still requires him to work else he'll be penalized. You can easily understand why the government, just like employers, aren't amused by such legal buffeting.

Compare sovereign citizens to anarchists. Unlike sovereign citizens, anarchists (genuine ones) understand how common law operates and how it conflicts with their philosophy of being self-governing individuals. So they instead favor natural law and/or a hypothetical set of norms known as anarchist law.[6] As common law is established by the state, which they obviously oppose, they also oppose any documents justifying it's validity or use them in their defense of why they reject the government. They can therefore make a genuine argument, without being hypocrites, that they truly reject the government, do not accept being its citizens and ultimately view the social contract that it tries to make them obey as fiat.

If their misunderstanding of how social contracts work isn't enough, many sovereign citizens still receive and redeem government checks as well as other forms of federal financial aid. This is further inadvertent admission that they are still citizens of the government and don't truly reject it.[7]

Also, the term "sovereign citizen" itself hilariously reflects the oxymoron logic of the sovereign citizen movement. A quick look at the definition of the two words will show it's impossible to be both a sovereign (self-governing) and a citizen (governed). Many in the movement realize that though and instead call themselves "sovereign individuals" instead. Unfortunately they still don't wholly reject common law and government authority to genuinely be considered worthy of that title.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Texas Appeals Court Denies Sovereign Citizen Defense, theNewspaper.com, September 7 2010
  2. 'Sovereign' Citizen Kane, Southern Poverty Law Center, Fall 2010
  3. Couple Charged With Stealing Houses, wsbtv.com, August 20, 2010
  4. DA: Paper terrorists stealing homes, ajc.com, August 19 2010
  5. Anti-Government Sovereign Citizens Taking Foreclosed Homes Using Phony Deeds, Authorities Say, ABC News, August 23, 2010
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_law
  7. Working for the Man: Anti-government extremists who cash government paychecks, Forbes, March 5, 2012
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