This essay first appeared in Cliterati on April 20th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.
One of the tragic flaws of the human race is that the mass of people are wholly unable to see the big picture, which gives a powerful advantage to people and institutions wise enough and patient enough to invest their energies in a long game. While many people can recognize the immediate problems with some new, bad law (which is to say most of them, since virtually all the necessary laws were made long ago), they are completely unable to grasp how it fits in to the big picture. The purpose of government is to concentrate power in the hands of a few, and the purpose of getting involved in government is to be one of that few. And while the ways in which different politicians conceive of exercising and expanding that power may vary somewhat by individual and party, together all of these actions add up like countless threads in one vast fabric of tyranny.
Bureaucracy (the form of government firmly established in the US and UK) is essentially government by nobody; no matter who holds power at any given time, the whole amounts to a colossal, blind, amorphous entity whose only purpose is to grow and increase its grip on everything in its reach, especially people. One of its most potent mechanisms to accomplish this is what I call universal criminality, which is the establishment of…
…so many complex, broad, vague, mutually contradictory and intrusive laws that every single person is in violation of at least some of them at any given time. Then when any “authority” from the chief executive down to the lowliest cop wants to teach one of the peons a lesson, all he has to do is find a law to charge him with and the machine then proceeds to grind him up psychologically, financially, politically and often physically.
The machine sometimes even acts (seemingly) by itself due to the processes which were previously established; this can be seen whenever there is some awful prosecution that nobody is willing to take credit for, and officials stand around using words like “unfortunate” and excusing their inaction with tautologies like “the law is the law”. But to a large degree, they really are being honest about their inability to rescue a victim from the gears: it took hordes and generations to build this great Moloch, and it would take the concerted efforts of many thousands to dismantle it. Once a law or policy has been created for use against one group, the precedent it sets is gradually increased to affect others the original instigators never intended or even considered; single-minded fanatics with agendas like “decency” or “women’s empowerment” or “the children” never, ever understand that the weapons they demand for their “champion” today will not disintegrate with his regime, but will be inherited by his successors in years to come, and that the noose which fits the necks of “conservatives” will suit equally well to hang “liberals” (and vice-versa).
Over the last few centuries, would-be rulers slowly came to realize that sex laws were especially useful for establishing absolute control; before that such laws were largely concerned with maintaining public order and the purity of bloodlines. But since virtually everyone has sexual impulses, and many if not most people commit some sort of sexual indiscretion from time to time, sex laws are among the most effective methods of establishing universal criminality (which probably accounts for their increasing popularity over the last few decades). If all men can be vilified as “rapists”, “potential rapists” or supporters of “rape culture”, it’s easy to keep them under control; women, however, are a little more complicated. While underage women are effectively neutralized by classifying them as passive, asexual “children”, and any adult woman with a public or social life is vulnerable to accusations of “prostitution”, adult women with very private, monogamous sex lives are harder to target.
Fortunately for the control freaks, Nature burdened women with a built-in and highly exploitable weakness, namely pregnancy: the typical woman who has any sex at all will eventually end up pregnant, at which point she becomes uniquely vulnerable to state control via the child. While in pre-industrial times dependent children were basically classed as the property of their parents, in the past century they have been increasingly defined as the property of the state; a mother is therefore classified as the custodian of state property, and it’s a small matter to control her by threatening to take that property away. Because this is such a powerful tool of control, the state has worked diligently to maximize its period of absolute ownership by defining all legal minors as “children”, then pushing the upper age limit up and the lower age limit down to the period before birth, an historically-unprecedented power grab made possible by modern technology and expanding legal precedent. And so we get abominations like this:
The Tennessee…legislature gave final approval…to a bill that allows women to be charged with assault if they have a pregnancy complication after using illegal drugs…Farah Diaz-Tello…with National Advocates for Pregnant Women [said]…“The law…in no way limits the prosecution to misdemeanor assault, nor does it limit the prosecution to women who are illegally taking narcotics”…In other words, any woman who gives birth to a baby with health problems, or who loses a pregnancy at any stage, could be subject to criminal investigation, “because criminal investigation is the only way to rule out an unlawful act”…The most severe crime a pregnant woman could…be charged with under the new law is aggravated assault, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison…
Women in Mississippi, Indiana, Alabama, Utah, Louisiana, Texas and El Salvador have already been charged under similar laws; women in Wisconsin, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, DC, England and Brazil have been subjected to shocking human rights abuses using similar logic; and politicians in New South Wales and Queensland have demanded similar control over pregnant women’s lives. Nor does the nightmare end at birth:
Prosecutors successfully argued that a grieving mother was in fact a killer…[because] prescription painkillers [supposedly] tainted her breast milk and caused her infant’s death. Her sentence for this tragic accident…is 20 years in prison. Stephanie Green…was injured in a debilitating car accident…[and] also suffered from fibromyalgia…[so] she took doctor-prescribed morphine…At six weeks old, her daughter, Alexis…stopped breathing…it was determined that the baby had morphine in her system…there is little scientific evidence that morphine can gather in breast milk to toxic levels…Prosecutors [claimed] she “worked the system” to get her pain pills, did not keep all of her doctors in the loop, and should have known better…
Of course, birth control can prevent a woman’s coming into possession of state property to start with, so naturally many of those in power want to control access to it or at least hide information about it, but really that’s just gilding the lily; the majority of women do eventually want children, bringing them (and the fathers of those children) firmly under state control. Those who don’t want children usually still have sex lives, and everybody has to eat; once politicians realized the public would accept the morally-absurd concept of consensual crime, the achievement of universal criminality was just a matter of time.