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By Luc Loranhe (2006) <
I am sometimes accused of an anti-American bias. But many of my good friends actually are US citizens, and they are even more "anti-American" than I am.
One of them even has embarked on changing his citizenship to Canadian, for good reason, so he says.
The US likes to project the image of being the "land of the free". But as a matter of fact, few countries exert as tight a control over their subjects as does the US.
Few countries in the world control as strictly as the US what their citizens do to their own bodies. And in few countries is it as easy to become entangled unintentionally in criminal justice proceedings. And this is the case because definitely, no other country has as large and detailed a body of laws and regulations.
Freedom is the opposite of this. As Thomas Hobbes famously noted: "Liberty dependeth on the Silence of the law."
Many people, including many US citizens, are not aware of the fact that the US has by far the most voluminous system of criminalizing statutes of any country in the world because most of these statutes are not contained in a single penal code one could buy at a bookshop to keep oneself abreast with the rules.
Instead, there are thousands of regulations with criminal implications spread over topics where one at first may not suspect them.
For example, in the US, certain deeds may not be outlawed by themselves, but it may be outlawed to use interstate highways for them, or the US postal services, or US airways, or the Internet (which the US treats as an internal network, because US citizens can access information on it, even when the server is in Serbia and the language used is Suaheli).
And through the backdoor, the US legislature imposes severe punishments on deeds that in themselves are not outlawed, just because interstate highways, or the US postal services, or US airways, or the Internet are used.
This is street-smart cheating. In accordance to common legal sense, if a certain deed in itself is not illegal, the use of an interstate highway, or the US postal services, or US airways, or the Internet, in conducting it can only be a minor offense.
If US legislators are of the opinion that a certain behavior ought to be outlawed, then let them pass such a law. But if they do not have the authority to outlaw a behavior in itself (for example, because of constitutional limitations), and if they only have the authority to regulate the means that commonly are applied in conducting a certain behavior, then they should only be allowed to impose fines for what by definition only can be a breach of formalities.
The US legal system is out of proportion because lawmakers can always bypass the intents of the constitution by imposing enormous prison terms on the manner in which deeds are conducted that in themselves are not illegal.
I admit that the US is a free country in one aspect: Everyone is free to set up a religion, no matter how idiotic its creed.
Apart from that, many of the liberties people are said to enjoy are not genuine. These liberties are restricted from the fringes, and if nothing else can be used for curtailing them, then there always are the tax laws.
And mind you: if you are a US citizen, you are no longer able to just break free Henry Miller style by going to France, or, for that matter, to East Asia. For the current trend for US lawmakers is to internationalize US laws. For US lawmakers have found appeal in the Libyan or Iranian model, whereby a country's citizen cannot escape the grip of a country's laws by settling abroad. Thus, more and more US laws apply specifically to US citizens abroad (while traditionally, the "law of the land" applied to the area over which a country had jurisdiction).
As mentioned above, one of my friends who is a US citizen feels that there is no other way out but to change his citizenship. Fortunately, for US citizens, it is quite easy to become Canadian.
Of course, to be free from US interference, an ex-US citizen, just as everybody else, would still have to be careful as for what he uses the Internet. Because if two men, who both may even never have been US citizens and may never have been to the US, use the Internet to discuss something that is not illegal in the countries where they are located or in which their passports were issued, they are not safe from being dragged before a US court, as they could still be charged with "using the Internet to conspire to" do something that the US deems contrary to its interests.
The US has a track record for this kind of trickery, and the rest of the world will only be safe from creepy US interference when the US will no longer be powerful enough to interfere. This explains the affinity which is felt by many different camps and many different people around the world who all have different ideologies and different agendas but are united in just one aspect: they resent US meddling in their affairs.
ADDENDUM: An example of the Libyan or Iranian model for extraterritorial jurisdiction: in both countries, if you were born a Muslim, it is a serious offence if you later change your religion; a Libyan or Iranian Muslim cannot escape the respective laws by settling in, for example, the US and becoming a Christian there.
Likewise, in most US states, the age of consent to engage in a sexual relationship is 18 years. In many European countries, the age of consent is 16. However, US law prohibits US citizens from having sexual relationships abroad with anyone below the age of 18, and a US citizen who has a sexual relationship with a 17 year old in France or Germany may face a lengthy prison term upon returning to the US, even if in his home state, the age of sexual consent also is 17. (In many ways, sexual morals are for the US what Islam is for Libya and Iran; and all three are not capable of understanding the other side. The truth is: they all believe that the other camp has been seized by the devil.)
The conventional wisdom is that Libya or Iran will probably not prosecute ex-Libyans or ex-Iranians who have become US citizens and converted to Christianity, simply because the Libyan or Iranian law enforcement agencies do not have the necessary reach.
On the other hand, an ex-US citizen who has violated, or violates, US extraterritorial laws on sexual conduct with a person below 18, or on polygamy, can by no means be sure that the US will not use all the muscle it has to have him stand trial on American soil.
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Copyright Luc Loranhe