The Musterion of Anomia
Vol: 125 Issue: 29 Wednesday, February 29, 2012
One of the more frightening things about living in the 21st century is the realization that if the government wanted to find something to arrest you for, it could. If the government wants you, there is no security.
If you live and work and participate in everyday society, then you are probably guilty of committing at least three felonies a day, according to author Harvey Silvergate. He provides a number of examples, some of which are pretty chilling.
Under Title 18 of the US Code, Section 1346, a person commits an offense if he conspires or schemes to defraud by depriving another of the intangible right to honest services.
So, you are a salaried employee of a large company. Your cousin phones you up to tell you he’s got two tickets to the Knicks game for tomorrow, but tomorrow is a work day. But you really want to go to the game, so you call in sick.
Because you are on salary, you are being paid while you are at the ball game. You have just defrauded your employer by depriving him of the right to your services, which he paid for. Oh, and your cousin is guilty of conspiracy.
In the hands of an ambitious-enough federal prosecutor, you might both get convicted of racketeering under the Rico Act.
How about this one? You discover that your son has a stash of marijuana in his bedroom. What you don’t know is that the cops are already watching him. What do you do?
Do you call the cops and have him arrested, saddling him with a criminal record and probably destroying your relationship with him for the rest of his life? Or do you flush the dope and deal with him yourself when he gets home from school?
So, which is it? If you decided to flush the dope and deal with him yourself, then you have just destroyed evidence in an ongoing investigation, making you guilty of a felony. It doesn’t matter that you were unaware of the investigation. Or that the alternative choice is to be the one to destroy your own son’s future.
You and your family enjoy a picnic at a national park. After the picnic, you clean up your trash, throw it away and leave. One of your kids is less careful and leaves some trash behind. As you are leaving the picnic area, a ranger asks if you and your family cleaned up all your trash.
You tell him yes, and you have just committed a felony. Any false statement made to a government official, even in casual conversation, leaves one open to charges of making a false statement to a federal official.
Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby was convicted of making a false statement to prosecutors during the Valerie Plame investigation. Prosecutors were allegedly probing who had revealed Plame’s CIA connections.
Libby was not guilty of that, but he gave conflicting testimony about the details of an unrelated two year old phone conversation. He was convicted of making false statements to a federal official and went to prison.
Martha Stewart was accused of violating insider trading rules. In the course of the investigation, it was determined that although she was not guilty of insider trading, she did lie to federal investigators.
They didn’t get her for the insider trading, but she went to jail anyway.
“There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” – Ayn Rand
A law professor named John Tehranian published a paper entitled “Infringement Nation” in which he demonstrated how easily one could find oneself in legal jeopardy without ever intending to violate a single law.
In his paper, he created a hypothetical law professor named “John.” (Clever, isn’t he?) “John” doesn’t file share or steal music or movies. He uses his computer for work.
In the course of the day, he answers his emails, the contents of which are reproduced by his email program when he hits the ‘reply’ button. Each unauthorized reproduction of someone else’s copyrighted text—their email—represents a separate act of copyright infringement, as does each instance of email forwarding.
He distributes three just-published internet analyses of a Supreme Court decision just handed down to his class, violating the analysts’ copyrights. While the students are reading, he doodles a sketch of something he saw at an art museum, creating an “unauthorized derivative work.”
Later he reads a 1931 poem to his Law and Literature class, an unauthorized public performance. Then he emails pictures his friend took of him at a football game. The pictures are of him, but his friend owns the copyright on the pictures.
He sings Happy Birthday to a friend at a restaurant and records it on his iPhone. He has just recorded an unauthorized public performance of a copyright-protected work. If the holders of all the various copyrights violated by these acts were upheld, Professor Tehranian concludes the following:
All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, barring last minute salvation from the notoriously ambiguous fair use defense, he would be liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file-sharing.
The point being made by Harvey Silvergate and Professor Tehranian is that all of us are lawbreakers, whether we intend to be or not. Indeed, it is impossible for a person to operate normally within normal society without breaking some law, somewhere.
Under the terms of Google’s terms of service contract, (which nobody ever reads) you may not use the search engine or gmail or any of the company’s other features if “you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google.”
So a seventeen-year old using Google to research a term paper is breaking the law. Did YOU know there was a law against underaged Googling?
We are no longer a nation governed by laws, but rather, we are a nation governed according to the whims of lawyers. And politicians.
Laws, which were originally given to protect us, have made us slaves to the law. We either go along to get along or we could find ourselves going to jail. There are two Biblical applications here.
The first, of course, is that the situation mirrors our spiritual condition before God. The Ten Commandments were too many laws for any human being to be expected to keep. No matter how hard one tries, a person WILL run afoul of at least one of them over the course of a lifetime.
The runaway legal system we find ourselves in now is designed to keep us outside the law, and therefore enslaved by it. The Ten Commandments functioned in exactly the same way.
Except that the legal system is designed to enslave us, whereas the Ten Commandments were designed to point the way to freedom by grace through faith.
Once we realize that the deck is stacked — and that nobody can keep the law — then we understand WHY we need a Savior. Understanding one’s need for salvation is the first step to seeking salvation.
The second Biblical application I want you to see is how this fits with the Bible’s outline of the last days.
The Apostle Paul writes of the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit’s earthly ministry and the revelation of the antichrist:
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth will let, until He be taken out of the way.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7)
Jesus said that in the last days, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12)
The word “iniquity” is translated from the Greek anomia which means, “lawlessness.”
So the picture that the Bible presents in the last days is one in which lawlessness “abounds” — a condition that the Apostle explains as a ‘mystery’ (musterion) — meaning it will only make sense to the generation to whom it was intended.
To a generation that routinely commits three felonies on any given day, anomia isn’t all that musterion.
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:32)