Reporting, vs. Self-incrimination

Much has been said, attempting to differentiate between police forcing confessions from the accused and reporting requirements asserted as necessary for such things as the collection of taxes, and, lately, enforcement of intellectual property.

In computer science, when we want to compare two sets of rules, to decide if they are equivalent for the purposes of a program, or to determine if one set of rules is preferable to the other, we set up logic tables.

I'm going to set up a logical table of results, to compare required reporting with testifying against oneself. I'm glossing over a lot of the technical issues, and the tables should not be assumed to prove anything in particular. But I hope to provide food for thought for those who unthinkingly say such things as, "If you're not doing anything wrong, what's the problem?"

Let's start with a broad cut of testifying against oneself:


Confession Denial
Or Refusal to Answer
Guilty Punish (Leniency?) Check other evidence.
Innocent Falsely punish. Check other evidence.

Now, let's look at a broad cut of required reporting:


Reported
Non-conformance
Reported
Conformance
Refusal
to Report
Guilty Punish. (Leniency?) Check other evidence. Punish,
and check other evidence.
Innocent Falsely punish. Check other evidence. Punish,
and check other evidence.

One question which presents itself is,
Why on earth would an innocent person confess to a crime? 
and, similarly,
Why on earth would a conforming person claim to be non-conforming?
Why, indeed?

  • Intimidation?
  • Some desire to protect the guilty?
And the required reporting table shows another set of problems. Why would someone refuse to report?

Well, here are a few reasons that come to mind quickly:

  • Time problems -- can't get a break from work long enough to write the reports?
  • Time problems -- needs more time to collect all the information from people who don't want to cooperate?
  • Report forms -- doesn't know how to fill out the reports?
  • Computerized report forms -- doesn't have access to a computer with the right harware/OS/application software?
  • Intimidation -- reading the instructions makes him or her feel guilty for even wanting to claim to be in compliance?
  • Almost innocent -- wants to clear up some problems but needs time, and doesn't trust the authorities to allow him or her to get the problems cleared up?
That's a little too binary. A proper analysis requires much more detail. In addition to guilty and innocent, we have to add varying degrees of guilt, because the laws are now so complex that very few of us can truly claim to not be in breach of some aspect of the law.

But even when you look in more detail, the only thing required reporting does, especially when enforceable by killer fines, is add one more set of laws, one more opportunity to punish people. Nothing else changes.

Isn't that the whole reason for governments to exist? To punish people?

(Let me rephrase that:
Isn't a bureaucrat who can't find reason to meet his or her quota going to be happy to have more reasons to punish people?
We want to believe that our own governments are free of bureaucrats who misunderstand the whole purpose of public service, or who have just given up. We want to believe that this is like earthquakes, tsunami, typhoons, and such. We want to believe that this is something that would never happen to us. We want to believe that God or fate or chance will not think we are significant enough to bother. We want to believe it's someone else's problem.)

The IRS claims they can't collect taxes without the reportage requirements.

This is not true. In fact, it would be cheaper, both in government costs and in overall cost to society, to go to all-volunteer payment. Sure, there would be some famous cases of nonpayment, but most people can think far enough ahead to recognize that helping pay wages for the police and fire departments is more important than owning one more boxed set of TV re-runs.

And when people who get rich by refusing to pay taxes find themselves becoming famous, they tend to develop a conscience and start paying.

Or, if the people entirely cease to think that far ahead, there is no way to save them from themselves anyway.

And the intellectual property holders claim they can't collect their royalties without the reportage functionality.

This is also nonsense. If our money is not being sucked away in frivolous taxes, we are going to support the artists we appreciate. And if we do not want to support certain kinds of art, why should they think to force us to?

But money is not what the intellectual property lobby is all about, anyway.


Now, I'm not going to say we can do away completely with either taxes or copyright/patent law. People are more short-sighted than they should be. Whether thinking about supporting the things that make life worthwhile, or whether believing that we should be paid-for-life just because we were once creative, we get lazy about our thinking at times.

But right now, the balance is far too heavy on requiring paperwork, so far that it is infringing the rights of the people not to have to incriminate themselves.

(If you are wondering what paperwork has to do with intellectual property, the attempts to "digitally" enforce "rights", think DRM and DMCA, are basically paperwork being introduced into the functioning of the computer software. You have to file a report every time you listen to a song, but no one is going to do that, so the idea is to have the computer do it for you. And prevent you from using your information devices if you should do anything that might make it possible to avoid the reports, even if the prevention methods also prevent you from using your own information as you want or need to.)

We need to look for different ways to do things here.

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