Cyprus Bailout: Could the Government Steal Our Savings Here, Too?

People in Europe are learning an important lesson. When you are a peasant, everything you have is owned by the government, and they can take it whenever they want. 

In spite of it being the 21st century, Europe hasn't really left the Middle Ages. In those times, the aristocracy owned everything, and their subjects (the serfs and peasants) were allowed to use it in return for giving the nobles what they demanded. How much, if any, the serfs were allowed to keep was at the discretion of the serf’s lord. In troubled times, serfs could be left to starve when the lords took all the food and money for themselves in the form of taxes and rents. The aristocracy enforced this system of virtual slavery by limiting the weaponry available to the peasants and imposing a draconian system of laws and orders that provided torture and death to any peasant who broke the rules.

Fast forward to 2013, and we see that things in Europe really haven’t changed all that much. The powerful central government has decided that it needs more resources from their subjects, so they are just taking them. Without warning or permission from the titular owners, EU leaders imposed a nominal 10% levy on all bank accounts in Cyprus.  Just like the serfs of old, when the lords speak, the money disappears. 

On this side of the Atlantic, our founders established a different form of government, with power residing primarily in the people, and with a strong Constitution that explicitly prohibited the seizure of a citizen’s property or wealth without due process. For our first 126 years, it was recognized that the citizen, not the government, was the true owner of the property and wealth they acquired, and that property or wealth could only be taken by the government after proceedings conducted in conformance with the due process of law. 

That changed with the passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913 and, for the first time, government was allowed to lay first claim on the products of a citizen’s labor. Once government, through the Internal Revenue Service, declared a person guilty of tax evasion, all property and wealth could be seized, and the burden of proof was placed on the person to prove the government in error in order to win a return of their possessions.  The process of changing citizens back into serfs was begun. 

Unfortunately, it appears citizens of the United States are about to learn the lessons so recently taught to our European brothers, namely, we are vassals of the government, and, just as the serfs of old, we will be allowed to retain only as much as government doesn't need. 

Just as medieval serfs were only allowed to work on, but not own, their land, the United States is moving towards a similar system. With the recent Supreme Court decision, it is now clear that private ownership of land is strictly contingent on federal, state, or local governments not having any desire to take control of it. Even the use of land controlled by private citizens is subject to whatever restrictions a government agency, the EPA, places upon it. In essence, all land in the United States is now owned and controlled by the government, and we are allowed to use it, in accordance with their restrictions, for only so long as they deem fit.  They can take it back, without due process, anytime they want. 

And just like the EU seizing a portion of bank accounts, Washington has openly discussed the seizure of the $3 trillion in 401k and IRA assets owned and invested by American workers. In return for the wealth that they have worked an entire lifetime to acquire, the government will promise to return a portion of it at some time in the future to fund retirement, if the person lives long enough and the government doesn't decide to give it to someone else in the meantime. Either way, it is clear that no matter how hard you worked for it, its not your money.  

For more than 100 years, American citizens possessed inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, bestowed by their creator. But no longer. It is clear that today, politicians and bureaucrats in Washington see your rights as bestowed by government, dependent upon the needs of that government, provisional  and, if necessary, revocable without reason or warning. 

Instead of citizens that are served by their government, in their eyes, we are serfs that are controlled by, and work to serve the needs of, the bureaucracy. And, according to them, if they take that for which we have worked, we should have no complaint. After all, it all belongs to them!

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Steve Curtis

Graduated Princeton University with a BSChE. Worked in industry for 20 years, then started a safety and environmental consulting company.

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