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Unsubscribe USA.gov, Part Three

Banking in the Black

Don Lobo Tiggre

One of the greatest challenges facing people who are determined to unsubscribe from coercive systems is a lack of information on how the small-time operator can do business in the black (unregulated) market. Bigger businesses operate under the cover of legal businesses whenever possible, so we're mostly talking about individuals who want to transact their business "under the radar screen." There's more to it than keeping a sock full of cash under the mattress--that's the easy part--the real trick is in keeping your transactions from being traced.

As was pointed out in the last issue of DF!, the once "obvious" answer of using offshore banks is no longer so obvious. In fact, it can be downright dangerous. The bottom line on banks is that they are highly regulated entities and there isn't one of them anywhere in the world that can stand up to all the pressure some governments can bring to bear, if they so choose. If you are not going to pay protection money (legally sanctioned or otherwise), then you have to hide your transactions from the extortionists, perhaps even more so than you need to hide your cash on hand. Simply put: DON'T USE BANKS.

That's right. No bank accounts. None.

Or maybe you keep some, with which you can create false trails to substantiate a perception of financial activity that you want the extortionists to think is true. But if you keep any bank accounts while bucking the system, you have to expect that they will be seized sooner or later. So keep as little cash in them as possible, make sure the address listed is to a drop box, and don't use them in such a way as to reveal your location or true transaction history. You might want to open several accounts in small local banks, depositing a small amount of cash in person. I'm not sure, but some of these may escape detection until you've run a few transactions through them and other banks, giving you something to fall back on in case your main account is seized.

Or, better yet: no bank accounts. None.

So... If you nix banking, what do you do? How do you handle your business? Clearly, you want to put as much of your business into a cash basis as possible. Depending on your business, it can be relatively easy to get people to pay in cash (many kinds of sales work, for example), or difficult (big ticket services, like roofing, or building houses). However, even the most statist bureaucrats play this game by trying to get as much of their pay in (non-taxable) benefits as possible. If you're a cog in a giant corporate wheel that would sooner see you tossed in the clink than pay you in cash, you can push this same ruse as far as it will go and take a reduction in pay in exchange for more health care, or maybe even a reduction in pay and other benefits in exchange for a company car. The best bet for people who work with establishment businesses that dare not rock the boat is to see if they will switch you over to contractor status. Some won't, but many will, because they don't have to pay half of your payroll taxes any more, nor offer you any benefits. If the Infernal Revenue Service comes around and tells them that you're not paying your share of protection money (but they can't catch you because you've hidden your tracks too well), they might force the contractee to "withhold" 33% of your pay. That's bad, but if your services are unique or highly valued, the company can still contract with you, and you can still make money after the fit hits the shan. You may not want to continue working at 2/3 pay, and that's your choice, but it's possible to do it, and it's better than nothing if you are heavily obligated.

Obviously, it's better to work completely outside the legal protection racket, if you can support yourself doing so. The above is worth noting, mostly for the benefit of those who can't, or think they can't leave the regulated, "protected" economy.

One more thing before moving on to work completely outside the system: even if you don't work as a corporate drone, you may take work from time to time with "normal" organizations who will want your Gestapo (SS) or similar number so they can report their transaction with you to the appropriate muscle of the protection racket. This need not be a problem for you, especially if the work is a one-time deal. You just need to learn how to generate correct-looking numbers (any old string of digits won't do in many cases). If they insist on paying you with a check, and you ditched all your bank accounts, you can take the check to the issuing bank and cash it there with ID that matches the name on the check. Note that if you have created a persona for work with the company, your ID must match it and be very good. Alternatively, if you have no ID and no bank account, you can sign the check over to someone in the mainstream you trust and have them deposit it in their bank and give you the cash. Sometimes family members will do this for you, even if they think you're crazy for not wanting to use banks.

Now, let's cut to the chase and look at specific ways of transacting business in the "unprotected" (free) economy. Hint: PayPal stinks. Reason: credit cards stink. Anything you do with them leaves virtually glowing neon trails documenting how, what, where, when, and with whom you transacted business. (Again, if you have the time, money, and creativity to design false credit card trails, that's your call, but for most rebels, it's better just to stay away from the damn things.) And that's not to mention all the money you can end up spending on interest--that's money spent on nothing of tangible good to you at a time when your income is likely reduced.

Means of transacting business under the radar screen:

--Cash: Free Marketeer's Best Friend

Cash is great. It's anonymous. And until the nation-states that print it start going belly up, people will take it in exchange for just about anything. For small, person-to-person transactions (mow a guy's yard, he gives you some bucks), it can't be beat. But, cash can cause problems in larger amounts (even if someone is okay with paying you in cash for roofing their house, their bank will notice and report an unusual withdrawal of several thousand dollars in cash). You might want to consider taking only a portion of your earnings for a larger job in cash, and having your customer use the rest to buy some collectable gold coins and give those to you (if he or she were the reporting type, the customer could even report that s/he paid you $100 dollars, without mentioning that that was the face value of the gold or silver coins--some are still legal tender--given you). If you need or want it all in empty promises (Feral Reserve Note cash), you might want to plan some time into the transaction so that your customer can withdraw several different amounts of cash at different times. You don't want a good customer to have to answer to the Thought Police, if you can help him or her avoid it. You should also give some thought to security, especially if you live in a big city; you might not want to ride home in the subway with a couple kilobucks in your pockets. If you are saving up money, you may not want to keep it all in paper cash; diversifying some of it into precious metals, guns with high resale values, and other durable commodities is a good idea (and a good fire-proof safe is much better than a sock under your mattress for what you do keep).

What happens when you don't do business face to face? Well, cash can still be a good means of exchange, especially in smaller amounts. Yes, mail can get lost (or intercepted), but, in the US, that really doesn't happen very often when it's addressed correctly. If you put cash inside a birthday card, manila envelope, or other opaque covering, no one can tell there's cash in a letter. If you think about what it costs to put a stop-payment on a check, you'll realize that losing a check can cost as much, or more, as losing a small amount of cash. For larger amounts, there's FedEx (and similar companies). They almost never lose packages, the envelopes are cardboard, and you can insure the "documents" inside.

NB: Do NOT wire money if you want any kind of privacy. Western Union, American Express, etc. charge a hefty percentage for the service, and it's all recorded and reported by their computers (and the recipient must provide some very realistic ID in order to receive the funds).

Money Orders: The Next Best Thing

Some folks just get too spooked by the thought of sending cash through the mail--it's a cultural taboo in some places, and in other places, genuinely stupid. (Never, ever send anything of value through the mail in Mexico, for example.) If someone can't or shouldn't send you cash, money orders work almost as well. MOs do come with an extra transaction cost of their own, but it's usually much less than the cost of wiring money. Several compromises are possible between safety and privacy. If you want to protect the sender from being associated with you, and you have IDs that will pass inspection by postal employees (or if you have a friend who's willing to cash an MO for you), the sender can leave his info blank and fill in the recipient field with info you provide them. If the sender doesn't care, but you don't want them to have any name to associate with you, they can fill the sender info in but leave the recipient fields blank; that way, if the MO goes AWOL, they can at least verify whether it was lost, or cashed by someone else. Both fields can be left blank, of course, though, in that case, it's about the same as sending cash through the mail. Some folks have speculated that dogs could be trained to sniff money through envelopes, or that the wire strip in newer bills could be detected with the right equipment. I've never seen evidence for either case, but on the chance they're true, blank MOs could defeat such detection attempts.

One good thing about MOs is that an MO for $700 (the max amount sold on a single MO by the USPO) is much thinner than seven $100 bills, and much, much thinner than 35 $20 bills. Another good thing about blank MOs is that, rather than cashing them, you can just sit on them, like cash, and turn around and use them to pay yet another party. That way, the MO's serial numbers, if they ever get traced, are never associated with you--the MOs may not even be redeemed in the same city or state where you live.

Other Liquid Commodities: less flexible but more innocuous

There are other kinds of coupons and certificates that can be sent or transferred with little notice or fuss, though you have to make sure the recipient is okay with them. For example: McDonald's gift certificates are a sort of bearer note that comes in packets of five one-dollar notes. They are redeemable--with no ID!--for something most people buy on a fairly regular basis, at many thousands of locations. If you don't like fast food, you're in the minority, and it shouldn't be too difficult to find someone who will trade your McMoney for some other valuable consideration. There are others; Toys R Us gift certificates are a little less flexible than McMoney, but also redeemable in many locations, and as good as cash for recipients who have kids (TRU sells diapers and baby food, as well as other useful items and toys). There are also pre-paid cards, like phone cards, which, while not redeemable for anything other than the commodity sold by the issuing company, can be used--and used repeatedly--to transfer cash value. Most people will spend money on long distance every month, so reducing or eliminating that expense out of pocket amounts to putting cash into their pockets. (See the related article by Plinky the Elder--you don't even have to transfer the physical card; you can e-mail the pin and access number, and even add more money to the account if your payee is someone you need to pay on a regular basis.)

The most liquid commodities, of course, are precious metals and stones. I know a guy whose family smuggled their wealth out of Nazi Germany by buying platinum and having it poured into casts of the tools in their car's emergency kit; the Nazis took the cash they had and some jewelry, but let them leave in their car... I have paid for services in gold coin before, though it made me a little nervous to send one through the mail the one time I did it. Fortunately, there's e-gold nowadays. E-gold isn't perfect--they are not a black market business and can be subpoenaed. On the other hand, you can set up an account using any name you please, and have your e-gold turned into real gold coins, sent to anywhere you direct. You can fund an e-gold account with a credit card or with money orders, but the transaction fee is usually pretty hefty (though not as bad as Western Union!), and the more people accept e-gold, the less need there is to cash it out. One good thing about e-gold is that it makes transferring value across borders no different than transferring it within the jurisdiction of your local protection racket, and much cheaper than almost any other option, as long as your payee will accept it.

Barter: Straight commodities swaps

Barter is still alive and well in modern society, and is an important part of the underground economy everywhere in the world--especially in places where not only prices, but the number of hours a person can work is tightly controlled. Some commodities have distinctly cash-like qualities, such as cigarettes, liquor, and ammunition (portable, standardized, concentrated value), and will often be accepted by people who neither shoot nor smoke. Ammo works particularly well in place of cash among most freedom lovers, because even those who don't shoot up a lot of money pretty regularly know others who do. SIMMS, hard drives, and other technology commodities come close to this at times, but don't age well (they lose value over relatively little time, and can be rendered almost value-less in an instant when a new innovation is introduced). The good thing about barter is that anything you do, have, or have access to can be of value to someone else, creating an infinite number of possible ways to transact business that are very hard to trace. Even something as "virtual" as web-design skills can be bartered for "solid" stuff like food at the local coop or auto repair at Pop's Garage, if either of them happens to want a web-site (and many small businesses do, these days). Food, of course, is of universal value, and many a small garden produces more than its owners can eat. You might have a hard time convincing the gal behind the register at Wal-Mart to take your home-grown tomatoes or carrots, but even statists have to eat and will cut a deal for real fresh veggies--or just buy them for cash.

The bottom line: Business is business

So there you have it. The details of how people conduct their business will vary from business to business and from person to person, but the heart of it all is the ability to conduct transactions in a secure and private way. Financial privacy is the bottom line, if you want to escape the regulated economies of the nation-states. Financial privacy can be had, even without fancy off-shore corporations and shell-games of businesses within businesses within businesses. However, this alone is no guarantee of success; there are other bottom lines in business, such as good book-keeping, good salesmanship, good workmanship (quality of product), etc. Aspects of these relevant to the free-marketeer will be the subjects of future DF! articles, as opportunities arise.

One final thought: it may seem that you'll never be able to persuade enough people to do business with you in a private and secure way--not enough to feed your family and your gas-guzzling SUV. Frankly, this may be so, possibly even for most folks. But remember what was said at the beginning of this article about using banks if you have to. Most folks don't plan to (and shouldn't plan to) enter the real free market all at once and will still have access to above-ground transaction services. Indeed, for those who aren't taking a moral stand on refusing to participate in what Fredrick Mann calls the "slave economy", maintaining a small above ground presence can be good cover. And, over time, there will be more and more people who will do business with you in the free economy. As stated elsewhere, the squeeze is on, and more and more people will be forced to cheat the protection rackets out of "their share" in order to survive. And that's only in the short term; in the long run, the antiquated protection rackets of the industrial age will not be able to survive in the information age. Those who already earn their living in part or in whole in the free market will be better able to weather the storm when the pace of change really picks up.

(c) 2000


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