An emissions test worker in Chattanooga looks over a Honda Odessy minivan that passed inspection. (Photo David Tulis)

An emissions test worker in Chattanooga looks over a Honda Odyssey minivan that passed inspection. (Photo David Tulis)

The young woman at the emissions testing center has purple dye in her hair. She’s friendly. She asked me for my papers and to step out of the car and to stand over by the blue chair as she checks the emissions of a minivan.

After sniffing the exhaust with a machine and checking the fuel cap, she gives a green certificate which I’m supposed to take to the County Court Clerk’s Office and remit so that my minivan can move for another year “in commerce.”

By David Tulis

In commerce the minivan is a registered vehicle. Registration is premised on the VIN — the vehicle identification number — that establishes the piece of property with the state.

Commerce is overseen by the state executive branch through the state department of safety which issues these registrations. It also issues driver licenses and tags. The tags are issued through county court clerks.

And that’s where I go next to get this van into compliance with the state’s requirement for all those in commerce to be properly registered.

In commerce, not at liberty

My F$24 payment of the fee or the tax in the county courthouse in downtown Chattanooga is recognition of my place within the state. I am in commerce and I have a tag on this minivan.

Now, being in commerce changes the legal status of that piece of property. And me as its “operator.”

It’s not a piece of property that I own directly, but it is one which the state owns because the state has the title. I have evidence of the title, called a certificate of title that I’m supposed to carry in my glove compartment with my important papers, along with the registration form.

As a licensed driver I agree to the rules of the road written by the Tennessee legislature and enforced by the department safety and municipal corporations such as Chattanooga and by sheriff’s departments.

which also serve the same function. They are I think legally divisions of the state, though I’d like to think rather in our constitutional tradition that the state was formed by the counties and the peoples.That’s in all likelihood not what happened and these counties are are creatures of the state itself.

The state of Tennessee itself the question with explored is how do we become free? Is freedom simply state of mind? Is freedom simply the liberty to do is one please? Is without constantly having to run into roadblocks and tax officials? Is freedom something that is legal in nature?

Freedom from the administrative state is not possible. We are not a free people in Tennessee even though our Constitution says that we are free people and that we enjoy the blessings of free government. We don’t have free government. We don’t. We are not a free people and that is because of the rise of the administrative state to which we have ceded and agreed.

Our dilemma

Registration of a minivan as a motor vehicle in commerce is just another picture of our dilemma. When you think about your liberties and your efforts to exercise them, it is a dilemma because you are not free to travel according to the way things are run and the way the driver license and registration laws are enforced.

One enters into a commercial relationship with the state by signing the line, by paying fees. One enters what is called an equitable (business) relationship with the state in commerce.

We live under commercial government. To make itself felt, to obtain obedience and compliance, the state operates in commerce.

Now there is a backstory to this operation. Prior to the 1937 uniform motor vehicle operators’ and chauffer’s licenses law (renamed in 1988 the uniform classified and commercial driver license act) Tennessee people traveled freely without harassment. They had personal liberty to travel anywhere without anybody’s permission at any point in their movement.

They did not have to pay a tax or fee or obtain a license for the use of the road. All travel was presumptively private.

With driver license we have the conversion of travel into a privilege. Conversion is a category of crime. Conversion involves treating another person’s goods as one’s own, holding onto property that accidentally comes into one’s hands, or purposefully giving the impression that the asset belongs to him.

We have the loss of the practice of a right and its replacement by the practice of a privilege. The state says by its courts and public policy that there is no such thing as traveling by car. The only blessing left to the human being who wants to go from point A to point B is an activity called “the operation of a motor vehicle,” which is subject to regulation.

A driver is defined as “every person who drives or is actual physical control of a motor vehicle upon a highway who is exercising control over or steering a vehicle being towed by a motor vehicle” (TCA 55-50-102, definitions). This language — drive, vehicle, motor vehicle — is entirely commercial. Commerce is “trade, traffic, and transportation in the United States” for hire.

A proper challenge

A proper legal challenge to the status quo would claim the defendant is exercising a constitutional right that continues to exist, despite the subterfuge of the state and the three branches of government.

A solid challenge would presume that the constitution remains in effect, that the legislature has not destroyed or abrogated any constitutional right, that the 1937 driver license statute did not obliterate or obviate any right, that the right still exists and that it is exercised by anyone claiming it, and that cops’ and troopers’ arrest of people outside the commercial sphere is harassment and lawlessness whose actors are subject to accusations under the state oppression statute.

It requires a defendant such as a Guatemalan immigrant. Maybe a businesswoman from Mexico who feeds construction workers tamales from the back of a 1989 Ford LTD. Maybe an intelligent Anglo such as Arthur Jay Hirsch, a Christian man of high principle whose argument is mixed with claims about the promises of God.

Conversion process: A form of theft

A proper challenge is not against the statute, but against the practice under legal fictions that have grown up around it. The defendant’s appeal gives the people’s representatives in the general assembly the benefit of the doubt. They did not, indeed, maliciously act to violate the constitution with the 1937 law. But they allowed its continuing misrepresentation, no doubt, with complicity of the courts in several decisions about driver licenses, privileges, travel and resistance to the state.

The defense appeal of would hold that the state created a parallel system of the use of the roads. There’s the free use of the road. Secondarily, there’s the regulated use of the road. The latter form of travel consumed the entire population in almost every use of a car in the state. A few use the other free-range form of travel under the constitution.

Every use of the car as a vehicle, every rumbling advance of a truck as a vehicle in commerce, every movement on the public right of way is not by right, but by government privilege. Under the conversion process.

The process in which we agree to relinquish a God-given right to travel is the same one in which we relinquish the right to marry. On that point, Tennesseans universally marry under state license, by permission. However, we have a right before God to marry. Yet Christian and pagan alike marry under permission, to their long-term peril and the reduction in their legal status.

I don’t expect people to pursue the course of action that brought Arthur Jay Hirsch to the authorities’ notice. I hardly want you to do what so-called illegal immigrants to the U.S. deal with every day — that is, travel by right, but with fear of being stopped, fear of accident, fear of trouble.

Elements of the fall

I don’t argue that you try it, but that you mourn for the necessity of such action. I bring up the issue because if we are going to be good Christians we need a comprehensive view of God’s sovereign government. By God’s grace His people get that a church at worship on the Lord’s day.

We also need a comprehensive view of the fall and of judgement, and how they take place. The system operating today against travel is ungodly, arbitrary and lawless. It’s brutal, harassing, impoverishing, terrifying to common people who are bewildered by the problems they bring themselves in confrontations with “the law.” that makes the system part of an all-encompassing and pseudo-sovereign judgment by the state, as God’s agent, against the people.

It is part of the comprehensive nature of God’s judgment against Americans, one that is typical of many state judgments against the people, though one not widely considered.

Space lacks to give detail to the remedy. Absent a work of the Holy Spirit and a religious revival, such systems as the commercialization and state control of travel (a vital property right) will be a constant reminder to us of our subjugation under the rules of men. Having rejected the law of God, as King David praises it in Psalm 119, we have only commercial government and despotism.

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