Telemarketers or Tax Collectors:
Who Annoys You More?

July 4, 2001

Posted at Free Republic, Missouri League, Spintech,
Colorado Liberty, and World Net Daily (on August 3, 2001)

What annoys you?

I would imagine that, for a lot of you, it would be things like mosquitoes, dripping faucets, and your next-door neighbor's five-year-old with their favorite riddle. Phone solicitors would also be at or near the top of many lists of most annoying things.

Recently, I got an e-mail from a friend encouraging me to join a web-based "do not call" list. The purpose of this list was to discourage phone solicitors from - more on this one later - "invading my privacy." The list is being compiled as a result of a new Colorado law curtailing phone solicitation. After July 1, 2002, telemarketers who call people on this list will be subject to stiff fines. It costs nothing to put your name on this list.

I replied that I had gotten this e-mail before and, although these calls annoy me, I declined to participate. I went on to state why this law is a bad one. I can say this with some authority.

June 21 was my last day as an insurance agent. I had good success over a three-year period, largely as a result of leads generated by telemarketers. The new law will impose additional costs on insurance agents, insurance companies, and the telemarketing firms they hire. Every 90 days, insurance and telemarketing firms must review thousands of names to make sure they have not been added to the list. These compliance costs will be passed on to insurance clients in the form of higher premiums. The new law subjects insurers and telemarketers to litigation exposure, the costs of which will be paid, you guessed it, by insurance clients. It may cost nothing to join the list, but the list and the law creating it have their costs. Nothing in life is free.

When someone calls to sell me something at an inconvenient time, it may irritate me, but that is about the extent of it. It does no physical or financial harm. It may interrupt my dinner, but it does not interrupt my life. It "invades my privacy" no more than a piece of junk mail. I am as much within my rights to hang up and tell a telemarketer to - you can fill in the blank here - as I am to throw away that piece of junk mail. However, this petty annoyance costs me no money. It is therefore positively absurd to fine someone thousands of dollars for the non-crime of placing such a call.

Consider now the impositions and invasions of privacy posed by the agency we are asking to enforce the do-not-solicit law: the government. The government funds its operations by means of its most onerous and intrusive power, the taxing power. Every year, by April 15, you must provide an extraordinarily exhaustive and detailed list of everything you have done that year. If you are self-employed you must meticulously document every last expense and activity in order to take advantage of any write-offs to which you may be entitled. You must be able to substantiate that the lunch at the Olive Garden on June 17 was in fact a business lunch, and that the $23.17 you shelled out at OfficeMax on October 8 was for business, not personal, purposes. Is this any of the government's - you can fill in this blank, too -- business? Isn't this an invasion of your privacy?

(Just in case you ask why I bring the federal government into what is supposedly just a Colorado matter, a bill banning dinnertime telemarketing was introduced in Congress this past spring.)

Have you ever asked how much better off you would be if you were not being taxed into the pavement? I write this on July 4, when we celebrate the ouster of a "tyrant" who taxed his subjects at the rate of about three percent. If you were only turning over three percent of your income to the powers that be, how much easier would it be to afford the house you want, the car you want, the clothes you want, educate your children as you see fit, take the vacations you want, give to the charities of your choice, save for your retirement, put away money for some unexpected problems in your life, insure yourself properly, etc.? Does this not constitute a real imposition? This ought to get our dander up at least as much as telemarketers.

But what about all the things our government "does for us?" Someone far wiser than I once remarked that a government that gives us everything we want (such as asinine laws against telemarketing) must first take away everything we have. Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party's candidate for president in 1996 and 2000, was fond of asking the following question: would you give up your favorite government program if you never again had to pay income tax?

My favorite government program, the Navy, has a constitutional mandate, and would remain intact in the absence of the income tax, which only makes up about 38 percent of federal revenues. In fact, all constitutionally authorized activities could be funded with only a small fraction of out current federal budget. The huge majority of what governments currently do could be done better in the private sector (i.e. out in real life). People who could keep what they earned, and who could spend, save, invest, and donate as they saw fit, could fund these activities far more efficiently.

Does the income tax not anger you? Does it not invade your privacy? Wouldn't you love to be able to tell the tax police to -- fill in this blank, too -- and do it with impunity? Wouldn't you love to place your name on an IRS do-not-call list? Wouldn't you love to body slam any IRS agent who harassed you routinely with a five-figure fine? Who interferes with your life more: telemarketers or the IRS? Who harms you more: the IRS or telemarketers? Who irritates you more: the IRS or telemarketers?

If telemarketers irritate you more than the IRS, you need a priority check. And you need to re-evaluate your definitions of "privacy invasion" and "harm."

I just read your article regarding annoying telemarketing calls. I operate a small telemarketing room for a medium size mortgage company in Chicago. I generate a ton of leads for our loan officers in 3 states. With the new laws going into effect and more on the way, I feel as if soon enough, we might have to close thetelemarketing department for good and lay off the reps. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments and was wondering what we can do to turn the tide in our favor. The millions of telemarketers and billions of dollars they generate for the economy is something that might go the way of the dodo bird. I hope not because this is supposed to be the land of free enterprise. It seems to be more and more, the land of the government do gooders doing no good! -- KZ

Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman

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