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Common Law Court and Militia Nut Material from the 1990s

I lived in the Philadelphia area from 1994–97 and while there I associated a bit with local libertarian or related groups. For example I spoke a couple of times at the Philadelphia chapter of the Federalist Society. I also attended a few meetings of the Freeman Society of Valley Forge, which was run by my friend and free market economics professor John McGinnis. My recollection is that the Freeman Society was sponsored by or somehow affiliated with the Foundation for Economic Education, which published the magazine The Freeman.

In March 1996 I spoke at that group on “Legal codes and systems,” based on my article “Legislation and Law in a Free Society,” which had been recently published in The Freeman. Shortly after my talk, I was invited to appear on a radio program called “For Which It Stands,” based in Madison, to discuss the “Common Law Court Movement.” I suspect that the “Freeman Society” of Valley Forge must have sometimes attracted the “common law court” types, who often call themselves or use the term “freeman”, etc.

These are people who hold a variety of kooky and crankish conspiracy theories and views. They are often militia or gun nuts, worried about the United Nations or the “New World Order”; often are income tax cranks who constantly demand “proof” of any statute on “thuh law books” that makes income tax mandatory; they talk a lot about “allodialism” or “allodial title” to property; “common law abatements”; rant about the gold fringe on the flag in federal courts and how it matters whether your name is in all caps or not in court pleadings and legal documents; they run around filing liens on property of state officials to gum up the works, and so on. I’ve discussed the income tax cranks before; see On Conspiracy Theories. As I noted there, one of my favorite analyses of the income tax protestors is that by Brian Doherty in Reason (see The Worst of the Supreme Court, which links to Doherty’s It’s So Simple, It’s Ridiculous”; also and Five Reasons You Don’t Owe Income Tax, Dammit!) — he gives a nice analysis of the income tax protestor nuts:

The tax honesty movement’s vision of the world is fantastical in another way. It is not merely obsessed with continuity; it is magical in a traditional sense. It’s devoted to the belief that the secret forces of the universe can be bound by verbal formulas if delivered with the proper ritual.

I suppose these types are sort of the progenitors or sort of intellectual cousins of people who now are into the alt-right or are constantly challenging police with questions like “am I being detained,” and so on. Or maybe they are still separate groups or movements. Hard to keep up.

In any case, I think some attendee at my speech handed me some photocopies of various articles and literature about this stuff. Since my talk concerned the civil law and the common law, he probably thought I was some fellow traveler or something. Not sure. At some point, I also visited some patent clients at their machine shop in rural Pennsylvania and when they found out I was from Louisiana, and a libertarian, they showed me their massive gun arsenal and also gave me some common law court literature too. The hosts of the radio program in Wisconsin also faxed me some material, mostly concerning proposed legislation to deal with the pesky liens the common law court advocates were filing.

Anyway, the materials I collected from those years are linked below. I assume most of these conspiracy theorists, militia, common law court movement, etc. types have migrated to various nooks and crannies of the Internet now and don’t need to pass out badly mimeographed leaflets and flyers, but the literature I accumulated back then includes a snapshot of the types of things circulated in the mid-90s by these types. I recently came across my old scans of these files, so have uploaded them. It’s pretty voluminous but I have some handy bookmarks in the PDFs. Enjoy—

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