Your government’s definition of the word “Must”

Your Government’s definition of the word “Must

You’ve probably been told that you “Must” file a form, or you “Must” disclose a number, or you “Must” show ID. Don’t assume that the official definition really means “mandatory”. Let’s take a closer look.

US Supreme Court in U.S. vs. Minker, 350 U.S. 179 at page 187 explains that an administrative summons cannot compel testimony:

an official command, … has some coercive tendency, either because of ignorance of their rights on the part of those whom it purports to command or their natural respect for what appears to be an official command, or because of their reluctance to test the … validity by litigation.”

Read that again.  It explains the three reasons why you don’t have rights anymore.  It is either (1) your ignorance of your rights, OR (2) your respect for counterfeit authority OR (3) your reluctance to test their validity by litigation.*

You MUST show ID?

US Supreme Court Aptheker v. Secretary of State, 378 U.S. 500 (1964):

“Free movement by the citizen is of course as dangerous to a tyrant as free expression of ideas or the right of assembly and it is therefore controlled in most countries in the interests of security. … That is why the ticketing of people and the use of identification papers are routine matters under totalitarian regimes, yet abhorrent in the United States.”

U.S. Supreme Court in Florida v. Bostick, 501 US 429, quoted part of an Arizona case Ekstrom v. Justice Court, 136 Ariz. 1: Here is the more complete quote:

The issue here, therefore, is whether the fourth amendment permits officers to stop and question persons whose conduct is innocent, unremarkable and free from suspicion. The question has frightening implications. The thought that an American can be compelled to “show his papers” before exercising his right to walk the streets, drive the highways or board the trains is repugnant to American institutions and ideals.”

And now you cannot board an Amtrak train or a Greyhound bus without showing ID — in the same America where such repugnant privacy violations have “frightening implications”. Which is the same America where Identification Credentials are abhorrent. Which is the same America where the Supreme Court’s Marbury v. Madison determined that government officers are not entitled to and cannot be issued identification credentials.  Don’t claim to live in a free country if you have never seen one.

You Must get a license?

U.S. Supreme Court in Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham 394 U.S. 147 (1969).

“Persons faced with an unconstitutional licensing law which purports to require a license as a prerequisite to exercise of right… may ignore the law and engage with impunity in exercise of such right.”

U.S. Supreme Court in Meister v. Moore 96 U.S. 76 (in 1877) ruled in a marriage license case that:

“ Such formal provisions may be construed as merely directory, instead of being treated as destructive of a common law right to form the marriage relation by words of present assent.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 US 105 (1943) was a pedestrian sidewalk case:
• “A state may not impose a charge for the enjoyment of a right granted by the federal constitution.
• “a person cannot be compelled to purchase, through a license fee or a license tax, the privilege freely granted by the constitution.”
• “the ultimate question in determining the constitutionality of this license tax is whether the state has given something for which it can ask a return. That principle has wide applicability. State Tax Commission v. Aldrich, 316 U.S. 174 , 62 S.Ct. 1008, 139 A.L.R. 1436, and cases cited. But it is quite irrelevant here. This tax is not a charge for the enjoyment of a privilege or benefit bestowed by the state. The privilege in question exists apart from state authority. It is guaranteed the people by the federal constitution.”

In other words, a right cannot be taxed or licensed.

You Must obey Government?

U.S. v. Tallmadge, 829 F.2d. 767, quoting Goldberg v. Weinberger

It is fundamental that the United States is not estopped by representations made by an agent without authority to bind the government in a transaction….

… [O]ne who relies on a legal interpretation by a governmental official assumes the risk that it is in error…. It has also been held or said that “the government could scarcely function if it were bound by its employees’ unauthorized representations.” ” Goldberg v. Weinberger, 546 F.2d. 477.

Caterpillar Tractor Company v. U.S., 589 F.2d. 1040 (also see GEHL Co. v. C.I.R. 795 F.2d. 1324):

“Informal publications of IRS all the way up to revenue rulings are simply guides to taxpayers and taxpayer relies on them at his peril.”

United States Supreme Court Federal Crop Insurance Corp. v. Merril, 332 U.S. 380 (1947):

“… Anyone entering into an arrangement with the government takes the risk of having accurately ascertained that he who purports to act for the government stays within the bounds of his authority … and this is so even though, as here, the agent himself may have been unaware of the limitations upon his authority.”

In other words, it is your duty to not be fooled.  And it is your fault if you are fooled.

Must, May, Shall, Required, Mandatory?

Fields v. U.S., 27 App.D.C. 433:

Words like “may,” “must,” “shall,” etc., are constantly used in statutes without intending that they be taken literally.

Brinkley v. Brinkley, 56 N.Y. 192:

“Must” as used in statutes has been frequently construed not to be mandatory

it has been repeatedly held that its provisions are directory merely, and a failure to comply with them will not prejudice either party.”

Fort Howard Paper v. Fox River Dist., 26 N.W.2nd. 661:

The word “shall” in a statute may be construed to mean “may”, particularly in order to avoid a constitutional doubt.

Gow v. Consolidated Copper, 165 Atl. 136:

If necessary, to avoid unconstitutionality of a statute, “shall” will be deemed equivalent to “may”.

George Williams College v. Village of Williams Bay, 7 N.W.2nd 891:

“Shall” in any statute may be construed to mean “may” in order to avoid constitutional doubt.

US Supreme Court, Rail Road Co. v. Hecht, 95 U.S. 168, page 170:

As against the government, the word “shall” when used in statutes is to be construed as “may,” unless a contrary intention is manifest

Ballou v. Kemp, 95 F.2d. 556:

The word “shall” in a statute may be construed as “may” where the connection in which it is used or the relation to which it is put with other parts of the same statute indicates that the legislature intended that it should receive such a construction.”

Many forms request information from the public.

Example: Employers who voluntarily get an EIN must present to their new employees a W-4 Form (for Estate and Gift Tax) and an I-9 form (for the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Employees Protection Act). Both forms have something labeled as “Privacy Act Statement” that does not meet the minimum requirements of the Privacy Act.

The Legislative History of the Privacy Act, written by congress, explains the intent of the Privacy Act Statement:

Legislative History of the Privacy Act excerpt from page 6963 requires the specific word “mandatory”. Agencies often use the word required to evade the law.

But neither the W-4 nor I-9 forms’ Privacy Act Statement use the word “Mandatory”. Ask your new employer to provide you with a Privacy Act Statement that actually meets the minimum requirements of the Privacy Act (Public Law 93-579). They cannot provide one because it does not exist. And don’t be fooled by the Privacy Act’s section 7 which makes it seem like it only applies to government requests. Your employer is asking on behalf of government. And the Legislative History (quoted in my essay SSNs Are Not Required, linked below), specifically says the Privacy Act applies to private businesses’ requests that are a condition of employment.


For more information on legal lingo, read my free essay on Legal Lingo. You will find that sometimes: may means must, or means and, and means or, includes means only. And you will learn some rules of statute construction.

For more information on W-4 and I-9 forms read my free essay SSNs are not required to work in the U.S.

America’s Lost Liberty is my essay is about the injustice. The court system IS NOT ABOUT justice.

For more information about IDs read my book on Identification Credentials.

* If you want a good online law course that explains procedures and rules showing how our courts work, I recommend this self-help course: How To Win In Court.

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