Small Town Bureaucracy

I thought it would be easy.

When we moved from Florida to Montana almost two years ago, we used a small trailer to carry our belongings. Due to a shortage of funds, I did not register or license it right away. The other day, however, I had the money and wanted to get it done so that I could use it without worrying about blue lights flashing in my rear-view mirror because of the expired Florida tag.

I thought it would be easy, but since the registration and licensing requires interaction with bureaucrats, I should have known better. Friday morning, I drove to Hamilton (approx. 25 miles) and went into the appropriate office, where I stood in line for at least 30 minutes. When I was finally able to approach the clerk and tell her what I wanted, her immediate response was to inform me that since I didn’t have a title with me, she couldn’t process the request. End of story. End of session. Move on! Next!!

On my way back home to get the title, I realized I didn’t have a title to the trailer, since Florida doesn’t issue titles for trailers which have a net weight of less than 2000 pounds and mine only carries a net of 1100. When I got home, I went to the “official” Florida DMV website, printed out the page which declared this, and drove back to Hamilton. At the licensing office, I again stood in line until I was summoned, “Next!”. The clerk was a different woman and I simply told her that I had brought the trailer with me from Florida and wanted to register it here. When she asked me about the title, I told her that Florida doesn’t issue them for this size. She confirmed this online and immediately pulled out a plate and slapped it on the counter in front of me.

I thought it would be easy, but I should have known better. She wanted to know what the make and model of  the trailer was, but I had to tell her that I didn’t know that. She informed me that she couldn’t proceed any further without the make and model. I asked her if I could check it out when I got home and call her with the information, but was turned down. I informed her that this was the second trip I had made to Hamilton that day and I didn’t want to have to make another one, but it didn’t make any difference. She had to have the make and model. Then, to top it off, she informed me that the VIN# shown on my Florida registration was not valid, and that I would have to have the trailer inspected by a police officer to verify the correct number. She gave me a form and told me that nothing more would be done until the inspection was complete.

At that point, what could I do? I told her that I understood she was only doing her job, but that this episode showed why it is so difficult to get anything done, to which she just looked at me, shrugged her shoulders, and made it very plain that I should move on and quit wasting her time. Next!!

Here’s the Catch-22. I cannot move the trailer “legally” on the highway because it is not licensed or registered with the State of Montana. I cannot license or register it until it is inspected by a police officer. I cannot get it inspected unless I take it to a police officer, which would require moving it on the highway. Potentially, I could be given a ticket for taking it to an inspection in order to make it legal. More than likely, this would not happen, but it could and, if it did, I could be forced to pay a fine for attempting to comply with the law.

What a joke! If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny. However, this is the way that government works. My question is this. As long as I am not harming someone by towing my trailer, why should I have to jump through all the hoops to make it “legal”? If there is no harm done to anyone because I tow it down the road, why should I have to even have it registered or licensed? Unless I cause harm to someone with that trailer, why should the State of Montana even care that I am towing it on the road? Obviously, because it wants to control me, my actions, and my behavior and it wants to be paid for “enforcing the law”.

There are only two real answers to these questions–control and money. Everything else is peripheral to these two items. The clerk at the office in Hamilton doesn’t care about anything except her salary, which she ensures by forcing everyone else to submit to the control of the law. The bureaucrat who wrote the law doesn’t care about anything except his salary, which he ensures by constantly proposing and writing new regulations . The legislator from this district doesn’t care about anything except that he be re-elected next term, so that he can continue to draw a salary by exerting control over his constituents. Etc., etc., all the way to the top. Governor, US Congressman, President. They don’t care. Write rules, collect money.

Needless to say, this whole sorry episode made me quite upset and put a heavy damper on the rest of my day. Not to mention that I still have to look forward to “The Inspection” and make another trip back to Hamilton for a third try at the gauntlet. Until then, I’ll move my trailer when and where I want to, whether it is Montana approved or not.

2 thoughts on “Small Town Bureaucracy

  1. Roger, I’m David from the Disqus discussion with Ted Weiland. Since you are the ‘new kid on the block’ I decided that I would start from the beginning to learn more about you, which happens to be this post.

    The only thing I can add here, in addition to agreeing with everything you’ve said, is that somewhere way back to I’m not sure when there began a subtle shift away from Common Law, which has as its essence that crime constitutes doing harm to one’s neighbor, to Statutory Law, which you have just described to a tee. It matters not whether there is an injured party or not. It’s what is written in the statute (and of course, regulations reach the power of statute without ever having been voted on).

    All I can say is I think I would have done what you did, believing that since God is clearly the author of Common Law that He will accordingly protect you from the goons who want to collect their salary by enforcing meaningless and often very aggravating statutes (or regulations).

    By the way, I started my own blog on a very different subject, which you can see at http://dgregory1938.blogspot.com. Meanwhile I will continue to work my way up from this blog toward the present, and perhaps comment along the way.

    Where abouts in Montana do you live? I’ve never been there; the closest I’ve come in Rapid City, SD about 15 years ago.

  2. Hi, David, thanks for coming here. I appreciate your comment. Unfortunately with the transition you described came a transition from “police work” to “law enforcement”. Policemen no longer use good judgement or common sense, they only enforce the law as it is written.

    I did go to your blog last night for a minute and will have to return when I have the time. Looks interesting.

    I live about 25 south of Missoula in the Bitterroot Valley.

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