There has long been an underground paranoia in American political life, and recently I've begun to encounter it more and more. I'd like to deal with them. These are nonsensical conspiracies with no basis in law or fact. When they do cite legal sources, they selectively quote the sources and create tortured readings that run counter to the actual statement to mislead honest people. These conspiracy theories are always wrong, always, regardless of the argument put forward.
Freeman on the Land.
Freeman on the Land is a bit of legal mysticism hold that there is secret law that you unknowingly consent to by accepting government documents with your name in ALL CAPS, or accept the formulation First-name Last-name when engaging in conversation. You can, the theory goes, withdraw your consent by rejecting the government documents that are printed in ALL CAPS or using the formulation of your name "First-name of the family Last-name".
So what are you consenting to?
The entirety of the law. Freemen believe that, because they add words into their name and refuse government documents in ALL CAPS, they are exempt from all of the law, from taxes to criminal activity and completely free to do whatever they want, including not paying taxes.
Other aspects of the theory include, among others, gold-fringed flags signify "fake" courts that do not have jurisdiction, birth certificates that can be put on trial instead of the people they identify, and other legalistic gibberish
Sovereign Citizens are similar to Freeman in their belief that there is secret law that allows them to be immune from all law. They differ in the mechanism - Sovereign Citizens believe that they can renounce their Federal citizenship and declare themselves Sovereign Citizens of the state in which they reside. Not only does this exempt them from all law, but they can also dump all of their debt onto the US Treasury because the Treasury keeps a secret account for each citizen as part of each person's Federal Citizen.
The problem is that these claims, both Sovereign and Freeman, have no basis at all in reality or law. Trying these arguments in court will land you in jail - if not for the charges you face, for contempt of court. The secret law that Freemen and Sovereigns rely simply does not exist.
Think about it, if there was some secret law that functioned as a cheat code to allow you to safely ignore the police and the courts, don't you think terrorists, serial killers, or millionaires and politicians facing jail would use it to escape? The truth is, these are all fabricated gibberish that were made-up to scam people in debt-relief and legal advice services.
16th Amendment Conspiracies
There are also people who claim that the 16th Amendment was never actually ratified. There's a handful of out-of-context court quotes that they cite, and every now and then people will claim to have found a hidden document that "proves" it wasn't ratified, but only if you read it in a unique way that requires an hour-long seminar on how you need to read the page-long memo in order to reach the conclusion.
What makes this theory ridiculous is that it came into being several decades after formal passage. No state supposedly cheated of their vote objected, no newly-taxed millionaire made the case shortly after passage. Nobody attempted to challenge the legitimacy of the amendment until decades after enactment.
Why? Because the challenge is delusional.
All of these conspiracies are harmful because they get people incarcerated. Fraudsters and scam artists sell the legal equivalent of snake oil and magic beans to people who wind up in jail for believing it.
These charlatans often wrap themselves up in American symbols and declare themselves Patriots. They aren't Patriots of the United States, that's for certain. They are egregiously ignorant of American history, law, the Founding and the Constitution. They reject America, it's values and law, and imagine a secret law (overseen by space lizards?) that makes them above the laws of the United States, like the Samurai of ancient Japan. That has no basis in American history or culture, but goes to German concepts of the Ubermensch, the man above morality. And for ten easy payments of $99.99 they'll tell you all about it and how to take it to court (and then jail).
Denying American history, law, values and Constitutional principles makes them the opposite of American Patriots. The theories that they promote reflect an arrogance and self-centeredness that, literally, leads them to believe that they are above the law.