Doing business, costs thereof

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I occasionally read with no little fascination about the deterioration of public services in the developed world, particularly but certainly not limited to the USA. Some of you might have imagined that the “libertarian” anti-tax madness would have a sort of natural limit when the proponents’ own lives and environments would be negatively affected by it, but you would be wrong. I think the WSJ link may end up in a paywall for some of you, so here are the bits that got me:

The moves have angered some residents because of the choking dust and windshield-cracking stones that gravel roads can kick up, not to mention the jarring “washboard” effect of driving on rutted gravel.

But higher taxes for road maintenance are equally unpopular. In June, Stutsman County residents rejected a measure that would have generated more money for roads by increasing property and sales taxes.

“I’d rather my kids drive on a gravel road than stick them with a big tax bill,” said Bob Baumann, as he sipped a bottle of Coors Light at the Sportsman’s Bar CafĂ© and Gas in Spiritwood.

The gift became a burden. The Stutsman highway department, which gets the bulk of its funds from local property taxes, state fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, let the road fall into disrepair as it juggled other projects. Every year without major maintenance, the road became more expensive to fix.

Judy Graves of Ypsilanti, N.D., voted against the measure to raise taxes for roads. But she says she and others nonetheless wrote to Gov. John Hoeven and asked him to stop Old 10 from being ground up because it still carries traffic to a Cargill Inc. malting plant. She says the county has mismanaged its finances and badly neglected roads.

Gayne Gasal, who lives along the redone stretch of road, says it has turned out “better than we all thought.” But Sportsman’s Bar owner Hilda Kuntz worries that the classic cars and bikers that roll through town in the summer will stay away.

“It’s going to kill my business,” she said.

Two thoughts come to mind. First of all, this whole situation is just a manifestation of what was named in a classic post by some old blogfriends of mine as the “and a pony” phenomenon. However, the author Belle Waring talks as though the negative scenarios were obviously absurd phenomena that no one would actually tolerate. Well, nine years later, it’s clear that people are tolerating it. That they would actively forego public management to save on taxes, without actually realizing any alternative. That is, the property-rights “libertarian” solution to building roads, trains, etc, are as unworkable as ever, and it doesn’t matter. They built a wasteland and called it liberty.

The second thought, though, is about the concern about government waste, and the willingness to forego public services until SOMEONE DOES SOMETHING!! about said waste. You know, gets rid of the “gravy train” and all that. I’m certainly no fan of graft and corruption, but you’d think someone would take a look at the logic of the situation for a moment and wonder whether it’s such a good idea to cut your proverbial nose off to spite your face. (Or, for that matter, entertain the subversive thought that some of what they’re calling waste might not actually be waste…)

At this point, what few property-obsessives there are in the audience are probably cheering the fact that they think I may be on the point of some epiphany here: that they really do mean it, and are willing to live their principles to the bitter end. Well, duh. I’ve been on the Interwebs long enough to know that there are a few people around who really don’t care that their fire department won’t fight fires of non-payers, and won’t pay.

The contradiction lies in the fact that most people in the community really do want paved roads and public services, but they often simultaneously want to cut off all of means of doing so (taxes, printing money). Bringing this back to my old theme of “Whither the left?”, the important point to realize is that they often know that this is a contradiction, but continue to hold the position anyway.

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This page contains a single entry by Mandos published on February 14, 2013 12:20 PM.

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