Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Drink Too Much Beer, Get Censored

Column Notes: I got censored this week! My original choice of referencing the idea of three-ways didn't quite meet the standards of the paper and so they asked me to rewrite it. Several people said they thought the changed version was better anyway, but I was really happy with the first one. I thought it was hilarious. You can read the edited paragraph at the end of this post.

HARBESON: Maintaining misguided laws not the answer for alcohol licenses

Local Columnist

When I first heard Clarksville’s Redevelopment Director Rick Dickman say that most restaurants would love to have a three-way, I thought the Southern Indiana area might finally be getting a Cincinnati-style chili franchise. But then I realized it had to do with Indiana’s asinine alcohol laws.

Selling various one-way (beer only), two-way (beer and wine) and three-way (beer, wine and liquor) alcohol licenses is important to government officials in cities and towns like Clarksville because it affects their ability to collect tax revenue. (They prefer the euphemism, “economic development.”)

Restaurant liquor licensing is a big deal in Indiana, and the glass is foaming over with protectionism, special favors and the buying and selling of a government-created product that would not exist otherwise. Everyone, from servers and bartenders to the guy who sells those cute little colorful paper umbrellas, is affected.

Of course, it’s not just these licenses; our state government has its controlling hands wrapped firmly around every bottle, mug and martini sold in the state. The details could change slightly though, because this year a Legislative Study Committee was formed to study the state’s alcohol laws.

For those who don’t know what a study committee is, it’s when lawmakers divvy out issues and then have meetings so they look busy year-round. They sit and listen to lobbyists and citizens speak out for and against current law. They “listen to the people,” and get “a feel for what the public wants,” before they ignore everything and vote “according to their conscience” which means “in the manner that benefits them the most.”

I’m not sure why they chose alcohol laws this time around, but it could be because they heard the statistic being thrown around that the state may have lost up to $9 million in tax revenue by interfering with these transactions. That’s the sort of information that catches a legislator’s attention.

Probably because of the above statistic, the two main issues this Interim Study Committee on Alcoholic Beverages is concerned about are selling alcohol on Sunday and expanding the businesses that can sell cold beer.

Everyone who understands the basic idea of freedom doesn’t really need to study such ideas of course. If a business wants to sell cold beer or other alcohol on a Sunday to a consumer who wants to purchase it, then no one should use force to try and stop the transaction.

But governments have a way of making such things seem complicated. As a matter of fact, because of their previous interference, we have the odd situation where some small business owners, who should know better, are actually defending this lack of freedom.

These store owners are afraid they will go out of business if they have to open on Sunday and if competitors can also sell cold beer. In a way, I feel bad for them because they may not be in this predicament had the current laws not existed. But if what they say is true, then they are operating on a faulty business model, one based on government action and subject to political whim. That’s not a good idea.

Besides, there are liquor stores which have a much better business plan. They’ve built themselves up as a specialty store, one that gives exemplary service, stocks unusual items and caters to the consumer who wants more than what one area curmudgeon describes as “corporate swill.”

So even though I have sympathy for those businesses, they are still being propped up artificially through government force. Maintaining misguided laws that restrict freedom is not the answer.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson could never sit through a Study Committee meeting. Well, maybe if she had a drink with a colorful paper umbrella.

Here's my original lead. Keep in mind I live right across the river from Louisville, KY, so U of L is big 'round these here parts:

When I first heard Clarksville’s Redevelopment Director Rick Dickman say that most restaurants would love to have a three-way, I though it had something to do with the publicity that comes from having people like Rick Pitino, um, hanging around. But then I realized it had to do with Indiana’s asinine alcohol laws.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Unschooling Is Educational Anarchy

A recent video interview posted at Motorhome Diaries shows Tim and Sheri Quinn talking about how the unschooling philosophy is working for their family.

I was glad to see this interview because I want more families to learn about unschooling and the benefits that come from raising your kids in an atmosphere of educational freedom.

One of the main reasons I decided to homeschool was because I saw how school was steadily sucking away my kids' natural curiosity and desire to learn. Before school age, we just had so much fun living and learning naturally and with loads of freedom and I saw no reason why that could not continue.

However, at first I did try to set up basic educational structure and rules because I wasn't quite sure TOTAL freedom would work. I mean, sure I wanted my kids out from under the ideas about learning and education that are inherent in institutional and government schools, but come on, total freedom is going too far.

So, at first I was an educational minarchist.

I believed in educational freedom and realized we really had the chance to live it by homeschooling, but I still felt like we probably needed some basic structure or it wasn't going to work.

Therefore, I drafted an educational constitution for our family.

But it didn't take long before I started seeing how my constitution was just a totally ineffective piece of paper and really didn't help us at all. As a matter of fact, I quickly saw that it was interfering with my original goal of educational freedom.

So I dumped it and we all became educational anarchists.

It was scary at first, but then I realized I wasn't starting anything new; I was simply going back to the educational anarchy our life had been before school came into our lives.

I think the reason I lost sight of how well educational anarchy works is because I was taught that when children reach a certain age, they need some sort of structured learning which is highly controlled by others or they won't learn.

But it's not true. All we really need to do is simply get out of their way.

So now I'm on a mission to start the first part of the revolution and help as many families as I can become educational anarchists.

Because freedom rocks.

One of my personal efforts to help spread the idea of educational freedom is offering a free online humor book about our family's early experiences with homeschooling/unschooling. I hope, in it's own fun way, that it helps explain how freedom works.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How Would You Fill In The Blank?

Column notes: I had a lot of fun writing this one and even more fun reading the responses that came in. This one helped me see that at least some people are starting to 'get it.' Here's one response I received:

This County needs more like you who will stand up for what is honest!!!!!!!

Oh, and you'll understand the exclamation points after you read the column.

HARBESON: Want to be pen pals?

Warning to readers of this column: if you decide to write to me, I will write back. No matter what you say, or how you say it. I just think it’s the right thing to do and as long as I have the time to respond individually, I will. Besides, I can’t stop telling people what I think.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because of a recent experience I had with a fellow who e-mailed me after reading my column titled “There’s A More Logical Solution for Parrish Than Jail,” which discussed restitution as an option.

I knew this guy was pretty upset with me because he used several exclamation points. But then I made it worse because I wrote back. I know this because he used even more exclamation points when he replied again.

I can’t help it, I like to see if I can have a conversation with those who disagree. I wanted to learn more about his point of view and I questioned him on a part of his message that I did not understand.

I have to give him credit though. He was kind enough not to call me any really nasty names. Oh, he had a few minor ones but as he really got going, he just wrote this, “I also know that you are a ................... you can fill in the proper word!” I thought it was pretty nice of him to let me fill in the blank myself, don’t you?

Finally, after one more try, (silly I know) he demanded that I not e-mail him again. I’ll let you fill in your own blank as to how I handled that.

I realize some people just want to let off steam and it’s easy to fly off a quick e-mail. But I’m still going to respond because more often than not I end up enjoying a respectful exchange of thoughts and ideas. And I always learn something.

Let’s contrast this experience with another letter I received. This one was very unusual because it was a ‘real’ letter, delivered through the postal service. It might be the first one I’ve ever received this way.

In addition, this letter was hand-written. In cursive. I was quite impressed that someone would take the time to actually get paper, pen and handwrite a letter in response to my column. I was so surprised that I just stared at it for a day or so.

This writer responded to “Columnist Wants to Live Free,” and offered me two pages of reasons why I can’t. To her credit, she did not try to convince me that I was free; in fact, she admitted that we both were not. She simply politely and calmly laid out her reasoning. She didn’t even have to use a single exclamation point!

So as always, I wrote back. I’ll confess here that I’m now a bit ashamed because I did not respond in kind. I cheated and typed it. But I did fold the paper, lick an envelope and walk all the way out to the mailbox. I also had to walk back to the mailbox because I forgot to put up the flag the first time. So I think that makes us even.

I offered to mail her a book she might enjoy reading called “Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression.” I told her it would challenge her beliefs about the usefulness of government programs, particularly for the less fortunate.

I don’t know if she’ll respond, but I certainly can’t imagine she’ll get upset and tell me to stop writing to her. We’ll see.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson welcomes your responses at Debbie (at) debbieharbeson (dot) com! She promises she’ll write back!! If you don’t believe her then ………., you can fill in the proper word!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Forced Annexation In Indiana Really Stinks

HARBESON: Forced annexation really stinks

Last week’s mention of Sellersburg’s attempt to annex Covered Bridge subdivision reminded me that every time I hear about Clark County forced annexations, I always end up in the sewers.

I really wanted to learn what’s going on here, so I dove deep into the stench to try and wrap my hands around something solid.

From what I understand, the usual way to protest a forced annexation is for homeowners to file a petition for remonstrance. However, this method is not available to Covered Bridge residents, because they signed away that right when they purchased their homes.

Signing away remonstrance rights is something we’ve seen happen repeatedly in Clark County over the past few years. Apparently, it’s become standard for developers and local governments to make these deals as a condition of providing sewer service to the area.

Obviously at some point, a government official thought, “Hey, once we get people to purchase our sewer service, we have the chance to put them totally under our local control. All we have to do is insert a line in this document that says they have no right to remonstrate future annexation.

“Then we can make them purchase all of our services and also take more of their money and spend it on other stuff we think is cool!”

Many homeowners have no idea they signed away these rights until a city or town comes in and demands control over their property. I know that’s no excuse — buyer beware and all — but it seems to me that we really have a problem of informed consent here.

Surely it’s not done this way to purposely deceive prospective buyers who think they will only be under county government. Right?

Whether or not that’s the case, we need to inform everyone looking for a home, especially in a newer subdivision, to ask pointed questions.

Find out exactly what local government entities have control over the property. If you are told the property is under county government jurisdiction only, check all of your paperwork carefully. Look for fine print about signing away your right to remonstrate a future annexation by a money-grubbing government entity.

I hope those of you in the real estate business will help and start informing your customers properly about these agreements.

Forcing people to annex and become part of a town just because they bought one product or service doesn’t make sense. That’s like purchasing wood flooring from Home Depot and then being told you now have to purchase furniture, artwork and a new swing set from them too. It doesn’t matter if you can get the furniture cheaper elsewhere, or if you don’t want a swing set.

In addition, you’d also have to give Home Depot money to buy other stuff they think is cool, like, say, an indoor sports complex, or maybe even a canal through their parking lot.

This created a strange situation for Covered Bridge because, in an odd turn of events, the residents’ only choice to avoid adding Sellersburg’s layer of government is to create their own layer and incorporate as a town themselves. It’s hard to say at this point whether they will really be better off or not, assuming they get it done, but I guess they would have more control.

Covered Bridge residents really only wanted the freedom to purchase one product from Sellersburg: sewer service. But instead of thanking them for being a customer, like a private company would do, Sellersburg is using government force to take as much control over the homeowner’s property as they possibly can ... which really stinks.

SIGLINE: Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson loves to get her hands on something solid because then she has something to throw when she gets irritated.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Baron Hill Talks To The Serfs

Wow, Baron Hill sounds like a dictator rather than a representative in this little excerpt from a recent town hall meeting.

I don't know why I'm surprised to see this though. After all, I've really seen Hill in action and described the experience in a recent column posted below written prior to Hill scheduling any town hall meetings.

I really, really wish we had videotaped that visit to our booth that I describe below. Maybe he wouldn't even be around to dictate how others should live their lives.

HARBESON: A shout-out to Baron Hill

By now, many of you have probably heard about the town hall meetings being held by members of Congress during this summer recess. Apparently, lots of angry constituents are turning out and some of the meetings have been quite rowdy.

This is nothing new, of course. Angry people show up at political meetings on a regular basis.

What is new is the feeling that this time the amount of people who are frustrated is large enough that their shouts of disagreement appear to be effectively shutting down any opportunity for discussing the health care issue. Now the Democrats are even calling their actions “un-American.”

That’s creating a very uncomfortable situation for those who have yet to hold their traditional town hall meetings, including our local Rep. Baron Hill.

Katie Moreau, Hill’s press secretary, told me it looks like the congressman will not have a traditional town hall meeting because it’s been proven not to work all over the country.

I can’t say I blame Hill. He already knows what he needs to know without enduring an “un-American” town hall meeting. And really this might be best for everyone because he might just end up shouting himself. I know because I’ve seen him do it.

It was almost eight years ago exactly, back when I was helping to start a third party in Clark County. As one of our first public activities, we hosted an information booth at The Steamboat Days Festival in Jeffersonville. We enjoyed pleasant conversations and debates with the people who walked up to our booth throughout the day.

Then I noticed a guy in the crowd wearing a tie. His shirt sleeves were rolled up and he was shaking hands with everyone. Even without seeing any babies, I knew he was a politician and I was right. It was Congressman Hill. When he saw our booth, he immediately marched up with a wide smile on his face.

He said, “Well, if it isn’t the Libertarians! It’s great to see more political action going on down here.” Then he proceeded to vigorously shake our hands and said he was “out getting a feel for the mood of the country.” (This was shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.) One of our volunteers shared his mood about our government’s foreign policy.

I didn’t pay too much attention to the two of them at first because I really only go to festivals for the food and was busy eating something bad for me. At some point though, when Hill realized the volunteer didn’t agree with his method of dealing with the issue, Hill wondered aloud what our volunteer had been smoking.

But that insult wasn’t enough. Hill ended by shouting that he “didn’t come down here to argue, he came down here to get the mood of the nation,” and stormed off.

Apparently he only wanted good moods. I didn’t know how to describe it at the time, but now thanks to Pelosi, I know I should call his action “un-American.”

I tell this story to point out that Congressman Hill understands how easy it is to respond by shouting when you get frustrated. So Congressman Hill, if you do end up not having your traditional town hall meetings, you’d better do something so people who are upset about your approval of more government control of health care feel like they are being heard.

If you don’t, you’re going to have to deal with a large group of people who are in a really, really bad mood. And you won’t be able to just shout at them and storm off in your own righteous anger this time around.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson admits that politicians often make her want to kick up her heels and shout.

Barney Fife Was A Genius

COLUMN NOTES: Forced annexation is becoming a big topic in Southern Indiana. The Oak Park area mentioned in this column was part of a bigger annexation effort by the city of Jeffersonville. The other areas involved were newer subdivisions and in those areas the developers made a deal with the city for sewer hookups that ended up with the homeowners signing away any right to remonstrate a future annexation. Oak Park had no such agreement and tried to remonstrate. Unfortunately a deadline was missed. Sort of. The attorney evidently filed an amendment on time, but didn't turn in the actual signatures until a day or so later. Now Oak Park is suing the attorney for this error.

HARBESON: Nip it ... Nip it, good!

I’m convinced that Deputy Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith show was a genius. OK, he wasn’t very good with his gun, gosh darn it, but he sure gave good advice for people worried about government intrusion. He stated it very clearly in his uniquely shrill voice, “You’ve got to nip it, nip it in the bud!”

Residents of Clark County’s rural New Washington area took this advice to heart recently after they discovered that representatives of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns met with a few people in the community to discuss incorporation.

The group that talked with the government representatives had met a time or two before, for the purpose of discussing improvements to the community. I’m unclear on what that means, but if they just wanted to pick up litter or collect some donations to plant a tree, I know I wouldn’t object.

Apparently the rest of the community felt the same way — until they heard about the meeting with the association. That raised red flags and concerned residents quickly spread the word about the next meeting so everyone could share their disinterest in incorporating. I think attendance was nearly equal to the population of Mayberry.

The people in charge of these meetings were annoyed at the reaction and said they just met with the association for informational purposes only; there were no plans to incorporate the area.

If that’s the case, I hope they don’t have any hard feelings for the folks who showed up. The concerned residents were absolutely right in being cautious and making sure they nipped this in the bud. We’ve seen way too many examples already in this county of governments coming in and exerting force and control over people and their property without their consent.

For example, we have the shameful forced annexation of the Oak Park area by Jeffersonville. Unfortunately Oak Park couldn’t nip it, so a lot of people spent time and money in an effort to remain free from another layer of government. The city of Jeffersonville never respected the people’s desires and after lots of maneuvering, Oak Park lost on a deadline technicality ruling.

The deadline issue is interesting because we’ve seen missed deadlines ignored, at least when it benefits and maintains the current government system. We need look no further than the recent Clark County Circuit Court election ballot fiasco for evidence.

In this case, also because of deadline technicalities, both major parties were battling over the legitimacy of their respective candidates. The deadlines were forgiven in favor of the supposedly bigger picture of not letting technical issues get in the way of “fairness and choice for citizens.”

Isn’t it strange that the same respectful thought process was not done for Oak Park’s forced annexation remonstrance? Why was no consideration given to “fairness and choice for citizens” when the people clearly wanted to determine for themselves whether they wanted to live in Jeffersonville? We all need to think about that.

Another recent example is the town of Sellersburg’s attempt to forcibly annex the Covered Bridge subdivision. Once again, no one asked to be annexed, it was the city, hungry for more money that started the process. The first step for the town, the required mailing to affected residents wasn’t even done properly. Shazam! That really instills confidence in their ability, doesn’t it?

People might laugh at Barney’s antics, but by golly, he’s right on this one. Go ahead New Washington, remain vigilant and watchful, particularly over any meetings or plans made when government representatives come to town and “Nip it, nip it in the bud!”

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson once shared Aunt Bea’s famous tonic with Floyd, Barney and Goober. When asked what happened next, she just says “nip it!”

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Scary Speeches?

I'm finding the reaction to Obama's upcoming speech to kids stuck in government schools interesting. Some parents are upset because of some sort of political implications and propaganda-spreading.

You know, like he might actually say government is good or something.

But if these parents are so concerned about government schools passing on the idea that government control over one's life is a good thing, then why are their kids in government schools?

Maybe this will be a good impetus for some to see what they can do to get their kids out of there.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Columnist Wants To Live Free

Column Notes: This is a column I wrote after the visit from Motorhome Diaries. I received a nice comment on the paper's website from someone who said it sounds like we agree on a lot of things. I don't know if he lives in this area but I sure hope so.

Boy did I have a strange week. It all started when I read about a rally in Jeffersonville for people who actually want more government control over everyone’s lives.

I read quotes from Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan, who naturally took the opportunity to speak in front of this group. He told them “Government helps create jobs.” I thought maybe I should direct the mayor to publications that could help him learn more about basic economics, but then I realized he’d never get it. After all, from his perspective he’s exactly right: government does help create jobs — for him.

He also offered the audience this profound quote, “Government does a lot of things and they do a lot of things well.” Wow. I don’t know about you but I’m kind of looking for more specific, detailed information to explain a given position.

The week got slightly better when I heard a bus was coming to town with people who didn’t agree with the mayor and his little audience of big-government believers. I say slightly because it appears this group still believes that it’s possible to use government to reform something government helped mess up in the first place.

I almost went downtown to visit anyway, because I figured I could throw myself under the bus to relieve the frustration, but before hump day was over, something wonderful happened. The Motorhome Diaries RV came rolling into my Southern Indiana driveway.

Here’s a bit of information about this project from their Web site — www.motorhomediaries.com:

“The Motorhome Diaries is the story of two friends who took to the road in April 2009 to search for freedom in America. Along the way Jason and Pete meet individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints at college campuses, homes, businesses and organizations that are united by one thing: increasing individual freedom and responsibility and decreasing the scope of government.

“Their story takes place in a 30-foot used motorhome, affectionately dubbed MARV. Driving from the urban jungles to picturesque small towns and everywhere in-between, they connect with those who reject government violence in favor of a voluntary society. Through the stories of the individuals they interview they explore the historic shift in power from individuals to the government and the growing movement of those who are fighting back to reclaim their liberties.

“They consider their project to be a near-real time documentary since they will post quickly edited videos online so their trip can be viewed on MotorhomeDiaries.com. There, you can read their frequently posted blog and tweets. Videos, photos and media will be posted rapid fire.”

I knew immediately that I had to meet these guys, so when I found out their bright yellow RV was heading this way, I invited them to stop by my home for a visit and to take a break.

At the time of their visit, another traveler named Adam was with them and I really enjoyed meeting all three young men. I learned a lot from our discussions that night and the next morning. I shared some of my experiences with them and was fascinated at the stories they’ve collected the past several months.

So, my week ended with me thinking that I had two choices. One is to continue to let long-time politicians tell me how I need people like them to take care of me and run my life. And the other is to join up with these guys and all the others out there “who advocate a voluntary society-one where government violence is replaced by freedom and peace.” I know which one I choose. How about you?

SIGLINE: Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is considering a new career as political speechwriter because she can write a lot of things well about lots of different things.

Posts and Columns

I've always wanted to build something useful and since I don't know much about architecture design, carpentry, and such, I guess I'm going to try to construct my masterpiece on the web.

Therefore, one of the goals I have for this blog is to post my columns that are published weekly in The Jeffersonville Evening News.

I would like for others to see how I try to write about local issues and events from my understanding of voluntaryism. Hopefully it will start discussions and help us all learn how best to communicate the ideas of freedom to others who just don't hear this perspective very often.

So, please join in and comment whenever you have something to say, even if it's criticism. I've been writing the column for a while so don't worry, I can take it.

But be warned, I have been known to bite back. :)

Also, whenever local background and context are needed, I'll try to provide that up front, but if you are puzzled about something I reference, please let me know and I'll provide the background.

Let's get started shall we?