Monday, May 24, 2010

Don't Coerce Your Neighbor, Just Support Your Cause

HARBESON: You can put your money where your vote is

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — This column is for all the yes men (and women) out there — those residing in the Clarksville Community School Corp. boundaries who voted yes on the recent referendum intended to increase the tax base for the school system.

You listened when officials said they didn’t have enough money and the problem could not be fixed by lowering expenses. You realized, as they do, that although many people continue to refer to government-funded education as free, it’s really not. You accepted that when a government-funded service needs more money, it must come from productive members of the community.

So, after the administrators came up with their plan, you sat down, looked over your budget, calculated the additional costs based on your property valuation, considered your goals and decided it was worth it. You went to the polls and voted yes.

But the referendum failed. Naturally, you were disappointed and perhaps even irritated at those who voted no. You felt like that was the end of it.

But it’s not. The referendum is only the end of it for those who did not want to be coerced into paying more. You, however, can still do what you wanted to do.

See, the vote had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you pay an additional amount to the school system. In reality, your vote only allowed you to say that you condoned the coercion of your neighbor paying more as well, whether he wanted to or not.

That’s all your yes vote would really have accomplished because you can still do what you said you wanted to do and contribute more money to the cause. The failed referendum changes nothing for you as an individual. You are still free to pay more into the system. No one will stop you. As a yes man (or woman), you remain free to do what you decided you were willing to do.

And speaking of freedom, the referendum result also set free those who do not consent to an increase. Fortunately, they are now able to use their money that would have been coerced from them in any way they decide is worth it, based on their individual goals and values.

So go ahead, follow through on your decision. No one will stop you from doing what you think is right, so pay the amount equal to an additional 24 cents per $100 of assessed valuation on your property. You may even be willing to pay more than that and again, you are free to do so.

In addition, if you are part of the special interest group that receives the 65 and older property tax deduction, then consider adding that amount on top of your 24 cents per $100 assessed valuation to your funds as well. I’m sure everyone in the system would appreciate this additional voluntary gesture.

You will benefit by giving your money this way because you avoid much of the bureaucracy and additional costs that occur when your funds travel through the tax system. You’ll have more power to direct the money to areas you decide are most valuable. You are even free to pool your money with others and put it to work in ways you deem worthy.

Best of all, taking this individual action leaves everyone with a better feeling than dragging in others without their consent. They are left alone and you get to pay the additional amount as you said you would. Each individual is respected.

Remember, you don’t need to vote or get anyone’s permission when you want to support a cause you believe in.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson has always been a yes-woman. Especially when someone else is paying the bill.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Feel Safer With Politicians Controlling Guns?

COLUMN NOTES: I received quite a few thoughtful responses to this column and most of them were specifically related to the property rights aspect of it all. I'm still thinking it all through but continuing to wonder about such property that is movable, like a car, and how the property rights inherent in that relates to the property rights of land in which the car sits on, such as a parking lot. This may rate a follow up column.

HARBESON: Government and gun control

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

>>SOUTHERN INDIANA — Here’s a shocker: Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan and I actually had the same thought once. I realized this when I heard his reaction at a city council meeting discussing changes to the employee handbook.

Expressing irritation about a new state law, HEA 1065, that lets employees keep guns in their cars while at work, he said, “I don’t think there’s any reason for anyone to bring firearms to work. We don’t need that.”

I expressed similar irritation in December 2008, when Galligan brought firearms with him to work. That’s when Galligan acted without any authorization from others and staged a little coup at Environmental Management Corp. by terminating a contract with that company.

After I saw photos in the newspaper, I wondered if the employees of that business felt threatened when he came bounding in accompanied by police officers with guns. I remember thinking, “I don’t think there’s any reason for the mayor to bring firearms to work. We don’t need that.”

I was upset about this aggressive act and its implied threat of violence upon those employees. My only consolation was that at least it gave the local community at large a very clear example of what I mean when I say government is force.

Now, although we said nearly the same words, I doubt we share the same philosophy about gun ownership. Just knowing Galligan doesn’t like this law made me interested enough to investigate it so here are some thoughts about HEA 1065.

First, the law merely says that businesses must allow employees to keep a gun in their car. The gun must be in the glove compartment, or otherwise concealed, in a locked car or locked in the trunk. So I’m not sure why Galligan thinks it’s so horrible.

Interestingly, some businesses are also against it and complain that politicians have passed another law telling them what they can and cannot do. Normally I completely sympathize with this argument.

However, as explained above, the law protects the individual’s right to store her gun, which is her property, inside her locked car, also her property. If someone cannot do this while her car is parked at work, what does that say about an individual’s private property rights? Is her car and all of its contents her property or not? Therefore, as far as I can tell, this law requires business owners to do nothing but leave gun owners alone.

Others against this law seem to assume that someone who stores a gun in their car while at work is only doing so in direct relation to work. However, there are other practical reasons for doing so.

For example, an individual may want a gun specifically for protection at home but, being a responsible gun owner, she often goes to a shooting range for instruction and practice. And, just like the gym, perhaps it’s convenient to go before or after work, so it certainly makes sense to take the gun with her.

Now, although there are good points, I do see the usual problems that occur when politicians create laws. For example, HEA 1065 contains exceptions for certain types of businesses, which means not all individuals have the same rights.

Finally, a deeper philosophical issue is that such laws lead us to believe that government granted permission is the same thing as individual freedom. But all these laws really do is give politicians power over the ownership, storage and proper use of guns, as if they always know what’s best and always make wise decisions.

But all we have to do is simply look at what Galligan did and said to understand something isn’t quite right about governments controlling guns.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is glad there are no laws against someone shooting her mouth off.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What If Government Ended Tomorrow?

There is a podcast I listen to called School Sucks which I have mentioned before on my Homeschooling Is Freedom blog. It is hosted by Brett Veinotte and through this podcast series he is methodically and expertly making the case of how damaging government education is to a free society.

His target audience is meant to be teens and young adults, I suspect because he knows they can more easily go out and really make some changes, for themselves first and then in the world. However, these podcasts are great for anyone interested in the problems of education and I highly recommend them.

But today, I wanted to share an interesting exercise Brett did in one of his most recent podcasts titled, The Natural State?, the last in a series on American History.

In this podcast, he asks the question: what if government ended tomorrow? What possible chains of events could occur if suddenly we all woke up and there was no government? What would be the worst case scenario and how would you feel about the worst case scenario?

In the introduction to this particular podcast, he says this:

"Imagine if we all woke up tomorrow, and government was gone. All government, all over the world, all individuals calling themselves government all over the world had vanished.

Now at that point, imagine this: Murphy's Law. Anything that can go wrong, does go wrong and one of the worst possible chains of events, that I can imagine anyway, goes into motion. What would the eventual outcome look like? What would the world look like if the worst fears of a respectful and peaceful person all came true?

And, most importantly, how would most people, supporting the state today, for its apparent ability to protect and provide and maintain order, how would those people feel about perhaps the most tragic and chaotic outcome of this stateless world?

Well, that would seem like a pretty easy question for them to answer, but it's not. And I sincerely hope that realization helps ease some fears about the eventual demise of the state.

Now at this point, if you go to the podcast, at 1:01:55, you can listen to Brett lay out his idea of the worst possible scenario that could happen. (It runs about 16 minutes.) I think it makes a lot of sense. What do you think?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pretty Pink Slips

Harbeson: I'm not tickled pink

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

>>SOUTHERN INDIANA — I received a pink slip in the mail a few weeks ago. I’m not the only one of course. As a matter of fact, thousands of Clark County residents received these pink slips. Are you one of them?

The pink slip I’m referring to is the newest required government form for property owners to complete and turn in to the authorities if they want to continue receiving the homestead deduction.

See, you are only supposed to get this deduction if you belong to the correct special-interest group — people who actually live on the property. If you also own property that is not your primary residence, well, no deduction for you. You must pay the government more.

This form asks for the last few digits of Social Security and driver license numbers to more specifically connect individuals to a given piece of property. A lot of work will go into organizing these pink pieces of paper, matching numbers to property, especially now that property tax caps have gone into effect. They can’t have every property owner taking the deduction on property they paid for and own because, well, the government has to get money somewhere.

They need this money to provide government services, like paying government employees to match up numbers provided on the pink slips so the proper special interest group is reassured into believing that someone else is really paying for the government services.

Placing us into groups is the easiest way to collect money with the fewest complaints because government officials can talk about tax frauds and cheats, which makes us focus on what our neighbor is paying rather than what the government is spending.

The homestead deduction creates three such groups: Those who own property and live there, those who own property but do not live on the property, and finally those who pay rent to live on someone else’s property.

After the groups are created, one of the groups is always set up as deserving to pay more into the system than the others. Or at least they make us think this is what’s happening and in this case, it’s our neighbors who own property in addition to their primary residence.

It’s very important to make us think that the people who are paying more are much richer and can afford to pay more. But is that really the case?

Take this example. Property Owner A is very well-off and lives in a humongous home on an acre of land and enjoys a nice deduction. Property owner B lives on a tiny lot in a modest home and works weekends to fix up another home to rent. B gets no deduction and pays the full tax on the other home. Isn’t B essentially subsidizing the deduction for A?

At this point the politicians like to say that it’s really not about either of those groups, it’s about protecting the renter. So they claim that their law forces the big rich land owner to pay the tax. They’re benevolently looking out for the little guy.

Never mind that the tax the property owner pays must factor into the total cost of owning the property, just like maintenance, insurance and other costs. They want us to think that the tax cost will never move through the economy in a way that would ever affect the renter. He’s protected by their political control and the renter will never see any market effects. Right?

If you believe that then I have some property, I’d like to sell you. No wait, maybe I’ll just rent it to you instead.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson likes to receive pink slips in the mail. But only if they’re silky and have adjustable straps.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Self-Education of Karl Hess

I listened to this podcast today about Karl Hess, a fascinating man with a fascinating life history. (You can get started learning about him at Wikipedia. )

In this podcast, at 2:20, the narrator talks about Hess' educational experiences under the influence of his mother, a dropout (note that this was not unusual at the time).

She did several things that I found interesting from the standpoint of helping a child move forward into developing a strong ability to self-educate. Supposedly she:

1. Began to refuse to answer his questions if she thought he could use resources to find out the answers on his own.

2. Showed him how to use the library, dictionary and other reference books, and also took him to government offices and showed him how to access public records. In other words, she guided him to resources.

3. Finally, and this was really cool, she wrote him notes so he could skip school anytime he wanted, as long as he went to the library or stayed home and read books which he then later discussed with her.

It's amazing to me that his mother had such a clear idea of self-education and when you look at Hess' life you can easily see that the man was a life-long learner, constantly taking in more information and then changing his life as he processed what it all meant to him.

That's educational freedom and one of the best gifts we can all give to our children.

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Article on Education Reformer John Holt

John Holt was a huge influence on me as I developed a new educational philosophy while homeschooling our two kids. This article discusses Holt as a "Libertarian Outsider."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Is Decency in Government Possible?

HARBESON: What’s the decent thing to do?

>>SOUTHERN INDIANA — The creation in Clark County of the so-called Citizens for Decency in Government political action committee might be the best thing that’s happened for Mike Moore’s political aspirations. As you’ve probably heard, this is the name for the organization that apparently sent out letters to local citizens containing documents about Moore’s past.

Many people who received this information were outraged. Some say they were shocked, but I’m not sure why. Anyone who has studied and observed the political process knows this is not new. This particular incident may have been more graphic, but the intent was exactly the same: To influence the outcome of a political election.

However, since this mailing was quite edgy, it quickly led to a front page newspaper article, which led to a newspaper editorial in a Sunday edition. In addition, this controversy, happening right before the primary, has surely had coffee shops jittering, taverns buzzing, online forums sparking and people in restaurants eating it all up.

The manner in which this was done makes it almost look as if those involved actually wanted to increase Moore’s chances of winning. People often sympathize with someone they believe is being treated unfairly, especially when the attackers are anonymous.

It’s hard to believe they couldn’t predict a backlash response and how it could attract, not negative, but positive attention for the candidate. So if name recognition and publicity is important, Moore has likely been helped.

I’m sure there have been discussions throughout the county about the irony in this group’s name. How is it decent to anonymously push out documents containing unproven accusations against someone?

But the deeper irony in their name is not whether or not this particular group exhibits any decency — it’s whether decency is even possible within a government system. Decency requires respect for each individual, something government simply cannot do.

Those who get involved must become enmeshed in a system that uses force to get things done. They may be “decent” people acting pragmatically because they feel they have no other choice, but we must still keep in mind that the most they can do is simply manage the force. And all citizens can do is support those who manage the force in the way they would like for it to be managed. But it’s still force.

Another issue is that at the local level, the cliché “politics makes strange bedfellows” is rarely true. As a matter of fact, local politics is all about the not-strange bedfellows.

For example, maybe candidate so-and-so’s brother is on a local council, and perhaps his wife works in the courthouse for Judge X, whose brother-in-law and daughter are running for office, while a cousin is so-and-so’s secretary and their dog Fido serves as precinct chair. (The cat however, refuses to participate.)

I suppose that’s naturally going to happen at the local level, but it sure doesn’t make average citizens feel better when they consider the hundreds of possible conflict of interest permutations and combinations that can happen.

This incident is an unfortunate reminder that many livelihoods are dependent on what happens inside governments and there can be a lot at stake during even local elections. This creates strong incentives for people to do whatever they can to manipulate elections so they can have power and control.

So we see it play out once again. There are people out there who thought this action was a good, even decent, thing to do. We know they’re involved in local politics, somehow. They’re out there, right now. So shouldn’t we be very careful of what we ask the government to do?

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is often asked whether or not she’s decent, but that’s because people have discovered she works at her keyboard naked. Write her at