Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lee Hamilton's Love Affair With Government

COLUMN NOTES: As I thought, this one led to strong reactions both pro and con. Something to be expected for a career politician I suppose.

HARBESON: You don’t have to love government compromise

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Lee Hamilton loves government. Of course, being a politician for more than three decades how could he not?

Hamilton started his love affair with government when he was first elected as a representative to the United States Congress in the mid 1960s. During this time, there were some folks who were becoming less enamored with government. They saw through the caked makeup and feared that it was becoming too powerful and taking too much control.

But Hamilton was part of a larger group that was much too infatuated to see any problem with massive government expansion. As a result, Hamilton participated in a government love-in that instituted major changes, leading to huge increases in government spending and control.

Hamilton and this group were soon the proud parents of a government love child, Medicare. He and his fellow government groupies also started spending lots of federal money on elementary and secondary education and he was there when HUD, the department of Housing and Urban Development was born. And this was only the beginning of a long, long relationship with his beloved government.

Since retiring, Hamilton has continued this love affair and is now working to make sure everyone else loves government too. This is very important for a career politician such as Hamilton because his legacy depends on it. So he set up a center, which has been partially funded by the government, to help us understand how beautiful government really is.

Oh, he’ll admit there can be problems, but in the end, he thinks government works very well. He apparently believes some of us just can’t appreciate the beauty he sees because we haven’t been as intimate as he has, having spent 34 years with government. So he wants to educate us.

One repeating theme I’ve noticed as he works to educate the public on the subject of Congress is the importance of compromise. He’s very happy when the parties work together. He’s one of those bipartisan lovers.

But is compromise really such a good thing? Oh sure, compromise is great in various voluntary associations, such as a marriage or a business partnership, because the compromises are made individual to individual. However, in the realm of government, compromise amounts to politicians making deals with other politicians who then use government force against citizens to make their deals happen. And somehow, even with compromises, government still grows.

All we have to do to see evidence of this is to analyze the three categories already previously mentioned — health care, education and housing — and what happened with them after government became involved. We can easily observe the unfortunate consequences that developed over time in these federal government programs. No one can deny the immense growth and dependence we now have on government in these areas and many others.

Now Hamilton wants to play the congressional expert and defend the art of political compromise. He wants to educate us on the intricacies of how government works. He doesn’t talk about the part he played in creating and maintaining many problematic government programs, probably because that would cause many to question the wisdom of compromising, the very thing he’s been out there promoting.

Hamilton would rather dismantle ideas like holding on to principle and act like he’s somehow above it all because he was willing to compromise. But if what we have now is a result of compromise, then it’s time we stopped paying any attention to people who were part of the problem.

And we definitely need to stop regarding career politicians as some sort of experts we need to rely on when we are looking for the truth about how well government really works.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson would never participate in a government love-in because she loves freedom too much.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Does this Town Need an Enema?

COLUMN NOTES: The situation with Jeffersonville's Clerk-Treasurer Peggy Wilder has been going on for some time now. I wrote a previous column about it. After I did, two other local columnists wrote about it here and here. Ms. Wilder was silent for a long time, but then decided to do an interview with the paper which garnered front page attention. Shortly after that was published, she was arrested for OWI.

HARBESON: The Wilder way


— I’ve changed my mind about Peggy Wilder. It was a good thing she did not resign and no, it’s not just because it’s been extra easy to find a topic to write about lately.

OK, look. I know you’re sick. I know you’re tired. But can’t you just lie down and put your hand over your mouth to stop the heaving for just a bit longer while someone at this paper writes one more time about this issue?

I need to write another column because I believe Ms. Wilder deserves a lot of credit for what she’s accomplished, even while barely stepping into her government office. She’s done a fantastic job of demonstrating, to me at least, all that is wrong with government and how it operates.

Let me explain.

If Peggy Wilder had resigned, I would not have been able to see how well our local politicians can stick together. If the 3M Corp. could figure out a way to package that, they could stop all further R&D into adhesives.

If Peggy Wilder had resigned, I would not have had the surreal experience of watching politicians remain eerily silent for an unusual amount of time. Oh, if only we could package that.

If Peggy had resigned, I might not have understood how hard it is to actually get rid of an elected government official. I might never have learned just how many rules, regulations and laws government officials write which make the process as difficult as possible.

If Ms. Wilder had resigned, I would not have observed the local state government representative, Steve Stemler, also remain oddly silent — that is, until the issue reached just the right level of ripeness. When it did, he inserted a press release filled with platitudes as smoothly as an Italian might insert a pimento into an olive.

If Ms. Wilder had resigned, I would not have noticed that in the state level, too, it’s never as simple as publicly speaking the truth to help persuade someone to do the right thing. No, the situation is merely used to assure citizens that it’s only a matter of the right government employee inserting the right government language to tweak proper government procedures to answer any question of government failure. Politicians are so helpful.

If Peggy had resigned, I would not have learned what is of primary importance to Stemler, which is maintaining the “public’s trust in its elected officials.” I would not have had the chance to think about how this constant effort to maintain legitimacy is vital to making sure the public continues to buy into this game instead of looking for alternatives.

If Peggy had resigned, I would not be able to watch as a group of disgusted and frustrated citizens organize an effort to clean out various local governments — and I mean really clean them out. So much so that for days now I’ve had Jack Nicholson’s version of The Joker in my head as he says, “this town needs an enema.”

If Peggy had resigned, I would not have thought about how easy it is to individually withdraw support, financial and otherwise, when something occurs as part of daily voluntary associations and how free we are to act, based on our own individual standards of acceptable behavior.

Finally, and most importantly, if Peggy had resigned, I might have focused much more on her personal struggles and been better able to compassionately extend my heartfelt support and best wishes that she finds a way out of her troubles. Instead, I see a front page interview from a politician making excuses, and unfortunately Ms. Wilder deserves all the credit for that.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson hereby formally resigns from ever writing another column about the Peggy Wilder situation.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Voluntaryist Project: Debbie and Carl

I have a new project. You can learn all about it here.

Oh, and let me know what you think of my voluntaryist chicken.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Who Wants to Get Rid of Drug Law Pushers?

HARBESON: Admit it, we have a drug law problem

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I’ve heard many quotes by those who support the drug war and make a living off of government prohibition, but the best one lately was by Gary Ashenfelter, speaking for the Indiana Drug Enforcement Association.

He thinks we need another drug law. He says the current laws aren’t working and do not give law enforcement what they need to fight the drug war. In frustration, he asks, “You’ve got to wonder, what the hell are we doing?”

This was in reference to an upcoming Indiana Legislative Study Committee, which will consider whether or not ephedrine and pseudoephedrine — ingredients in over the counter cold medicine — should be classified as controlled substances.

Ashenfelter and the Indiana DEA believe this law would be a good idea. No doubt many politicians also think it would be a good idea. Just like they thought it was a good idea for all the other drug laws that have been passed over the years but are not working.

It was not that long ago that Indiana decided to fight the growth of methamphetamine labs by passing a law controlling the amount of over-the-counter cold remedies people could purchase that contained these ingredients.

Suddenly, everyone was required to show identification and sign forms if they wanted to purchase a pack of pills at the pharmacy to help them relieve their cold or allergy symptoms. If grandma ended up purchasing more than the government allowed, she was committing a crime.

The inconvenience this created for families was worth it, we were told. The money and time spent by government and by retailers was worth it, we were told. Yes, this law would really help fight the problems that were created by the previous drug laws they were so excited about, but didn’t work.

This one would work for sure though. After all, Indiana’s pseudoephedrine law was even tougher than the drug laws passed in the renewed Patriot Act. (Apparently it’s not patriotic to try to shrink swollen nasal mucous membranes.)

But now, they’re telling us this law is not working. Just like all the previous laws that have been passed because of previous laws that were passed to control other people’s drug use, which created the violent, dangerous black market.

What’s the solution now? Well there’s really only one choice for the law-addicted: Create another law ... A law that’s even more invasive to the everyday lives of the general public. A law that can only add to the high cost of health care because it makes these products available only by prescription.

When the study committee convenes in September, you will hear claims that this law is working in Oregon. Changes are common when new laws are first introduced but as alcohol prohibition proved, they are either temporary or irrelevant. As we’ve seen repeatedly, people will figure out a way around drug laws.

Yet we continue to hear from these drug-law pushers. They will use these statistics to convince us we need to take one more hit. We feel the high and hallucinate that this time it’s going to work.

But too soon, we come down when the law proves to be ineffective. But we take another hit. Over and over and over.

So, like Mr. Ashenfelter, I now have to wonder, what the hell are we doing? How much evidence do we need to understand that new laws intended to fight the drug war will not work and in fact create more problems and less freedom?

When are we going to finally hit bottom, admit we have a drug law problem and start working on this harmful addiction?

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson often runs into people who ask her what the hell she is doing.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Eminent Domain Floats Jeffersonville Mayor Galligan's Boat

HARBESON: Here’s my take on land-taking


SELLERSBURG — I don’t know a lot about the proposed Jeffersonville canal project. I just know the details are still kind of muddy.

I don’t know how much it will end up costing Jeffersonville residents. I just know it may also cost taxpayers throughout Indiana, and even the country, if state and federal funds are used, and project manager Peggy Duffy thinks this is a positive.

I don’t know if the canal will have enough clean liquid flowing through it year-round to be an attraction, or why Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan thinks it’s always possible to “just stand up” in 4 feet of water to avoid drowning, as he was quoted as saying in this newspaper. I just know that some are concerned.

I don’t know if the canal will stink. I just know that the area will have a nasty stench for freedom proponents if Galligan and Jeffersonville government follow through on their open threat to use government force to take property from neighbors who do not consent to turn over their property.

I don’t know if Jeffersonville government officials will actually enact eminent domain on any of their neighbors. I just know they are ready and willing to do so because Galligan has clearly stated that, “if you’re in the middle of the canal and you turn the appraisal down, we’ll have to condemn” your property.

I don’t know if many others would also think such an action would stink because they agree that individual property rights are fundamental for peaceful human interaction. I just know that I was glad to hear that at least one person who spoke at the recent canal update, Tanya Tuell, expressed interest in property rights.

I don’t know why some people think this is exactly why we need government, in order to protect individual private property. I just know that I’ve concluded that it’s a sham because government itself is the worst offender.

I don’t know if others think much about eminent domain, how it’s been used in the past and how it’s being used in the present. I just know that it’s increasingly being used in the name of economic development, particularly on projects dreamed up by government officials who spend other people’s money and use fancy drawings and videos to deflect attention from the means used to gain these ends.

I don’t know what the precise canal route is yet. I just know that I hope the reason for this is because the officials are trying to create a route they can develop without using eminent domain on a neighbor.

I don’t know if the government will attempt to use a traditional excuse, public utility, to rationalize eminent domain action by claiming the canal is necessary because the EPA demands a fix to sewer overflow problems. I just know they have other choices that would not include taking someone’s home.

I don’t know why Galligan thinks he can tell concerned neighbors that government is not trying to steal anyone’s home, and at the same time admit he will use eminent domain. I just know that if I took anyone’s property without their consent, I’d be accused of stealing, even if I paid them a few bucks.

I don’t know why Galligan says the city would try to be fair, but would not overpay. I just know that neither you, nor I, nor Galligan has any idea what it would mean to overpay because the free market economic conditions that are necessary to determine this do not exist with this project.

I don’t know whether they will actually enact eminent domain because I don’t know if any private property owners will not consent to the taking of their property. I just know that a local government said it will pull out the big gun if necessary, which tells me how far they are willing to go to get what they want.

This is a truth I really didn’t want to know. But it’s all I need to know.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson knows that you know that she knows that government is a sham.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Clarksville Indiana Government Disses Local Businesses

HARBESON: A not-so historic achievement


CLARKSVILLE — I feel bad for some Clarksville business owners who are trying to operate down by the Ohio River. Two businesses, Marrs’ Landfill and Innovative Crushing and Aggregate have received nothing but trouble from local government ever since a third company, Kentuckiana Trucking, was accused of taking contaminated dirt from Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center.

Naturally, the Clarksville Town Council is leery of handing that company a permit to operate while this situation remains unsettled. But what’s odd is that they are attacking others who happen to have businesses in the same general area who were never implicated in the Yum! situation. As far as I know, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing from either of them. It appears to be guilt by geographical association.

It wasn’t until I heard the comments from Jane Sarles, president of the Clarksville Historical Society that I started realizing there may be something else going on — these businesses are in the way.

See, all of this is tied to historical preservation districts and Clarksville government’s Comprehensive Plan. This government designation is intended to impose rules and regulations in the riverfront area based on the history revolving around George Rogers Clark and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

In other words, Clarksville officials really, really want control of these private properties. So if they can lump them in with Kentuckiana Trucking, it’s much easier to rationalize the denial of operating permits and the masterplan becomes that much closer.

I understand the desire to transform the riverfront area to a place where people can go and enjoy the natural resource we happen to live near. What I don’t understand is the disrespect to current property owners, especially if they have not broken any laws.

This disrespect came out loud and clear in Ms. Sarles’ comments during a Clarksville Town Council meeting discussing the permits. She explained the town was at a fork in the road of its history and one fork will “allow these people to continue destroying” the town’s history and the other fork will preserve it.

Come on, Ms. Sarles, do you really have to be so disrespectful of your neighbors? Must you denigrate the business owners by creating imagery of them as “destroyers” just because they are using their private property in ways you don’t approve?

As a Clarksville taxpayer I am embarrassed at what I’m seeing.

What’s fascinating is that the fill site operated by Benjamin Marrs can apparently lay claim to local history of its own because it’s been reported that fill from this site was used to build Interstate 65. That’s a pretty important road for anyone wanting to bring people to Clarksville.

Another company caught in this crossfire, Innovative Crushing and Aggregate, does a job all of those interested in preserving the environment should also respect and appreciate — concrete recycling.

Let’s face it. We know the masterplan needs these guys out of business, even if they are operating properly. We know officials are willing to use government force in the form of laws, permits and regulations that fall in various zoning and historical district boundaries to make it happen. We also know it’s probably inevitable that the government will eventually win.

I guess all we can ask for now is that they at least be honest about how the denial of permits fits into the masterplan. And it sure would be nice if Clarksville officials could find a way to honor what these businesses have done for the community at large, working for decades in unglamorous, but necessary industries and paying taxes to help fund the visions of those who now want to kick them out.

Is that much respect really too much to ask?

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson has a masterplan which is intended to get others to disrespect government as much as she does.