Sunday, October 31, 2010

Can Government Create Jobs?

HARBESON: Not all jobs are created equal

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s very fashionable this election season to talk about “job creation.” As a matter of fact, using this phrase is almost as popular as big hair was in the 1980s.

I also noticed the way this message is being conveyed by some candidates really has Morton Marcus, an economist who used to be with IU’s Kelley School of Business, upset. In his latest column he complains that a candidate for state representative has promotional items that say, “it is private business — not government — that creates jobs.”

According to Marcus, “This is stupidity if believed; a lie otherwise. A job is created when a person is hired and paid for his/her work. It does not matter in the grand scheme of things if this person works for the private or public sector.”

Marcus is right. And wrong. He’s right that government can create jobs. As a matter of fact, government is pretty darn good at it. Madonna’s past ability to offend people with her MTV music videos pales in comparison.

We can see that they are actual jobs. We can observe that a government employee gets up and trudges off to a job, just like a person does in the private sector. So the job does exist, at least empirically.

However, Marcus is wrong when he says it does not matter whether a person is working in the private or government sector because, at some point, the worker has to be paid.

How does the government get money to pay people holding government jobs? They have to take it from people doing productive work in the private sector. And when this wealth is forcibly taken to pay for government jobs, it lessens the private sector’s ability to invest in private sector jobs, which are the ones that actually pay for government jobs. Anyone see a problem here?

Of course the government has other tricks that only government is allowed do, such as printing money, or operating in a deficit and deferring the forced payments to a later generation. But in the end, it’s the private sector that pays.

It must be true that the private sector pays for government jobs because if not, then we wouldn’t have a jobs problem at all. The government could just create a job for everyone and we’d all be just fine. So, just like it was an illusion that a person had a thinner waist when wearing outfits with those huge shoulder pads, it’s an illusion that a government job actually moves the economy forward.

Morton Marcus wants us to believe that “in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter.” But if we continue to listen to people like him, then at some point “in the grand scheme of things, we’re all going to be broke.” Not to mention morally bankrupt if we keep supporting these schemes.


On a brighter note, how would you like a free book? Really, it’s free! No strings attached. All you have to do is find me at the Community Rally which will be from 11 to 2 Saturday at the Clark County 4-H Fairgrounds.

I have purchased 10 copies of Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law” and will be giving them away to the first 10 people who request one. OK, I guess that means there is one string attached — you do have to risk being seen with me for a few minutes.

But it’ll be worth it. Bastiat’s book is a classic on political philosophy, originally published as a pamphlet in 1850. It’s quite short and very easy to understand. So if you’re interested, look me up on Saturday.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson will not be making any fashion statement Saturday because she’s still recovering from that disastrous stirrup pants episode of 1985.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some Readers Are Hard To Please

HARBESON: Sex sells, Roger says

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I have a friend who’s been complaining about my columns. This friend who I’ll call “Roger” — mostly because that’s his real name — says that my columns have been boring lately. He much prefers it when I write about sex.

Roger’s referring to past columns where, as he so eloquently says it, I defend perverts. These columns defended Theatair X’s private property rights and a father’s desire to watch his son play baseball in a government park even though he used to be on the sex offender’s list.

I want to please my readers but I often can’t keep up. So Roger, if you’re not getting enough from me, then use the Internet. You’ll be able to find all sorts of stories about government employees who find themselves dealing with unfortunate sexual situations. The latest example actually occurred in our state and now “Indiana BMV” and “sex” will be forever linked on search engines.


I also get responses from people who have a difficult time understanding my perspective, particularly when I criticize any political action. I’ve mentioned the philosophy I follow before but I think it’s worth mentioning periodically because I know not many people have heard much about it and mistakenly place me into categories that don’t fit.

I am a Voluntaryist. The most important thing to understand for the purposes of this column is that Voluntaryists are nonpolitical. I reject politics as a valid means to the end I hope society reaches one day, a voluntary society, and am searching for nonpolitical ways to work toward that goal. I believe that lasting change can only happen outside the political realm.

Some people get this but say that while they don’t “want” to get involved; they feel that they must, if only in self-defense. I can sympathize to some extent, but it doesn’t work for me because I can’t see how grabbing control of a violent institution will help develop non-violent institutions. As a Voluntaryist, I understand that if “one takes care of the means, the end will take care of itself.”

This is why I will always be lukewarm at best to any political action. If you want to learn more about Voluntaryists and voluntaryism, I trust you will contact me and/or do your own research.


Finally, I want to help spread the word about an event at the 4-H fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Oct. 30. Lindon Dodd, a long-time columnist for this paper, has taken time from his quest to eat his way through any senior citizen food discount available to arrange a community event so amazing, so strange that I simply cannot miss it.

Why is it so strange? Well it’s a community rally to discuss local issues, right before Tuesday’s elections but no politicians or political candidates are speaking. Also the “citizens just like you” who are speaking have been asked not to endorse specific candidates and will speak for only five or 10 minutes each.

Can you believe that? What are the speakers going to say? Will any “good old boys” show up? Will there be any interesting placards? My curiosity is getting the best of me, how about you?

Now, based on what I just said about being a Voluntaryist, you might think this event has no benefits for me but I’m not so sure. The people who attend are at least willing to consider the effects of government actions on their lives and that is a good first step toward voluntaryism. So I’m going to see what’s up. And I hope you do too.

Oh and Roger, you can come too, but it’s a family event so don’t expect any sexual perversion speeches. However, maybe you, I and anyone else who wants to join us can discuss those topics during any boring parts.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is looking forward to listening to speeches from regular folk that should be within her attention span.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Business and Government Just Don't Mix

COLUMN NOTES: There were several responses in the comments section of the paper so if you want to see them, you can click on the linked headline.

HARBESON: Is there power in the PAC?

SELLERSBURG — Until recently, I had never given a lot of thought to the chamber of commerce, now known locally as One Southern Indiana. I always thought of the chamber as a private voluntary organization whose main objective was to help local business people network with each other.

To me, they were simply a business-to-business marketing tool that some found useful.

Although I knew the individual businesses within a chamber of commerce would unfortunately have to deal with governments, I never really thought the chamber itself would purposefully get enmeshed in sticky political activities.

But One Southern Indiana has jumped headfirst into the nasty goo of politics now that it has created a political action committee. This year marks the first time they have really stepped in it and endorsed specific candidates for office.

What a mistake. Business owners, even in a given geographical area, have far too many disparate interests for a chamber of commerce to speak for the area as a whole politically.

Before even looking at details, we already know political action will firmly gel around specific special interests, because that’s the only way government operates. When a politician votes for or against any government action, some businesses win and some lose. The same government action one business celebrates can hurt many others.

So, by endorsing candidates to promote some local business interests, One Southern Indiana will almost surely be actively working against others, even their own members, depending upon the specific government laws enacted.

Which means One Southern Indiana will now help government more than free enterprise.

Even on a very basic level, endorsing candidates does not make sense for an organization that supposedly exists to help local business owners. Helping local business means giving owners the information they need to succeed, not to work against some of them through government action.

The only reason to form a PAC is because the powers that be in the organization want to make sure their particular business’ special interests are served. Now, it’s reasonable to say that the bigger players are putting in most of the money and would therefore control the organization. It’s an association of private businesses after all, and if they want to roll in the political sludge and use government to protect their interests then so be it.

You could also say that as a private, voluntary organization anyone who disagrees with their actions can simply opt out and refuse to support any of their functions. And I would agree with you if that were the case. But I found some muck oozing out that makes this questionable.

For example, did you know that according to 1si’s website one of the “top investors” in One Southern Indiana is the city of Jeffersonville? How does having a government entity as one of the top investors affect what is being done in a so-called business organization?

In addition, one of the candidates endorsed is Ron Grooms, a current Jeffersonville city councilman who is hoping to get a job as a state senator. This means an endorsed candidate is working for a government that is one of the top investors in the, umm, business organization.

I also noticed that one of the PAC members, Marty Bell, represents Greater Clark County Schools, according to the website. Why would the largest government school system in Clark County be a voting member of a PAC for a private business organization?

How do you think all this mixing of government and business would tend to affect the workings of One Southern Indiana? It can’t be in the best interests of those who are working toward more freedom from government control that’s for sure.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson hates to find oozing government muck because it’s really hard to clean off.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Voluntary Situation or Not?

COLUMN NOTES: I was spanked for this one by a voluntaryist friend of mine. He made some great points and I want to share them here. First, in general he's not too fond of the United Way. He had an amazingly bad experience when a previous employer treated him badly, even threatened him with a bad job review if he did not donate. He's not the only one and I heard stories even before I wrote this piece and so kind of wondered if I'd hear from anyone about it. He gave me a link he found that shows there are others who have less than favorable views on how companies raise funds for the United Way.

He also pointed out to me that many organizations that get United Way funding are government organizations and/or already funded by the taxpayer.

He also really didn't like the idea of giving a "voluntary salute to the mayor." (For the record I didn't write that headline.) My friend's view on this revolves around the idea that all of these people are parasites living off of coerced funds. But let's hear from him in his own words:

"It bothers me on another level because I can't see someone who lives at the expense of others, who literally lives off of the looted earnings of working people, as having done something praiseworthy because they drop a few of their stolen coins in a box marked 'charity'. Big f'n deal if a mugger drops a few dollars into the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas time, it wasn't his money to take or give. Same way with your mayor and all his tax-parasite employees. Every dime they donate to United Way was stolen from someone else."

And he also said this:
"Giving a 'voluntary salute to the mayor', TO ME, would be like giving a salute to Hitler because he started a voluntary charitable organization
-The Winterhilfswerk (WHW) was an annual drive by the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (the National Socialist People’s Welfare Organization) to help finance charitable work. Its slogan was "None shall starve nor freeze". It ran from 1933-1945 during the months of October through March, and was designed to provide food, clothing, coal, and other items to less fortunate Germans during the inclement months.-

Hell, southern plantation owners used to voluntarily give presents and clothes to their slaves, particularly at Christmas- Praiseworthy?

Ted Bundy took time off from his serial rape/murder spree to voluntarily donate his time to work the phones at the local rape crisis hotline - true story- praiseworthy?"

I will certainly not argue with that logic and I think he makes good points but I still hold on to hope that writing this column may have caused someone, who's not quite where my friend is philosophically, to perhaps think more about voluntary actions versus using the government gun.

What do you think?

HARBESON: I voluntarily salute the mayor

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — This week, I would like to focus my energy on commending and praising Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan. For the third year in a row, he’s helping promote the United Way by entering into a friendly competition with New Albany Mayor Doug England.

The cities compete in a contest to see who can get the most city employee participation. The winner gets possession of a traveling trophy and the loser has to sweep the street around the winner’s city hall.

I find it very refreshing to see local politicians putting their energy into promoting something that is voluntary. It’s also kind of jarring because it’s so odd to see this happen with no ordinances written, no property being forcibly taken from other people, no one controlling anyone else — just respect and voluntary action. And yet it still works somehow.

The United Way is a well-respected organization but it’s not the only one out there. There are hundreds of ways people help each other. Some people also choose to help others by giving time and talent, rather than money. And yet, thousands of dollars are raised despite the fact that the employees are free to decide how much, and if, they want to participate.

Of course, adding the competition factor is a nice way to inject some spark into this charitable effort. The mayors and city employees may give a bit more to the United Way as a result because competition can help motivate people.

Isn’t it interesting to see government officials so deep into freedom-oriented ideas of competition and voluntary cooperation?

To watch how this plays out compared to other work mayors do using government control is instructive. There is no controversial edge to this; it’s just one of those fluffy feel-good stories. There are no critics, no one is forced into it kicking and screaming, everyone involved is respected enough to make his or her own decision.

This kind of action brings forth a completely different energy doesn’t it? It’s by far the best thing Galligan has done since taking office.

This really shouldn’t be so surprising and normally it’s not. Businesses do similar contests and competitions for charitable giving. Charitable giving goes on constantly, some of it through institutions and organizations and there’s also plenty done without any institutional involvement whatsoever: family helping family; friend helping friend. Hardly any of this makes the news because it’s just the normal way we live our daily lives.

But when government officials do it, it’s kind of like a man bites dog story.

If only we’d see more of this type of action from our local politicians. Playing cheerleader for local charities and businesses would be a great way for the mayor to spend his energy. There’d be less time to think about ways to spend other people’s money, which means there’d be more out there for charitable giving and investing in local business. More cheerleading and less controlling would make us all better off, don’t you think?

What would life be like if politicians just got out of the way and let businesses and charities do what they do? I would love to see much more action promoting voluntary methods of interacting with our neighbors and giving individuals the respect to make choices that work for them, their families and their individual situations.

So, Mayor Galligan, let me say well done, sir. Please, do more work cheerleading for voluntary and business causes and put less energy toward using government to control. You could create a more peaceful community everyone would enjoy.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson doesn’t mind mayors playing cheerleader, and even using pom poms, but she draws the line at those skimpy uniforms.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Eagles And Guinea Pigs

HARBESON: This little piggy went to the arena

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — When my husband asked if I wanted to go with a group of friends to see The Eagles, I wasn’t sure what to say. I’ve done my share of listening to classic rock radio stations, so I questioned the wisdom of spending our entertainment budget to hear “Hotel California” for the 1 billionth time.

I was also concerned because this is the first official event at the KFC YUM! Center which means I would be one of the guinea pigs to help work out the kinks in traffic and parking.

Did I really want to be a part of what is likely to be a painful experiment? When he suggested that being a parking/traffic guinea pig might be a good way to collect column material, I had to agree, so I’m going.

I don’t know whether we’ll use what’s offered in Southern Indiana but it does makes sense for local businesses to try and piggy-back off of arena activity and take advantage of potential parking issues. What doesn’t make so much sense is why government gets so involved.

Jeffersonville’s government is already working on a deal with Louisville to use the government owned and operated Spirit of Jefferson tour boat. The idea is that people will spend money over here and then ferry to the event. It’s not a sure thing that the ferry is good for business. People might just ride the ferry. And even if they do partake of restaurant row, the cars would be parked for hours afterwards so what effect will that have on total sales if it keeps other customers away? And what if entrepreneurs with private boats want to take folks across? Would the government prohibit them from doing so?

Clarksville’s government thought about getting in on the action with shuttles. Rick Dickman, the town’s redevelopment director wanted to close off the bridge so only shuttles and buses could cross during events but he didn’t get his way. Clarksville needed such special treatment if any plan of theirs was going to work because their business hotspots are located farther from the river.

Dickman expressed irritation with Louisville for not including Southern Indiana in the plans. He said “I don’t think they’ve thought about Southern Indiana at all.”

There’s a very important reason for this though: tax revenue.

See, Louisville has little incentive to keep people in Southern Indiana to spend money because one of the ways they are paying off the huge debt is by using sales tax revenue in a designated area. They are already behind because projections at this point were far too optimistic.

As a matter of fact, there is enough concern that Standard and Poor’s warned Louisville that they may downgrade arena bonds to “junk” status if the situation doesn’t change.

Louisville residents will pay more if sales taxes don’t hold up because the Metro government would have to cover costs. So Louisville needs as many of us as possible to spend our money inside their special tax boundaries. I’d say the main reason they are cooperating with Jeffersonville’s government for the boat is because sales tax can apply to ferry rides.

Many Louisville residents are not happy to learn that the arena authority said costs would be covered and now the method of payment may not work out like they said it would. The same thing happens over here of course, the most recent example being Jeffersonville’s recent trolley purchase.

I don’t know what my group will end up doing as far as parking is concerned. I just hope traffic moves so smoothly that I feel like I’m on a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson’s mind is Tiffany-twisted and she got the Mercedes Bends, but she can still read your mail so write her.

Photo courtesy of Steve Alexander through Wikimedia