Friday, May 25, 2012

Little Free Library Up and Running

HARBESON: A handy little idea

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — After having worked hard the past few months, I now have something new to add to my resume — “I was Lead Project Manager for a major construction venture, supervising every aspect in the creation of a privately funded community building.”

I haven’t decided whether I should add that the building is about 2 foot wide and 2 foot tall.

The project I’m referring to is my own Little Free Library. I wrote last December about the idea — building tiny libraries as a fun way to support literacy and build community. I knew I had to have one.

But how? I knew little about building or woodworking. I needed to find someone to help me and the first person I thought of was Jim James. Jim is a relatively new acquaintance but through our interactions, I knew he was into woodworking.

I decided Jim would be the perfect person for the job because he didn’t know me well enough to realize how inept I am at anything crafty. He also didn’t know that I can cut my thumb just looking at a sharp blade.

So I contacted him to see if he would help me. I was clear that I didn’t want him to build it FOR me; I wanted him to build it WITH me. I hoped to learn by doing. Since he didn’t know what he was getting into, Jim agreed and I soon found myself in his workshop, an amazing place, loaded with every kind of machine imaginable with which to cut myself.

I learned a lot about Jim while we worked together on this Little Library. And he learned a lot about me — which is why we made a solemn blood-pact that we would never share those things with anyone. Ever. So don’t bother asking either of us for details.

(In hindsight, I am wondering now how our blood-pact will work since he convinced me we only needed to use my blood. It made sense at the time — there was plenty available.)

Somehow, despite my help, we managed to get the library ready for painting and other exterior work — a point where I drafted the help of family. My mom Rose Huber and my daughter, Melissa Weissinger (who also made the mistake of telling me how easy it was to dig a hole with a post-hole digger) helped paint.

My brother Gary Huber and his son Nick helped me put on the shingles. I struggled when I wanted to hammer in at least one nail, but the problem was my brother’s hammer. I think it was for right-handers and I’m a lefty.

My husband John helped me with final touches, which included attaching a piece of stainless steel  engraved “ Paul Huber Memorial,” because I built this library in my dad’s memory. He was a voracious reader just like me.

Within hours after installation, I glanced out my window and saw a woman and two children leaving with an Amelia Bedelia book I just placed inside. That was worth the blood, sweat and bruises.

This idea is spreading fast and I’ve met many people who are busy planning, building and decorating their own unique Little Free Libraries. The Jeffersonville Rotary Club recently awarded grants which were used to purchase two Little Libraries in memory of recently deceased members. Budget Printing Center, a local business in Jeffersonville, has graciously donated labels to attach inside the books to explain and promote the project.

To find out how you can build your very own, and/or share your talents with others who want one but need assistance in various areas such as construction, artwork, and installation, please join us at the next meeting of Little Free Library Indiana at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, at the Jeffersonville Red Cross Office, 1805 E. Eighth St.

You can also keep updated on this project at  littlefreelibraryindiana., which includes a link to a Facebook page. Join us and maybe soon you’ll have something new to add to your resume too.

 — Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is into making blood pacts but she prefers using other people’s blood. Write to her at

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Politician-Brokered Compromises

HARBESON: The compromising nature of compromise

SELLERSBURG — After Indiana’s long-time incumbent Richard Lugar failed to retain his Senate seat, many of his supporters mourned this loss by focusing on what they consider to be one of his most valuable character traits — the willingness to compromise.

These folks consider this to be a prime virtue for any politician and are very concerned about candidates who express skepticism regarding the value and benefits of compromise within government. They worry about others who do not share their blind faith in the concept.

When writing about the implications of Lugar’s loss, former Democratic Congressman Baron Hill even moaned that “compromise has become a four-letter word to some, unfortunately.”

Why are these people so concerned about compromise? Well, one reason could be that they understand how important compromise is when looking to increase government spending.

It happens all the time. One side puts forth a budget amount on a given item that they consider to be “appropriate” and the other side makes a counter offer. Since compromise will logically fall somewhere in between, government spending always increases when a compromise is made.

So, those who hope to control government spending end up losing every time politicians compromise with other people’s money. And once this connection is made, those people will naturally begin to question the value of compromise.

But there’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept of compromise. This is simply an example of how government coercion can skew and twist any concept beyond its original meaning and purpose. As a matter of fact, compromise outside of the coercive system is considered to be invaluable in many areas of life.

For example, when I hear the word compromise, I usually think about personal relationships, particularly married couples. It’s practically a cliché now that when people who have maintained long term relationships are asked to offer advice, they almost always mention the willingness to compromise as being of primary importance.

So what’s going on here? Why is there no controversy about compromise within the couple relationship? Why is the concept of compromise not considered a four-letter word in this situation?

One big reason is that any compromise that occurs within the couple relationship is a give and take between individuals who are each compromising only on behalf of their unique individual selves. They are also compromising with a partner they have freely and voluntarily chosen who shares most of their values, goals, dreams and desires.

They don’t have to deal with a separate group of people claiming to have the authority to represent all couples who reside in a given geographical area who determines what is in every couple’s best interest and then proceeds to create “appropriate” compromises, and force all couples to comply. No, so far at least, politicians stay out of the compromises couples make as they work to live peacefully together.

But the politicians are involved in who enters into these relationships — which makes me wonder, if the people mentioned at the beginning of this column think compromise within government is so great, when are we going to see an offer to compromise on this issue? The compromising politicians could say to opponents, “OK, so you don’t want gays to marry? Well, let’s compromise. How about if we allow gay women to marry but not men? Come on, whaddya say, let’s broker this deal.”

It’s easy to see that such a politician-brokered compromise would be ridiculous, but how is it really any different than all the other compromises politicians make as they continually use their power to manipulate and control everyone’s lives?

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson considers government to be a four-letter word.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Determining Property Ownership in Land

When I first encountered libertarian ideas, I started to see that it became a lot easier to remove the fog from many disputes if you looked at the problem from the standpoint of property ownership. I remember clearly when I really started to understand that. It was a few years ago when a controversy came up about someone burning an American flag.

As I searched the internet for information to help me understand and debate the details, I found Murray Rothbard’s, “The Flag Flap.”   After I read that, I clearly remember thinking, wow, that was easy! It wasn’t important to dig into the Constitution and Bill of Rights, all you had to do was ask, well whose flag is it? If they own it then they can do with it what they want.

From then on, I thought clarifying issues was going to be so easy. And it was for awhile, as long as I stayed within the realm of, as George Carlin would say, “our stuff.” But eventually I had to think about property ownership in terms of land and that’s when it became more challenging. No one labors to create land, it’s just there. When I think about it, I always get confused and frustrated and then just quit for awhile. But then it comes back to haunt me.

It came back again after I wrote the column about property taxes being rent we pay to the government. That column led to more communication with Carl Watner, editor of The Voluntaryist, and I wanted to pass along one article from that publication that he shared with me that has to do with land.

 The article written by Carl is in Issue 56 and is titled, “Voluntaryism And Indians: Proprietary Justice and Aboriginal Land Rights.” This article, which focuses on land ownership as a result of European “discovery” of America, is chock-full of interesting information and ideas to think about in terms of land ownership.

This clash of understanding about property ownership is an excellent example to think through if you want to come to terms with property and land. First occupation and use plays a primary part but as Carl writes:

“The main question to settle is whether they (Indians) rightfully owned the land upon which they regularly or sporadically hunted.”

For more discussion on how this is considered from a voluntaryist perspective, I recommend reading the article for yourself.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Property Taxes are Rent Payments to Government

HARBESON: What your ‘rent' is really paying for

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I hope those of you who have property here in Floyd and/or Clark County remembered that today, May 10, is the due date for making your semiannual rent payment to county government.

Most of you probably don’t think of your property tax payment as rent. You believe that you own property you purchased. But think about what would happen if you don’t pay this rent — eventually people who represent the government will kick you off and take full possession. If this is considered a legitimate act, then do you really own the property?

Government supporters say that your property tax statement is like any other bill you receive in the voluntary market for services provided to you. But does that match with reality? When other organizations, even monopolies like water and electricity, provide services you are charged for actual usage. Most importantly, if you do not pay these bills, the service providers do not kick you out of your home and take possession. They claim ownership only for the value of services you used.

Ahh, but some people will say that the government provides services people use that cannot be “shut off” or denied due to nonpayment. Therefore, you must be forced to pay your “fair” share. Somehow (don’t ask me to explain it) the value the government itself assigns to your property directly relates to your usage of those services.

But even if you accept this as justification for kicking people out of legitimately purchased property if they don’t pay the rent, how do you draw clear lines for specific items the rent payment is applied to?

For example, take a look at your government rental bill — the largest item will likely be schools. Certainly there are many who never incur any usage of schools, and heavier users do not pay more. Should a childless couple be kicked off property they purchased if they don’t pay for schools for the six kids their neighbor chose to have?

And what about grandiose building projects? Should an individual be kicked out of her home for not funding huge enclosures of unusable space like the atrium at Floyd Central High School? Or perhaps the force is justified when such extravagance can help architecture firms boast about winning design awards?

Some people say we need to pay rent for the so-called justice system. Should people be kicked out of their homes for not funding extra costs that are the direct result of the ineptness of county prosecutors who make serious errors in judgment related to a never-ending murder trial? (Someone really ought to write a book about that one.)

Should people be forced to fund a “donation” for operations of a Sister Cities program in Clarksville? This program already has many corporate sponsors and if the people involved are so passionate shouldn’t they be going out and getting more sponsors rather than taking other people’s money?

Jeffersonville Township spent thousands of dollars to fund a specific church’s food pantry, yet many local charities run food pantries. So how is it valid to kick people out of their home for not funding this particular pantry?

This is just a sampling of how your money is being spent by local governments. If you want to really dig in for yourself, you can see details for every local government entity by going to

Some of the items I mentioned above are paid directly from the rent you pay to the county so you can live at your current residence even though you thought you owned it, and some may be paid using other forms of taxation, but they all demonstrate how government will expand far beyond any initial justifications that people are merely being sent bills to pay for “services” used.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson has been told she has lots of empty space between her ears so she’s decided to offer it for rent. If interested write to

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Indiana Vouchers and Special Interest Groups

Latest newspaper column...

HARBESON: A special interest in school funding

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — As I read about the Indiana State Teacher’s Association’s continued attempts to invalidate Indiana’s new voucher law, using funding of religion as a primary argument, I began to wonder if they feel kind of strange watching it play out in the courts. Do they notice the irony of relying on people who don fancy robes and claim the authority to interpret vague verses in documents written before any of us were born?

I doubt it. I don’t believe ISTA is really that upset over the religious aspect in the first place. The religious argument just provides a convenient means to try and get what they want, which is to avoid competition and keep the government money earmarked for educational purposes to themselves.

As a matter of fact, I’m sure that any ISTA supporter who has taken some time to think about it must secretly be at least a bit thankful that most of the private schools who accept vouchers in Indiana are run by religious institutions. After all, the religious objection helps to avoid using other arguments that can’t as easily mask their concern about losing their monopoly over the money.

If the voucher-accepting schools were overwhelmingly secular, then it would be much harder for ISTA, an organization that supposedly supports education, to object to a government program that increases educational options to meet a variety of individual needs.

On the other hand, I’m not so sure the motives of the voucher defenders are so great either. This group certainly includes people who are also happy to have various verses within the government bible we call the Constitution interpreted in their favor so they can get control of the funds.

One of the main points the voucher proponents use to defend against the religious funding argument is that vouchers are not given directly to private schools. They are given to individuals so it’s the family, not the government, who may make the choice to give the funds to a religious institution.

In other words, when the parent plays middle-man, the money is somehow cleansed of its true source. It is no longer considered money that has been coerced from those who may not wish to fund religious institutions. I’m not sure exactly how this cleansing process takes place — but I’ve never understood money laundering either.

Voucher proponents love to push the idea that it’s all based on private, individual choices and parents are supposedly granted complete independence in how they use the vouchers. There’s one problem though — parents are limited to options that have been specifically government-approved. This is not an independent choice.

Of course true independence can only happen when parents are spending their own money or funds voluntarily given to them by another individual/organization that places no strings on how the funds are spent. That’s what granting independent choice means — no strings.

Vouchers do not and cannot operate like that.

If we step back and look at the voucher controversy from a big-picture perspective, we can easily see that this battle is no different than any other government battle. There are two sides supporting various special interest groups who want control of government money.

ISTA works for teachers who benefit from government-run schools. Voucher proponents work for people who benefit from voucher-accepting businesses. Neither side seems concerned about the coercion of the individual at large who is forced to fund any of these government-approved educational options.

Both sides apparently accept that it’s valid and moral to coerce individuals to pay for the education of other people’s children and unfortunately, as long as no one works to end government involvement in education, this is what we get — special interest groups fighting over who gets access and control of the funds.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is part of a special interest group that is especially interested in getting rid of special interest groups.