Sunday, June 24, 2012

HARBESON; It’s all a matter of opinion

The Indiana Democratic Congressional Victory Committee is running a TV ad which includes this quote from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock: “To me, the highlight of politics, frankly, is to inflict my opinion on someone else.”

The ad’s intent is to shock you, as if what Mourdock said is extreme and unusual. It’s not — Mourdock merely happened to state the truth out loud, that’s all. Inflicting opinions on other people is the entire purpose of gaining control of the government gun.

Do the Democrats really not understand this?

Of course Mourdock wants to inflict his opinions on others — that’s why he wants this government job. It’s also why Democrat Joe Donnelly, Libertarian Andrew Horning and Independent Jack Rooney would like the job. They all agree that government force is valid, but have differing opinions on the best way to use that force.

As soon as one of these candidates gets elected, he will begin to work hard to do what every other politician that ever existed has done: inflict his opinions on other people. You probably don’t mind and may even be happy, as long as you agree with the winner’s opinions.

But if you disagree — if you have a different opinion, then you do mind and this is why political groups are willing to spend a quarter of a million dollars for a 30 second advertisement.

The opinions of others don’t matter as much in our private lives. It’s true that we can be in situations where we may have to deal with another person’s opinion which differs from our own. For example, we might have a different opinion than our boss in how to perform an aspect of our job, but the difference in our daily voluntary interactions is that we are free to end any relationship if a difference of opinion becomes a problem.

We can also look at what I do here every week. I can’t inflict my opinion on you. I can only share it. I COULD WRITE IN ALL CAPS but this print version of yelling still wouldn’t mean I could inflict my opinion on you like politicians with power and control can.

When someone like me shares an opinion with you outside of government, you are in control. You get to consider the opinion and decide for yourself if you think it has any value and if you want to take any action regarding that opinion.

This even includes political ads. Candidates and their campaign staffs cannot inflict their opinions (unless they engage in voter fraud) — they can only share them like everyone else does while in the private realm. It’s only when one of the candidates wins that he gains the power and control to potentially inflict opinions.

We see this happening all around us, at every level of government. Here’s a list of examples where opinions are inflicted on you through politics: war and methods of fighting terrorism; entitlement programs; where you can smoke; who you can marry; various permit and licensing requirements; designating and protecting historic property; how many bridges to build across a river; whether you should pay tolls and how much the tolls should be and — what’s that?

Oh you’re right, that probably was like scratching my nails on a chalkboard. I’m sorry for inflicting so many examples on you at once. AT LEAST I DIDN’T WRITE THE LIST IN ALL CAPS.

Considering all of this evidence, the people who created this ad sure must have a low opinion of you and me if they think we’d actually believe that one candidate is any different than another when it comes to the desire to inflict opinions on others.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Moore" Sewer Problems in Jeffersonville

HARBESON: Sewer debate has turned into a mess

CLARK COUNTY — It’s clear that Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore regrets signing the ordinance that included the controversial change in how summer sewer usage is determined. (NOTE: See here and here for more background information.) He knows he made a mistake by not vetoing an ordinance that contained a provision he was strongly against. Now he’s trying to find a way out but he’s working inside government, which is like being trapped inside a well-used Port-a-Potty that’s been tipped over with the door against the ground.

Moore told me that the requirement to purchase a meter for outdoor water faucets is the only thing he objected to in the ordinance and none of this would have happened if he could use a line-item veto. I guess he’s learned the hard way that once an ordinance is on his desk, a veto is the only action to take if there is a provision he disagrees with.

The main reason this situation caught my interest is that there are very interesting principles being articulated as both sides debate the issue. Moore has been clear that he believes the residents of Jeffersonville should not pay for something they are not using.

I agree completely.

He’s not the only government official making this case. The officials who believe that mandating a meter is the best way to determine usage are really saying the same thing — it’s just the other side of the coin. They want to make sure that people who are paying less during the summer are doing so because their higher water use is indeed not going into the sewer system.

So if both sides really do believe in the principle that people should pay for what they use, why don’t they apply that concept universally and consistently? After all, there are many things the city of Jeffersonville forces people to pay for that they don’t use and we don’t hear the mayor or the council trying to figure out how to fairly charge users of those programs.

The real problem for many residents is that the government is telling people they now have to purchase a product so they can make sure they only pay for sewer service they actually used. I can understand why people don’t want to do that. But I can also understand why it could be helpful to use meters. If the point is to pay for usage, then meters could certainly help by getting an actual accounting of outdoor water usage.

It’s always hard to accept something like this because it means that someone is making money off of a government mandate — one of the major problems when governments monopolize a service.

This is probably why I see huge signs in Floyds Knobs that say “NO SEWERS.” Someone up there understands that once you are on the grid, you are stuck with government involvement and the increased control in other areas that comes after the collectivization of poo disposal.

There is another reason this issue caught my interest. Now that Moore has been unable to use the political process to keep the old sewer relief plan in place, he said he plans to ignore the ordinance and continue to give summer relief to people even if they don’t purchase a meter.

This means Moore plans to ignore a law he believes is unjust. That’s civil disobedience — at least when a private individual does it. I’m not real sure what to call it when a mayor ignores a law he thinks is unjust, particularly one that he signed in the first place.

Is this really civil disobedience? Or is it just another government official who thinks he is above the law and would never support a private individual who decided to do the same thing and ignore a law the mayor endorsed? I can’t answer those questions, but I still like it when anyone refuses to obey a law he believes is unjust.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson has been told she should pay higher sewer bills because she’s so full of it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Gambling Game in Indiana is Rigged

HARBESON: More than a simple game

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Last week’s news about the high-profile raid on an alleged illegal gambling ring in Jeffersonville was a jackpot of examples showing the hypocrisy and confusion caused when government gets involved in vices.

When U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett said the eight people charged were allegedly “handling thousands and thousands of dollars a day in wagers,” the message was clear — these guys were in trouble because lots of money was moving around without the government skimming off a portion of the profits.

The government doesn’t care much about gambling as long as they get their cut. We know this because “thousands and thousands of dollars a day in wagers” are also handled just a few dice throws down the river and Hogsett has absolutely nothing to say about the people running that gambling operation.

It’s confusing at first to realize that you can sit on a boat in Harrison County and make bets with a guy rolling a marble and both of you can still be considered to be fine upstanding citizens. But if you go sit on a car in a certain Jeffersonville auto shop and make bets with a guy about the Andretti curse, it can be a criminal act.

The wagers that happen on the boat are not crimes because those transactions are government-approved. The people who run that gambling business dutifully hand over some of the profits they make from creating a venue filled with crisp cards and shiny, clanging machines that attract people who want to engage in this vice.

It’s a great deal for the government when corporations do most of the work and concentrate gambling activities in one convenient easy-to-tax gambling shop. The corporation is of course happy to pay off the government in return for the protection from competition.

Considering what a grand deal it is for government to legalize and tax gambling you might wonder why they haven’t legalized and taxed all forms of gambling. Well, besides the fact that they are helping the current legal gambling venues maintain their little monopolies, perhaps it’s because there is money to be made on both sides of the vice game.

Let’s go back to the press conference about the Jeffersonville gambling operation for illustration. Larry Rollins, the director of the Gaming Control Division for the Indiana Gaming Commission, said his group started investigating the guys involved in the Jeffersonville operation two years ago.

Then when it was discovered that the gambling operation crossed state lines, this meant even more crimes were committed as a result of government prohibitions on gambling, and the FBI was brought into the investigation. For 18 months, employees from all layers of government worked on this investigation. Finally, when it came time to raid the Jeffersonville properties, local, state and federal law enforcement all participated.

That’s a lot of people being paid to work as a direct result of the government prohibition on certain types of gambling.

Now that indictments have been made, those employed by the government court system will also get into the game. And if any of the accused men are found guilty and sentenced to prison for breaking laws prohibiting gambling, you will pay even more people to keep them in a cage so that “society” can punish them.

You can see how the entire cost of enforcement and punishment means that a lot of people can profit simply because the government has the ability to write words down on paper and declare that people who are handling wagers about Peyton Manning’s next game are criminals.

Of course the government officials who get paid to enforce these prohibitions are quick to explain that it’s not all that innocent. They work hard to ante up the fear by telling the public that illegal gambling connects to other crimes and attracts dangerous people. They imply strong odds that innocent law-abiding citizens could be harmed.

No one who profits from government prohibition mentions that the game is rigged from the start because it’s the prohibition itself that helps create those problems. And odds are, they never will.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson never counts her money while she’s sitting at the table. Mostly because she never has any left.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Special Taxing Districts and Government Parks

HARBESON: Why add more piggies to the pie?

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — The city of New Albany and Floyd County continue to struggle to jointly fund government parks. There have been accusations about previous agreements not honored, vetoes of new agreements, arguments over paying a “fair share” and demands for restitution. The topic is hotter than a shiny slide in the middle of a sunny summer day.

One of the latest news items of note is that the county cannot find a copy of the 2001 agreement. I don’t know if they are implying an agreement may not have actually happened or if they just lost it. I’m glad they are looking though because as they’re flipping through pages and pages of documents, maybe they’ll also find a copy of that other government document no one’s been able to find — the “social contract.”

So in the midst of all the bickering on the political playground, it’s no surprise that the idea of creating a special taxing district for the parks system has come up again.

Certain government officials really like the idea. If the parks department can become a taxing district, this would mean that their budget is no longer subject to the approval of local governments. A taxing district automatically gets a certain percentage of property taxes without having to justify their spending to local elected officials.

If you remember, the idea of creating an additional taxing authority in the county is exactly what State Rep. Ed Clere tried to do during the last legislative session, but it failed to make it to the state Senate.

Clere and others who were pushing the idea said they wanted to “take the politics out of parks.” This is a lame statement considering the very idea of a politician using the state legislature to create a special taxing district in order to force consistent funding for a particular budget item is a political process in itself.

As a matter of fact, this is politics at its worst (and that’s saying a lot) because the creation of a special taxing district moves more power and control another step further away from the people forced to pay the bill.

If local government spending is not susceptible to the budgeting process, if local residents lose the ability to set and change priorities, if flexibility in spending is removed and a government entity is guaranteed a certain percentage of funding, who benefits most?

The people who support creating another taxing authority are quick to say it is “revenue neutral” and will not increase anyone’s taxes. Yes, they say, there will be another item that you’ll see on your property tax bill but your total percentage and tax caps will not change.

In other words, the amount of money you are forced to pour in the government feeding trough is the same, it’s just that there will be an extra pig in there snorting and sucking it up along with all the others.

Interestingly though, no one is really saying much at all in regards to how adding another pig will affect all the other piggies. If money is automatically directed to parks through state legislative action, where will it come from? How will the new combination end up? Something has to give, so who will win and who will lose?

Another reason some people like this idea could be because it’s a good way to get government spending off the front page. And out of people’s minds. It’s hard on those in government when there is open discussion about their central plan for the collective because people can more easily see what’s going on.

But if a budget item is granted taxing authority, it’s easier for those same officials to just sit back and quietly rake in their portion of coerced funds. They can tip-toe around and hardly ever have to engage in debates about the money that’s spent.

When government spending is open to discussion and debate through the budget process, at the very least, people can see that there is no truth to the idea that everyone wants the exact same thing, even in an area as seemingly benign as parks. Sure, the political process can be messy — but what else should you expect when using coercion to get what you want?

Just because government jumps in to a field of human interaction, even if it’s recreation, this does not resolve the inherent differences among individuals and their personal wants and needs — it only forces everyone onto the same merry-go-round — one that you can’t even get off, even if you’re sick of the ride.

— Local resident Debbie Harbeson is definitely sick of the ride.