Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Few Thoughtful Responses

Harbeson: Tales from the mailbag

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Today, I would like to share and respond to a few thoughtful responses I’ve received in the past few months. The following is from Tammy, responding to a column I wrote in May about vouchers where I pointed out that true educational freedom cannot occur as long as government is involved:

“What you wrote makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, you might as well hear from someone who has a child using a school voucher. My daughter went to a local school in New Albany. The principal was distant and not very communicative whenever we came to the school to talk with her about our daughter. Our daughter has no learning disability. She’s shy, though, and tends to be overlooked. She’s one who falls through the cracks. And the principal would not listen to us and help out.

“We decided to get her out of the situation and applied for a voucher. Now our daughter is going to a Catholic school in New Albany. There, she is getting all kinds of attention and she finally thinks that school is enjoyable. She’s begun to improve her reading skills by leaps and bounds and she wasn’t afraid to take her ISTEP this year (unlike last year when she wanted to play hooky).”

“Vouchers really do help the kids. They help families help their own kids. They’re actually a good idea and I applaud Tony Bennett and any and every legislator and the governor who has supported them. In fact, I cannot thank them enough.”

• Tammy’s story shows us that some families’ lives can be dramatically changed and I personally know other families who have benefited from various school reforms. It’s only fair to acknowledge these heartwarming stories. However, any benefits that accrue to some people do not justify the continued use of threats and force against other people.


The next item is a response from Joyce reacting to my claim that property taxes are rent.

“Debbie, by framing property tax as another government encroachment, you are creating a problem where there is none. Property tax, or whatever you call it, spreads the cost of important local public services: police, fire, schools, libraries, water, sewers, animal control, parks maintenance, road repair and trash pickup to name just a few.

“From this perspective, aren’t those of us who are lucky enough to own property doing our part to take care of our communities? Would you have every person pay a separate ‘user fee’ for each public service? And how would that play out each time you receive the service, for example response to a fire or break-in?”

• I was glad to see Joyce asking important questions about how to provide services without government. For a long time now, many people have been working to answer such questions and if you want to investigate those ideas for yourself, one of the best places to start is mises.org, an online site full of free books, articles, audio and video.


Next, I want to thank Kurt Fetz for responding to my request and actually reading the court opinion for himself concerning the Linden Meadows property ownership controversy. Here’s Kurt’s response:

“Debbie, after reading the opinion it is clear, at least to me, that your interpretation is the correct one regarding the disposition of the Linden Meadows case regarding eminent domain.

“Where I would disagree is that this case will not serve as precedent so much as it relies upon it. Eminent domain is firmly established in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is an essential, if unfortunate (especially when it’s your property that gets condemned), power for the proper functioning of the states. At least the takings clause and just compensation provide for recourse …

“It looks like eminent domain goes back farther than the constitution actually and derives from common law. However, prior to the Fifth Amendment it could be exercised without compensation. The Fifth acknowledges its crucial function, while guaranteeing just compensation. Anyhow, the point is that there is a long history for this power and it would be difficult to argue that it does not serve an important function. How would you suggest interstates, railroads, sidewalks, etc. get built without it?”

• Kurt also asks an important question and once again I’ll recommend mises.org for anyone interested in learning more about peaceful voluntary alternatives to the coercive state.


Finally, I have been meaning to respond to those who complain about my consistent focus on the problems of government, but then I saw this concise response by Jim Wetzel that said it all for me:

“I’m sure, that I can’t say with certainty what Debbie H. might do under any hypothetical set of circumstances. I’ll venture to guess, though, that she’ll write about things other than government when government gets out of the robbery-and-tyranny business.

“I’m not holding my breath while waiting for that to happen, though. Blue’s just not my color.”

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson happens to like the color blue but, like Jim, she’s not holding her breath either.

1 comment:

  1. "Would you have every person pay a separate ‘user fee’ for each public service? And how would that play out each time you receive the service, for example response to a fire or break-in?"

    Why not pay a separate user fee for each service you actually want? It's not like you are getting the services free or at a discount now. And you could opt out of "services" you don't want or don't need. There are better ways of providing fire protection and no one needs cops to respond to a break-in.

    "How would you suggest interstates, railroads, sidewalks, etc. get built without it?"

    How does anything get built if you aren't allowed to steal to finance it or get a place to build it? You come to a mutually satisfactory agreement or you don't. Nothing is "important" enough to steal for.

    It would be great if people would actually think this way: "How can I accomplish what I want or need without stealing or attacking others to get it done?" It is possible, and it really isn't that hard once you realize that coercion is not an option you can use when you are too lazy to find a solution.