Sunday, September 16, 2012

Does Government Enhance Quality of Life?

HARBESON: Quality is job one

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — New Albany City Council member Dan Coffey recently introduced a resolution to move city council discretionary funds to the Board of Public Works and Safety. When questioned by other council members for specifics as to how the money will be spent, Coffey said the money is intended for “quality of life” purposes.

This really confused several members and no wonder. “Quality of life” is one of those fluffy, fuzzy phrases politicians love to utter when they don’t want to answer a question. When pushed further though, Coffey did offer up an example — a recent “Beach Day” where the fire department turned on its hoses so kids in public housing facilities could splash in the water.

So I guess quality of life has something to do with being wet. That does make some sense and not just for kids. I know many men who would say their quality of life definitely goes up when women in T-shirts get wet.

Seriously though, if asked, we know the examples people would offer up as quality of life issues would be virtually unlimited. When it comes right down to it, quality of life is one of those vague terms that can vary widely between individuals. Your determination of quality of life may agree with mine and it may not.

For example I like to get up early and go on bike rides. But I know others who would rather go out dancing, stay up all night and sleep in. Still others don’t care if they have to get up early or stay up late, as long as they can see wet women in T-shirts.

Isn’t it contradictory for government entities to take your money through threats of force and then tell you they are going to spend it to improve your quality of life? Wouldn’t your quality of life go up if they just got out of the way so you can determine for yourself how to give your life quality? Isn’t quality of life built on a foundation of mutually respectful voluntary relationships with others — relationships without coercion and threats of violence?

Even with projects that we have been told are “necessary and proper” functions of government, it’s impossible to definitively determine quality of life to everyone’s satisfaction. For example, just last week a recent letter to the editor in this paper was from a New Albany resident who claims that the quality of life in the city will go up if all of the city government roads were two-way instead of one-way.

When the questioning members of the city council continued to push Coffey for specifics, he finally said, “You know what, figure it out.”

What does that mean? It can’t mean he really wants them to determine quality of life purposes because at a subsequent meeting the issue came up again when discussing the city’s portion of costs for a new air conditioner for the City-County Building.

Coffey said that would not be a quality of life issue and in response a council person said it is for the people who work in the building. That’s probably true, particularly if they also get the fire department in there to spray any woman wearing T-shirts.

Of course, we must remember that both sides are really just concerned about who gets control of other people’s money. After all, those skeptical, questioning council members who voted against the funds being moved do not appear to object to the concept of a discretionary fund. Yet a “discretionary” fund is as equally confusing, fluffy and fuzzy for a city council when it comes to determining “proper” spending.

At some point during the discussions about this money, it was mentioned that spending it on the upcoming city bicentennial celebration would be a nice quality of life expenditure. What do you think? Does government spending on items like bicentennial celebrations really improve anyone’s quality of life or is it just a local example of bread and circuses meant to appease and deflect from the reality that these people are bickering over spending money that no one gave them voluntarily?

— Southern Indiana resident Debbie Harbeson knows that if her T-shirt ever gets wet, it would probably not enhance anyone’s quality of life.

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