Once again, we see elected Libertarians doing what Democrats don’t want to do and Republicans say they want to do and don’t: cut government waste.
As of November 2006, Lee County, FL now has a Libertarian majority on their Soil & Water Conservation Board. If any of you have wondered (as I have), “What could Libertarians possibly do on a Soil & Water Board?”, then read on:
Chairman Jack Tanner quickly moved through the agenda until he opened the floor to discuss the termination of the mobile irrigation laboratory and our two employees. The next 45 minutes or so were consumed by a series of earnest and emotional pleas by the government managers. Phrases like “millions of gallons wasted” and “billions of gallons saved” were used. Papers were pushed around with columns, charts and graphs. A case was cited in which an elderly, feeble, poor woman, unable to manage her lawn sprinklers, was “saved” by our wonderful program.
Yeah, how wonderful; I’m sure that old lady would have curled up and died without those lawn sprinklers. She would have had no way of properly watering her lawn without a “mobile irrigation laboratory.” Right. Whenever bureaucrats want to justify a wasteful program, they always trot out a little old lady, or children, or some other sympathetic figure and talk about how all these people are “saved” by this useless program. Sometimes I think politicians and bureaucrats should be constantly followed around by violin players.
The Cape Coral utilities manager was impressive and forceful. At one point he said, “Citizens don’t protect themselves so we have to.” He concluded, “You may as well keep this program because if you don’t we will find a way to continue, and the taxpayers won’t save a dime.”
Yikes! Sounds like the decision to build the new arena in Charlotte despite the voters voting it down, only this guy comes right out and says it! Well, at least he’s honest…
I have heard this threat before. For years myself and a small and determined alliance have successfully fought off a county sales tax. Lee County officials repeatedly scolded us saying, “If you kill this tax we’ll just find another way to raise taxes.” Ever since I was a child, threats and intimidation have provided me with the energy and determination to do the opposite and face the consequences.
I waited until everyone had their say. I started by telling a familiar but fictional story. I said, “Imagine county police coming to my home and taking my wife to jail in handcuffs because I failed to pay a fine for making unnecessary trips in my car and wasting gasoline. Imagine her living with a criminal record caused by a law she didn’t know existed.” I went on, “We don’t make criminals out of people who waste gasoline because we have a relatively free market in gasoline. We do make criminals out of people who waste water because we don’t have a free market in water distribution.”
Exactly! I’ll have to remember this story…
You can read the article here, and I have more comments below.
I turned my attention to both our employees and said, “I feel sad that I am about to vote to end your jobs but I am going to do what I believe is right, not what I think is nice.”
I now know how uncomfortable and awkward it feels to look government workers in the eye and tell them “You’re fired.” I felt sad for the two men whose income was lost and at the same time I felt exhilarated thinking of the thousands of taxpayers who will keep more of their own money.
See? Libertarians aren’t without compassion. I imagine it’s really hard to look anyone, even a government employee, in the eye and say, “Sorry, you don’t have a job anymore.” But this is about principles. And now, those two workers have the opportunity to work in the private sector doing something that actually matters! I really wonder if maybe, five years from now, they might be saying that this is the best thing that ever happened to them.
I looked around the room. Some looked bewildered. Some looked shocked. Our employees, Nik and Garry, were visibly angry. Garry was muttering something I’m glad I couldn’t hear. Jack called for a vote. Ron Edenfield brusquely pushed back his chair and stood, announcing, “Let the record show I don’t have time for this. … ” Ron walked out. Jack was unfazed. Paul Dinger voted to keep the service saying, “I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water.”
What if it’s Rosemary’s Baby? (Thank you, Harry Browne!)
Jack, Tom and I voted to end the program.
The government managers were mumbling to each other. I heard phrases like “this is unbelievable!” They stayed behind to discuss their next move.
I felt many conflicting emotions on my way out. As the day wore on I gradually realized that this was a dream come true. I am 49 years old. For 35 years I have complained about our intrusive and expensive government. Now I am government, and I am doing something about it. I have found my nirvana. Jack, Tom and I will do whatever we can to prevent other agencies from thwarting our attempts to reduce government waste and regulation. We owe this to the taxpayers and ourselves.
And the rest of us owe you three greatly for the example. Keep up the good fight!