During the past week, A.Smith wrote several articles about how to make Klamath County a better community. He has told me he has many, many more ideas, “My ways to improve this county are nearly endless. I can always think of some new and helpful way government can make life better and easier for Klamath County residents.” A.Smith claims he has ideas to create a special levy for:
- Park Beautification for only $0.05/$1,000 — residents always enjoy beautiful parks
- Public Safety for only $0.25/$1,000 — to ensure jails are always open keeping criminals locked up
- County Trapper for only $0.05/$1,000 — to ensure wolves and coyotes don’t negatively effect livestock. Maybe even two or three trappers instead of just one for only $0.10/$,1000
- County Lunch Service for only $0.07/$1,000— Free Lunches on Wednesday provided by the county for those who can’t afford a decent meal and are starving
- County Detox Center for only $0.15/$1,000 — so we don’t use jail space to sober up people drunk or high
- County School Improvement for only $1.50/$1,000 — to rebuild/rennovate all county school buildings over 50 years old
- Senior Center Expansion for only $0.12/$1,000 — to expand the senior center program to have satillite locations throughout the county, not just in Klamath Falls.
- Economic Development Upgrade for only $0.58/$1,000 — to better fund and expand KCEDA, the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, and SCCOED.
Like he said, his list is nearly endless (and yes, he has many, many more ideas). If you think all of these ideas, including the four he wrote about previous (County Coffee Shops, County Library, County Museum, County Daycare Centers, County Airport), are wonderful then you also think adding $4.44/$1,000 to existing taxes is also a fine idea. Of course no one would ever propose a $4.44 levy in Klamath. That would never pass. So the trick is to offer one, maybe two at a time and over time the public is gullible enough to pass them, especially if it makes the community better or helps the poor and the children.
In 2007 Costco sales representatives came around to Klamath businesses introducing themselves and informing the public that Coscto was soon coming to Klamath Falls. Due to some bureaucratic hurdles, Costco decided to defer building in Klamath and to construct a store in Roseburg instead. Costco’s plan was to come back to Klamath Falls and begin construction the next year. However, in 2008 the housing bubble burst and the Klamath economy has yet to recover. Recently, Costco did visit the area again to conduct another economic feasibility study. The result? Klamath does not have enough residents with enough disposable income to sustain a Costco store in Klamath Falls.
Every time a new levy or tax bill is proposed it removes more and more disposable income from the private sector and transfers it to the public sector. So while local politicians can claim they want Costco — and other major franchises to come to Klamath County, in order to bring good paying jobs and better products/services — the fact is they are hypocritical in their claims unless they strongly oppose every single new tax levy. Costco has shown us the way. If we want to attract stores like Costco to the area we need people, not government, must have more disposable income. Better looking school buildings, fancy higher education, beautiful parks and more jail space mean little to companies like Costco.
Only Commissioner Linthicum has stood in firm opposition of every new tax idea since his time in office. Commission Bellet has supported several new taxing measures and now is willing to help bring another taxing bill to the voters. Commissioner Mallams has been silent. And when it comes to taxing the public, there is no neutral. Silence is a coward’s way to cast a yes vote for more taxes. We did not elect Commissioner Bellet or Mallams to office to remain support new taxes overtyly or covertly, but to stand on principles of no new taxes — a pledge Mallams ran on in 2012.
But Government Can Create A Better Community
That’s the claim. In every article written by A.Smith, he claims if passed, his ideas (with your money and by the force of government mandates) will make Klamath a better community. How do you feel about each of these proposals? If you like some, but not others, then you really are saying you want government to enforce your preferences over that of others. But before you agree that is a good idea, know that history also calls preference-based government tyranny. The furthest thing from our minds should be a government where the preferences of one group become the rule of law, tax policy or any other kind of regulatory policy. This is exactly why the EPA, Department of Education and so on (name your favorite agency) are so out of control. Their policies are all based on their preferences over yours. They think they know how to make a better nation, a better community and a better world. They use laws, regulations, fines and jail time to get their way. Preference-based government always leads to tyranny, no matter what good intentions may be the stated reason for such governance. Moreover, government is always the worst entity to bring about any of these noble ideas. Why? Because government never spends their money. Government doesn’t have any money. Government first takes our money, then spends our money. It is real easy to spend other people's money. Just ask Commissioners Bellet and Mallams. It is hard to find a tax idea they don't like or have strongly opposed since coming to office.
What we should demand is a principled-based government, not a preference-based one. A principled-based government would form its tax policy on the idea of “he who pays, is the one who benefits.” So if you frequently use the library, the museums, drink coffee, use the senior center, fly in and out of town, eat lunch, attend primary or secondary school, are part of the Chamber of Commerce, have coyotes or wolves on your property, spend much time in public parks and need a few nights in a detox center, then we should tax you for based on how much you use each service. But the point is, none of us do all these things. We may do some, we may do none, but we pay for everything.
Think of it this way. Suppose each time you went to the store you not only paid for what is in your cart but also paid for a portion of what is the three shopping carts behind you. Would you continue to go to that store to shop? Of course not. You are careful what you buy and how much you spend. You only have so much money. However at this store they charge you more for other people’s preferences, whether you agree with them or not. When a government forces us to pool our money together with everyone else for the “good of the community” that is called socialism. Ask any former resident of the Soviet Union, and they will tell you the slogan they lived by for nearly a century “from each according to his ability, and to each according to his need.” Of course the government, in its omniscience, decides what you need and what you don’t.
The point is a principled-based government says these tax levy ideas are either all good ideas because they are based on principle that the governmental preferences trump yours (and that government knows best how to spend your money) or these are all bad ideas because not everyone benefits but everyone pays. There is no in between. There are not some good ideas (because you may like them – they are your preference) but some bad ideas because you don't (again your preference). A principled approach says all these taxing ideas are good or all of them are bad based on principle. The justification for each of these tax levy ideas is exactly the same.
So Do We Just Live In Dumpy Community?
There is a false notion running about, which is that only through government can we achieve a good, livable community. That is a bad idea. We should dismiss it every time someone proposes it. When someone stands up with their idea and wants everyone else to pay for it, we should tell them that is not the American way. While government does have a role to play by providing justice and order, anything else should be done by the will of individual people, not by the force of government. If we want a robust library system, quit taxing everyone (including those who never use the library) and create a private library club, which charges a user fee and/or member dues. I can guarantee you that a private library club would cater far better to the wants and needs of its constituents than does the current governmental system. All the waste from overstaffing and overpaying (remember current library employees are government employees and part of PERS) will almost immediately disappear. A better, more efficient library system will emerge, one that truly meets the needs of the people, as they want it, not as some government bureaucrat dreams up for the rest of us. Moreover, we will all save $0.49/$1,000 to spend on what we want. It may be books. It might not be. The point is, we get to decide how to spend our money.
If we want airport service to Klamath County, then we need people willing to pay to fly. It's that simple. Right now the economic conditions don't favor that, but in the future they probably will. Don't ever think airlines are so stupid they will not come to Klamath if there is an opportunity to make a profit — which is exactly the point. Profit, not nanny-state bureaucrats, will drive businesses to best allocate resources. If Klamath is unprofitable, then businesses stay away. But taxing everyone, so relatively few people can avoid the drive to Medford to catch a plane is bad policy for all.
If you desire a better school building for your children, then start protesting Salem to allocate some of the educational dollars for building improvements. Right now most of the educational funding is allocated for union employees who pay union dues. Matter of fact, if you want a better education for our children, then we should lobby Salem to stop giving education funding to school districts and to start giving these funds directly to parents. Let’s have all the schools — public, private and homeschool — compete for these dollars. Competition, not the current government monopoly on education funding, will always produce the best education system possible.
Just Say “No”
The idea of a better community is a noble one. It is something we should all strive for. The problem is government enforcing particular preferences on everyone is not the way to achieve this goal. Government’s preference is not the principle America was founded upon. If we all desire a better community, that’s great. Turning to government to create it is not so great — matter of fact that is what Cuba has today. Giving us the liberty to decide for ourselves is what will make a better community and is the American way. We decide, not someone for us. Taxing us to provide a service that many of us never use is not liberty. Taxing us for programs that are someone else‘s idea of a better community is not liberty.
If you’ve noticed a theme in this article it is government does best when it is constrained on its specific duty of justice and order. We ALL benefit from justice and order. Matter of fact, without it we can’t have a civilized society. So we ALL pay taxes for the benefit received of justice and order. Government also does best when it leaves everything else for us to decide individually. That said, almost everything besides justice and order is preference-based. For preferences private clubs, private organizations, churches and private businesses will always provide better service, better choice and a better price than any monolithic, one-size-fits-all government program could ever hope to achieve.
Nancy Reagan was right when she said we should just say “No”. I’ll modify her phrase a bit and encourage us to just say “No” to preference-based government. Preferences are the for people not for the politicians. After all that is what liberty is all about. We the people are free to choose, free to associate and not to associate. We must not allow others, through the force of government, to dictate their preferences on us.