Friday, March 11, 2005


It's funny. I have heard many general objections to the idea of Libertarians serving in government, usually based on misconceptions, resulting in preposterous doomsday scenarios.

My favorite is the hog farm scenario. Because Libertarians believe in the right of private owners to enjoy the fullest property rights possible, some interpret this to mean that hog farms will sprout up next to their fine suburban home or church. They want zoning to ensure that the hog farm will be kept away. What would really keep the hog farm away is the value of land in the area. If there are $200,000 homes on $40,000 half-acre sites, there is no way a hog farmer will be interested in the adjacent parcels. In order to make a living, a hog farmer needs acreage that goes for about $4,000/acre, not $80,000/acre. That price will keep him away better than any zoning regulation. After all, zoning regs vanish with the payment of the variance fee.

In the confusion over the distinction between libertarianism and libertinage, we find that some people think that anarchy will plague any jurisdiction that elects even one Libertarian, with rioting in the streets, and the city in flames.

So, at last, I arrive at my long-winded irony. Whenever I see a major party mayor or governor looking at a tight budget, the first thing out of their mouths is the threat of layoffs affecting police or fire forces.

Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, a Democrat, proposed an intriguing plan to consolidate the police and sheriffs departments. It's worth a look, and if the consolidation can produce savings to the taxpayers without a loss in efficiency and effectiveness, it's worth doing.

Because the consolidation apparently needs legislative approval, and the Republicans in the legislature are stringing the approval along, the Mayor fell back on scare tactics. Peterson put the following items on the block, to various degrees, per the Indy Star:

Mayor Bart Peterson outlined some services he said could be cut if his
Indianapolis Works plan to streamline local government is not approved by the
General Assembly. Peterson said not all of the cuts likely would have to be
made. Here are examples:

Police officer layoffs
Firefighter layoffs
Reduce street sweeping
Reduce garbage collections
Eliminate non-required water qulaity monitoring
Close city parks
Reduce staff in the Mayor's Action Center
Eliminate historic preservation planning.

This is the kind of slash-and-burn cutting that we get accused of, but would never propose. We propose the removal of frivolities. Mayor Peterson proposes to eliminate the essentials first while maintaining the frivolities, to reduce quality of life for all citizens rather than for political hacks.
"We need to do whatever it takes to avoid making these choices," Peterson said.

Very well! A Libertarian wants to cut many things from a city budget. Funding for the police or fire is not one of them. I wouldn't dream of proposing to close parks or stop picking up garbage. Since he seems to be begging for it, let's give the Mayor a little free help.

Any lobbying a city does, such as for a football stadium, should be cut immediately. No city or other government entity should ever be involved in the promotion of the arts. Art is in the eye of the beholder, so the last thing I want is a soul-less bureaucracy enforcing official beauty. Cut all associated expenses immediately. Pie-in-the-sky, speculative alternative transportation is the stuff of billionaire adventurers, not responsible cities. Cut it immediately. Is it really necessary that the Mayor's staff be as large as it is? Cut it immediately.

Go to the City's website. There is all kinds of pork ready to be chopped. Chop it out and see if there isn't plenty of money suddenly available for the proper functions of government, such as safety forces.


Anonymous said...

I might propose a cut in garbage services in Indy, altho as bad as the city smells in the summertime who would notice? Seriously. How much does the taxpayer in Indy pay in taxes for garbage pickup? I pay a private company $18.79/Month and that includes rental of a wheeled herbie. Does the Marion County/Indianapolis taxpayer pay more than that? And with all the added restrictions (most of which I do not have) is it actually more convenient and cost effective to shift garbage collection to private companies? How much might Indianapolis save if they went that route..and returned the savings to the taxpayer?

Mike Kole said...

Privatizing the garbage pick-up works for me, too, but if we are seriously going to cut the fat from the budget, let's start with big gobs of fat, like Vice Mayors and other extra staff, the arts, and lobbying the legislature.

The main thing is the prioritizion. Police and other safety must be highest priority. Lobbying the legislature should not be funded at all. Privitizing the garbage pick-up can become a priority for serious buget cutters when the big gobs of fat have been successfully eliminated.