By Nathan Barton
Thanks to Laissez Faire for this news item a week or so ago, from the Dallas News. A man who had a relatively small pile of firewood on the property that he sold in 2002 in the Texan city of Flower Mound has been caught at last, and is facing BILLIONS of dollars in fines. He violated state environmental laws and being charged with illegal disposal of solid waste.
He may also be charged under various other laws, such as daily violations of codes adopted by most cities and counties across the Fifty States. One example is the infamous International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). The IPMC can be adopted by a council or board in a matter of minutes, creating thousands of regulations that allow their bureaucrats to fill in the blanks, and potentially rack up tens of thousands of fines for such things as:
- having grass 7 inches high instead of 6 inches (or 5 instead of 4).
- having weeds, especially weeds which are taller than the grass.
- having any motor vehicle parked and visible on your property (even inside a garage if you leave the door open) if it doesn’t have a current license plate, or if it appears to be “inoperable.”
- having piles of “brush” (including cut branches, piles of leaves or weeds, and including firewood) on your property.
- having a panel missing or partially fallen from a security or privacy fence.
- having a fence that is too high (fill-in the height: 6, 7 or 8 feet or even 5) or too short (safety hazard).
- having a dead branch on a tree (and heaven forbid you have a dead tree!).
- not having green grass.
- having a cracked pane in a window.
The list goes on and on. Whether it is conservation laws (water, especially) or environmental protection laws (illegal trash disposal, illegal drainage into storm drains, illegal septic tanks, etc.) or property maintenance laws like the above, they exist SUPPOSEDLY to make the communities look good. The excuse is that government is supposed to protect the health and safety of their people, a vast expansion of government that was once justified as protecting people from aggression. And never mind that the greatest threats that modern governments see today to people’s safety and health are the various people themselves. We MUST be protected from ourselves.
But the PRACTICAL benefit to the boards and commissions and councils that pass these is MONEY, fines and fees. They hire staff who are paid to go out and find violations, write notices of violation, and collecting fines and fees. And then they go find scumbag “legal” firms; robbers in three-piece suits with “Esquire” after their name. They contract with the law firms to collect the fines, tacking administrative fees and interest and everything else that they can, so that the attorneys reap as much or more profit than the cities do. And because they have more staff, the supervisors (especially those elected officials and their chief minions) can get more pay, more power, and more prestige.
And it IS profitable, as well as tyrannical. Consider: you pay the “code enforcement officer” $50,000 a year, and they use another $50,000 a year in overhead (their vehicle, admin support, postage, printing, office, etc.) For 200 days a year (remember, we are talking government employees) for 8 hours a day, they can write, say, 5 tickets/notices of violation, an hour: 40 a day, 8,000 a year. The fines are usually steep: I know one town that has a $150 fine for a car without tags, and $500 for a second violation within 60 days, and $850 for a third. But lets just go with a “modest” $100 fine: that is $800,000 A YEAR for a cost of only $100,000. Even if only half of the violations actually end up with fines, that is still a 400% PROFIT. Of course, all that profit is eaten up by the code enforcement officer-in-charge, and the CEOIC’s supervisor, up to the City or County Manager, and of course, with a slice for the council or commission: in “expenses” if not in actual salary. It is a nice racket. For those “simple serpents” who are as sly and evil as their spiritual ancestor in Eden.
Government is bad: international, national, state, or local. It steals and abuses and tyrannizes.
Enough is enough.
Mama’s Note: I once asked the lady at the county courthouse (rural Wyoming) just what the purpose was for the vehicle “registration” and fee. It took her a few moments to actually grasp the fact that I was not questioning the modest “fee,” but the actual purpose for the whole charade. I happened to be talking to the chief records clerk there, and she hesitated for several minutes… everyone else just watching her. Hemming and hawing (she’s actually a nice lady), she finally told me that it was so the car could be recovered if it were stolen.The ladies behind her had various expressions of surprise and amusement on their faces. They all know very well what it is all about. We’ve talked about it many times over the years.
I’ve never had a car stolen, and probably never will now that so few can drive a stick shift… but I didn’t even bother to point that out and ask for an opt out… I wouldn’t want a medical emergency on my hands. She had a hard enough time coming up with the first silly answer.