The terror of local government in the Fifty States, part 1

By Nathan Barton

The attitude and record of local governments across the Fifty States is incredibly distressing, to me and many others. It is not a series of isolated incidents, or of a few big urban areas or small rural towns, but a commonly-found situation in virtually every state and every region, for governments of all sizes.

Part of the incredible stress on our society comes from this attitude of government at the local level, where residents and businesses (and even passers-through) are subject to hundreds of different ordinances and “guidelines” and “community standards” which micro-manage daily life. They create a maze of laws that provide constant stumbling blocks that  make life miserable for many (if not most) of the residents of that town, city, or county. Worse, there are hundreds of thousands of overlapping jurisdictions that make for more and more problems.

Mama’s Note: The worst part of that, and the most frustrating to those who understand liberty, is that most people affected by the vast sea of regulations, “laws” and the overlapping jurisdictions, can’t seem to see that they have abdicated their individual, natural self ownership to these bogus “leaders.” 

The problem is multi-fold, but here are a few of the contributing factors.

First, despite the bills of rights found in the Federal constitution, and in EVERY state’s constitution, and in the charters of many local governments, the common attitude is that the powers of government are unlimited except in VERY specific and clearly defined areas of daily life, especially when it comes to so-called “police powers.” In the 1600s and 1700s, local governments (villages, parishes, towns, counties, cities) were seldom tyrannical – except for being used as part of the enforcement apparatus of the king or duke or other central government. But today, municipal or civic governments and others (districts, counties, boroughs, parishes, etc.) often not only pass laws that are far more restrictive (if not with so great a degree of punishment), but pass laws that are contrary to that of state government or the FedGov. Often these laws (whether codes or ordinances or statutes or resolutions) are both badly written and very complex, and result in serious consequences to the people.

Second, there is a self-selected group of people who live in the Fifty States who make matters far worse. This group of people are completely dedicated to regulating every last aspect of community life. (Even while they often are determined to prevent ANY regulation of what they deem to be “private” life.) This lust for regulation is strong, whatever its motive (power, risk prevention/control, wealth, fear, environism, etc.) So strong that it dominates their actions.

This “regulator-class” includes large numbers of people in local (and higher) agencies of government. Both politicians (elected and appointed) and bureaucrats in governments AND their counterparts in non-governmental organizations (such as homeowners associations and foundations) are very often of this nature. It is similar to pyromaniacs gravitating to firefighting jobs, but with far worse results. And all of these have their clients and patrons – and sadly, their admirers and lackeys.

These politicians, bureaucrats and people in power are constantly demonstrating their small-mindedness, inflexibility, and lack of common sense. As for any paper-pusher, the appearance is more important than any concrete results. Further, their mental bias means that they have little or no education, training, or experience in really accomplishing things. Important things like how to run a small business (much less a big one), how to build, maintain, and repair things, and how to work productively in situations where failure to meet expectations result in things like going broke, getting fired, or causing someone to be badly hurt or die.

There are so many examples. One very common issue (which we hear about several times a year) is lemonade stands operated “illegally” by children, where cops or (code enforcement officers) show up to bully.

We’ll talk about a really stunning one in the next segment of this commentary.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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3 Responses to The terror of local government in the Fifty States, part 1

  1. Pingback: The tyranny of local government, revisited (part 1) | The Price of Liberty

  2. JdL says:

    In my small town in Colorado, local officials micromanage every aspect of life. There were a couple of weeds growing on my property and I got a letter threatening to put a lien on my house to pay for someone to pull them unless I did so immediately. Another time my car, fully current in registration and insurance, was tagged as “abandoned” and would be towed within 2 days, because it had sat parked on the street for more than 24 hours in the same place. When I telephoned to complain, I was told that I must move it every day whether I needed to drive anywhere or not. My tax dollars go to pay for several ASSHOLES to drive around in pickup trucks marked “Code Enforcement”, making trouble everywhere they can. It’s very hard for me not to wish that someone shoot them all.


    • MamaLiberty says:

      Sounds too much like where my sister lives in So. Calif. Hard to imagine it going on in Colorado… but I keep hearing such things. I suspect it would be a whole lot better, even easier to move instead of shooting… but we each have to do what we have to do. Come visit NE Wyoming. 🙂 We don’t even have “building codes” or “business licenses” except in the three small “cities.” Nobody measures your grass or counts your weeds, but if you have trouble – as I do – getting the weeds mowed once or twice a year, your neighbors will gladly help you. Oh, I’m sure we have a few assholes in our local government, but they tend to keep a low profile. Even the “dog catcher” is polite.

      Did I ever tell you about the time the “city council” here decided to license and tag cats? I need to write that one up. That, and one county commissioner’s meeting I attended a few years back. Did my old heart good…


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