Editor’s note: Please feel free to read part 1 from August 2017, and the revisit of that commentary. This commentary was written in 2017, but more has been added [in red italics].
By Nathan Barton
I have come to understand that the tyranny of local government here in the Fifty States is more burdensome and much greater than that even of state governments, to say nothing of the FedGov. And much harder to deal with. [especially since March of 2020, with the CCP virus panic] Local government agencies, who cannot manage their own internal affairs and business, attempt to micromanage not only the public and businesses that they supposedly serve, but every other aspect of life. Including other government agencies. It is only a fear of “having their hands cut off” that keeps them from pulling the same stupid tricks on their state and federal counterparts.
Their claim – their justification – for doing this is for the “general welfare.” I am certain that Madison spins in his grave over ever putting that rolling phrase into the preamble of the Federal Constitution.
Is it not obvious today that the FIRST and GREATEST threat to “the General Welfare” of the people is the government itself? Whether at a transnational, federal, state or tribal level? And especially at the local level? Not just the direct actions of that government, but the responses by people TO those actions?
In colonial and revolutionary times, local governments were much different than what we have in 2017 (much less in 2021- how much has changed in just 3+ uears). Much more “voluntary” and with a tiny fraction of the powers they have stolen since then. There was no “zoning” or codes for “property management,” and no such things as building permits and only limited sorts of business licenses and permits. No traffic laws, and very few things unlawful just because they were an excuse for control and fines. There were such things as blue laws and mandatory church attendance (because often the church was part of the state). Government provided few services and no goods: limited protection (or assistance) against property and personal crimes, coordination of defense against attack, courts, and a few other community functions. Matters such as utilities (including waste disposal) were left to individuals and voluntary organizations, which operated with little or no government control.
And yet people thought that they had too much government – that what little they had was too tyrannical, too prone to corruption, too restrictive of personal and economic liberty. Little did they know. Especially at the local level: villages and towns and cities and counties.
Today, the situation is incredibly different. Local governments from villages of a few dozen to gigacities of millions each have hundreds up to tens of thousands of pages of rules. Dozens and hundreds of different types of fees and taxes. Through codes (themselves thousands of pages) they regulate everything from the height of grass to the color, size, and details of signs. From the amount of water to flush a toilet to the size and style of showers and tubs. From traffic speeds and parking to the size, temperature and condiments on hot dogs sold. Worse, the local governments provide virtually every sort of service and “convenience” imaginable to their “citizens” and visitors: power and water and sewage and electricity and gas and bus and train service. Swimming pools, gyms, libraries, gaming rooms, sports fields (and organizations) and more. Education, including art and historical museums. Homeless shelters and services for homeless camps. All paid for through an insane spider’s web of fees and taxes. Fees on copies and parking, fines on parking and uncut grass and music that is too loud. Taxes on water runoff and on the very services that the governments provide. Property taxes and vehicle taxes and taxes on tires. Sales taxes and excise taxes. Excess taxes, indeed. Taxes (or fees) on applications to pay taxes! Taxes on goods and services; license fees and permit fees and more taxes on sins like gasoline and alcohol and pot.
And for what? In large part to pay city and county and district and county employees. Especially elected ones but all the “civil service” ones as well. Even those who are productive to any degree (example, road and street maintenance people or utility workers) are ultimately parasites because using them is not voluntary: there is no free market, no choice. Indeed, much if not all of what local governments provide in the way of services is subsidized competition with private enterprise. Which is therefore bullied by those agencies: forced to make decisions based on fear of action against them.
Another factor that makes local government a terror to liberty and free enterprise? Local government transfers wealth from some people to other people. Not just employees (officials or not). In essence, welfare even if not seen as such. It does immense harm to the economy and therefore to businesses and families. Whether it is “free” (or “reduced-cost”) parks and recreation, or homeless shelters, or “cultural amenities” (libraries, museums, zoos, etc.), people (and businesses) pay for things whether they use them or not. And each of these services offers opportunity for graft and corruption, striking fear in anyone dealing with them.
Much of local government is funded by the very people and businesses most abused by it: licensing fees for electricians, plumbers, and other skilled workers are used to pay for the parasitical inspectors that prey upon them. Parking meter fees fund parking wardens and more and more elaborate mechanisms to control, regulate, and harass the people parking. People applying for zoning and special use permits pay for the “privilege” of being publicly abused (and all too often denied) by officials and anyone who wants to, for doing something with/on their own property.
I do not believe it is exaggerating to say that local government terrorizes many people.