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YC Magazine, Libertarian Commentary, October 2011

It’s not the government’s job, it’s ours

We need more conversations between neighbors. We need more looking out for each other, and sometimes, we need someone to step in and pick up the slack. Picking up the slack is not something that our local government should be wasting time or money on, just because you are afraid, annoyed, upset, or bored.

Local government has a core responsibility to protect you from harm, theft and fraud, and that’s it. It is their responsibility to ensure that each individual person’s natural rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the fruits of their labor are protected. Otherwise, towns and cities run the risk of running out of money for core services and end up perpetuating a coddled society with increasingly reduced freedom.

“What will the city/town/county/police/animal control do about it?” is a tired refrain. To that I say, “Talk to each other and find a voluntary solution to the issue.” Concerns about pets, noise, trash, and boredom can be easily solved by action on our part.

York County has been considering a pet licensing law this summer, but it will only subsidize bad behavior. If people don’t follow rules in the first place, and mistreats an animal or does not responsibly neuter or spay an animal, why would they even spring for a $75.00 fertile pet license fee? That is almost the cost of the spay/neuter surgery itself. Moreover, it will drive up the cost of purebred animals and may discourage some from adopting. Even a $7.00 non-fertile pet license is ridiculous because it micromanages the decisions of pet owners who are already responsible.

Talk to your neighbor about their pets. If someone’s dog is barking, it may be that a new owner doesn’t quite know how to handle it. If you see an animal on the loose, be a Good Samaritan and try to find its owner. Sometimes dogs bark too much, are scary, leave a surprise on your grass, or run away. More often the owner is not trained properly in training their pet, can’t afford the vet bill, and does not realize the full responsibility and cost of proper ownership.

I would rather see a stiff penalty for irresponsible pet owners and problem animals than a blanket pet licensing fee for responsible pet owners whose privacy is invaded and medical decisions micromanaged. Not everyone is keen on having their pet chipped, out of concern for privacy and animal health.

Noise complaints often trigger calls to police instead of inspiring a chat with the neighbor. The police have better things to do than to visit someone who doesn’t know how to speak up or use ear plugs. Talk to your neighbor first; let the police chase down the violent offenders.

If there’s trash lying around that you don’t think should be there, kindly take it to the dump yourself or tell whoever is responsible to cart it away. York County has several places for you to dump your trash or recyclable items. There’s no reason you should have to stare at it and fume. Adopt-A-Highway is a wonderful volunteer cleanup effort that could be replicated in your own neighborhood.

Some in local government wish to patronize certain groups or create a legacy for themselves. That’s human nature, but it’s morally wrong to take taxpayer money to do anything outside of protecting citizens’ rights. Local government’s job is to fund real police work, not to build historical museums, memorials, or other tributes or hold events like those we have in York County. That area should be strictly for the private sector.

In late May of 2009, the town council of Fort Mill voted to give $1000.00 a month for for six months (totalling $6,000) to the Fort Mill Art Guild for its gallery rent on Main Street. This space was not supported wholeheartedly by the public or its members due to the economy, the programs, or lack of publicity. As a member, I offered a challenge to the rest of the members to donate along with me so the art gallery could continue to pay its rent. Only a few people pulled through, and eventually the gallery closed. Private businesses that offer artist space are a more sustainable alternative. All of the support there is voluntary, not forcibly taken from taxpayers. The beauty of private enterprise is that you often get more for your money, and it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Special thanks to Waddell Gibson and Larry Huntley for voting “No” on this pet project.

If local government wished to promote a project and ask for voluntary funds, fundraising could be done cheaply. Don’t we have enough pride in the history of our community and reverence for those who served to fund these “extras?” An easy way to do that would be to add a check box on the property tax form, ask for donations in the local utility bill, or some other form of simple communication.

I would like to encourage everyone to start a community watch program in your neighborhood. Anything we all can do toward making York County a better place is worth it. Let’s roll up our sleeves and do something about it voluntarily. In the long run, it will cost us less if we simply look out for each other and communicate.

Jen is the chair of the York County Libertarian Party. For more information, go to: http://www.yclp.org

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