Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I Don't Ask My Neighbors to Pay for My Hobbies, But Maybe I Should

The Town of East Fishkill, which claims authority over me and mine, held a fireworks display and concert at the main recreation center on Monday, July 3. I am pretty sure that this was financed with “public” funds. My car pool companion took his family and thanked me this morning for my part in financing a good time for the kids. He knows how I feel about forced subsidies.

That I have been taxed to pay for an evening of fireworks and oldies gives me serious heartburn. This is a far cry from the “necessary” police and roads and other “vital” government services that apologists for the state generally cite in opposition to my calls for anarchy. How can the coercive organization and financing of this frippery, this pure entertainment, be justified? One of my statist conspecifics blithely informed me that the public fireworks display is a critical part of public safety! You see, if the town didn’t put on a good show, then a lot more individuals would set off even bigger fireworks on their own and create the danger of fire or personal injury. The town’s display is controlled, with firefighters at the ready, and it is meant to satisfy the cravings of the average subject for Independence Day explosions.

Some of my neighbors must not have gotten the memo since they set off firecrackers and explosive devices well into the night yesterday, much to the chagrin of my Carpathian shepherd, Jesse Lou Baggett. I don’t know how seriously to take my conspecific’s assertions about the justification for the public spectacle. I concede that fireworks are cool and that it is preferable for a variety of reasons to have a single spectacular display rather than a thousand crappy backyard displays. My objection is not to the display but to its coercive organization. Don’t force me with the threat of violence to pay for this entertainment. Pay for it with voluntary contributions or fees.

Of course, the Independence Day fireworks are not the only frippery that East Fishkill subsidizes. The Recreation Department provides playing fields and facilities for softball and baseball, soccer, football, and roller skating. There is an entire “skate park” that I am forced to pay for whether I skate or not or whether I think skating is of such public consequence that it must be financed involuntarily for the public good. If your kids like to skate, and if there is enough demand for a place to skate, surely a businessman will come along to fill that need. Or the friends of skating could voluntarily finance the activity that they love so well. What selfishness and inconsideration characterize those who demand, backed up by the force of law, that their neighbors pay for their skating hobby! Or their baseball, or any of the things that the Recreation Department provides.

The arguments for the coercive provision of these services and facilities strain logic. They are nothing more than a bald appeal to force. “I will make you pay for my amusement because I can.” My “ponies for everyone” plan is as readily justifiable. I may run for town board on this platform. Ponies are nice. People love ponies but can’t always afford their upkeep. East Fishkill could provide each household with a pony and food and shelter to sustain it. You don’t want a pony? Fine. You still have to pay for my pony, though, you pony hating bastard. How can you be against ponies? Are the other recreation programs any less silly than the ponies for everyone plan? They are justified the same way. Softball is fun. Everybody loves softball. East Fishkill could build and maintain some lighted ball fields for softball players.

One of my conspecifics likens the Recreation Department and East Fishkill to a club that gets together for its mutual benefit and to provide goods, such as parks and ball grounds, that are not so easily provided by individuals. The difference, and this is huge for me but apparently not for my conspecific, is that it is involuntary. I can’t opt out (unless I move away where some other town will nail me for its taxes). If I don’t pay, the town will kick me out of my home. The town will even kill me if it thinks it has to in order to evict me from my house in a tax foreclosure. If folks want to form a mutual aid society and go in on some ball grounds or a skating park, good for them. I might even join them. But it makes no moral sense at all to extract money by force from everyone to pay for the amusement of a few or even the amusement of a majority.

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