Friday, July 13, 2012

Bringing Traditionalist Solutions To An Ozarks Town

The ACLU forced the city of Republic to remove
the Christian fish symbol from its seal and flag.
The City of Republic is a small suburb southwest of Springfield Missouri.  It is the largest and fastest growing in the region.  Republic has also gotten more than its fair share of media attention too.  Probably the most notable was about ten years ago, when it was forced by the ACLU to remove its Christian fish symbol from its flag and seal.  I liked the fish and was sorry to see it go.  It's just one more example of how this post-Enlightenment god of Secularism seeks to systematically destroy every last vestige of our once great Christian civilisation.  I am proud of the city for attempting to fight this hateful and vindictive lawsuit, but alas, they could not stand up to the deep pockets of the nearly omnipotent ACLU.  The city of Republic has since chosen to leave that quarter of the seal and flag blank, just as a reminder to the people of Republic of what once was there.

Recently, I attended a citywide town hall meeting which I am pleased to report was still opened with prayer.  This particular town hall was a very controversial one, and tempers were running hot among the people.  The community room was packed wall-to-wall with standing room only.  What was the issue on everyone's mind?  Trash.  That's right, the whole thing was about trash.

You see, the City of Republic is a beautiful and clean city, and I personally believe that is because of the free-market system of competition that currently exists here between trash haulers.  Basically, when you move into Republic, there is a list of trash haulers to choose from who have a license to operate in the city, and all you need do is just take your pick.  The system works really well at keeping prices down and keeping the streets clean.  However, it is not without its problems.  One minor problem is that trash is being picked up by one or another company on almost every weekday.  This is more of an eyesore, as when driving down the street, you can always see one or two houses with a trash bin out front.  Another problem is a big one, and this is the one that primarily concerns the city council.  It seems that big heavy trash trucks have a tendency to put a lot of wear and tear on the city streets.  So, to keep up with the growing number of large trash trucks tearing up the city streets, the council was forced to either raise taxes or else restrict license to one trash hauler and collect a small percentage fee (about 8%) to apply toward road maintenance.  So the city is now (as of the date of this essay's publication) in the process of considering this new ordinance.

The town hall meeting was packed wall-to-wall
with standing room only.
Well, as you can imagine, the citizens of Republic were a little upset about this.  No, I take that back.  They were A WHOLE LOT upset about this.  The town hall did occasionally get a little rowdy, as people found it difficult to contain their emotions.  The mayor had to take a firm tone with them from time to time.  However, I think the meeting turned out well.  The people got a chance to vent, and the city council got a chance to see just how unpopular this new proposal is.  The measure isn't expected to be voted on for over a month, but I think it will likely fail.  Should they actually dare to pass it, I highly doubt any of those poor folks on the council will be reelected.  The smart thing to do now, would be to make sure this proposal is quietly put to rest at the next city council meeting, never to see the light of day again.  I should point out here, the mayor commented on how pleased he was to see such widespread participation in the process, and he encouraged similar participation on other city issues in the future.  I agree with him on this.

Now many people rose to address the council, stating their opposition and dismay that the council would even consider such a thing.  It was correctly pointed out that creating such a city supported monopoly will eventually cause prices to rise, service to fall, jobs to be eliminated, and could potentially end up forcing the city to do the job itself.

It was at this point I took it upon myself to also express my opposition to the proposal, but at the same time offer a potential solution to the problem.  It seems to me the city council is making a common mistake that is so prevalent across our post-Enlightenment civilisation, wherein governments either take over a portion of the market (socialism), or else favour one company over all others in the market (fascism or "crony capitalism") thus creating monopolies.  Both of these methods of dealing with problems are fundamentally flawed, and ultimately cause more hardship on everyone (including the government) because they limit the ability of the people to own productive property (i.e. business) and concentrate this productive property into the hands of the few (as in monopolies) or one (as in government).  Both solutions deprive the people of the ability to address the market needs by going into business for themselves.  What is needed is the opposite approach, and this is how governments dealt with things way back during the Middle Ages.  Basically, the objective is to open the market fairly, so the little businesses have a chance to compete with the big businesses.  This is done by structuring licenses, fees and taxes in a graduated system, so as to somewhat "level the playing field," thus keeping the market open to as many little people as possible.  In modern times this way of thinking as been called by many names.  "Distributism" is one of them.  (Not to be confused with to socialist idea of "Re-distributism."  That's different.)   Others have called it "micro-economics" or "micro-capitalism."  It doesn't really matter what you name it, as long as you're thinking about it.  Personally, I like to call it the good ol' fashion "Traditional Market."  When the government participates in this idea properly, it promises to open the market up to as many small-businesses as possible, creating a thriving society wherein a good deal of people actually own their own jobs.  Such worker-owned (small business) economies tend to resist recessions and keep money more local, thus enriching the community and of course, that includes increased tax revenue.  Like I said, this is just the good ol' fashioned Traditional Market at work, but sometime in the late 1800s, America started to forget this principle.  As a result we've ended up with an economy where people usually work for someone else (a big business), and governments get locked into the false notion that they either need to artificially prop up big business (fascism or "crony capitalism"), or else take over their market entirely (socialism).

Every autumn the City of Republic celebrates its annual
"Pumpkin Daze" festival, wherein local farmers bring their
largest pumpkins for competition, while the people are entertained
with shows, booths, food, attractions.
For over 100 years now, the popes of Rome have been attempting to warn society about this dangerous economic trajectory we are on.   It began with Pope Leo XIII social encyclical entitled Rerum Novarum way back in 1891.  It was expanded upon by Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno in 1931.  Other encyclicals followed along this line right down to the current pope.  The core principle behind these documents is an idea called subsidiarity. Now what that means is this.  Everything in government and economies ought to be ordered from the smallest to the largest.  The smaller orders of government and business should be allowed to do all that they can for themselves.  This allows them to reach their full potential independently, until such time as they require help from larger government and business to do only those things which they cannot do themselves.  Then and only then, should larger government and business step in to help, serving in a subsidiary role, primarily through coordination between smaller government and business, serving smaller government and business as if they were their subsidiary.  This is the Natural Law.  Anything outside of this model is unnatural and immoral.  The smallest form of government and business is of course the nuclear family.

So applying the principle of subsidiarity and in the spirit of "distributism" or "micro-capitalism" I addressed the city council with a proposal that was consistent with the good ol' fashion Traditional Market.  I proposed to the council that garbage trucks be licensed with a graduated fee according to size and weight.  The larger and heavier trucks pay more, while the smaller and lighter trucks pay less.  Ultimately, the small and local private entrepreneur with a pickup truck or flatbed, could acquire a trash hauling license from the city for a next-to-nothing fee.   While a larger massive garbage truck, used by big trash companies, would need to pay much higher fees to acquire the same trash hauling license.  This would effectively reduce the amount of large garbage trucks on the streets in Republic, thus reducing the wear and tear on the roads, and simultaneously provide more revenue per large-truck license to help pay for road maintenance.  Also simultaneously, it preserves a free market in the city when it comes to trash hauling, giving the people more choice, while it creates local jobs at the same time for local families who want to go into the trash-hauling business for themselves.  In today's economy I can't think of anything more needed.  Hopefully, the city council will take this idea seriously, and perhaps implement it in a way that is consistent with its intentions.

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