OPINION / Al Alborn: The Wisdom of Marty Nohe – Part II
by Al Alborn
The Alborn Foundation
Marty, I hope you are not taking offense at my repeated use of your quote from the Coles District Town Hall you conducted last month. It just struck me as a profound summery of Government… and caused me to think about the many dimensions of this simple statement. I mean this dialog as a complement, not a criticism.
At the last Coles District Town Hall, Coles District Marty Nohe responded to a question about taxes with the response, “… there are just some things that only Government can do.” I have heard him say this many times before.
In the context of the aftermath of the Discretionary Fund issue, the experience of the Carry-over fund process, and the beginning of the FY2014 budget process, his statement keeps rolling over in my mind.
It is a profound observation.
There are many things only Government can do. We need Government to build roads, provide for public safety, the “really big stuff”. We need them to be there for “Katrina” events (actually, I borrowed that example from Marty also). We need a Government with the power to do things that… well… only Government can do.
But where do we draw the line between what Government can do and what anyone can do? When do we care when Government involves itself in decisions that should be left to individuals?Where do we “draw the line”?
The one thing Government can do that no other person, group, organization, or entity can do is take our money, our property, and our lives using police power, the threat of confiscation, and punishment for non-compliance if it so wishes. This makes the over-collection mis-use and abuse of our tax dollars, our money, particularly objectionable. We understand than when the Government takes our money and our property, they take our Liberty.
Some object more than others. People of good will disagree about Government’s role in our lives.
I am one of those folks who object to a large, intrusive Government that takes more of the Nation’s wealth than it needs to pay for its core services. I happen to prefer Liberty.
Since Marty’s most profound comment, I think a lot about that line between things only Government can do and things anyone can do. I also have started considering the things in which Government shouldn’t involve itself in the first place.
In Prince William County, that’s really what the budget process is about. Considering our experience with Discretionary Funds, Carryover funds, and the FY2013 budget, I’m just guessing that a lot more people will be interested in “the line” when pondering the FY2014 budget.
I particularly object to a Government that goes “way below the line” and makes what (IMHO) should be purely discretionary and in some cases very personal and private decisions regarding how we should be entertained or amused, what private groups or charities we should support, how we live, or the appearance of the misdirection public money to clearly private purposes.
I’m one of those folks willingly pays taxes to ensure a civil society. In a civil society you make the choices about your life. In a political society someone else makes those choices.
I like to make my own choices.
We have seen how that’s played out in human history. I don’t wish to be an actor in that particular play.
If Prince William County focused those things that “…only Government can do” and drew a much higher line regarding what it is willing to involve itself in, “I’m just guessing” that our Real Estate tax rate would be less than $1.00.
Think about it…Addendum: Our FY2013 real estate tax rate is 120.9. We tend to think about all of those “nice to have”, “make folks happy” amenities as costing a cent or two here or there. Those pennies add up to “real money”.
Cutting our real estate tax rate to below $1.00 would roughly be a 20% (+/-) reduction.
What would you do with a few hundred dollars extra next year? In some cases, quite a few extra hundred (or the other side of a grand)? Do you think you might prefer to decide how to spend it instead of letting the Government decide?
Some people would rather let the Government take what they want and spend it as they see fit. Others (such as myself)… not so much. Those are the stakes. We can either demand true fiscal conservatism… or not.
It’s time to engage in the budget process to get the Government we want. In my case, I want a lot less.
If you would like to try and convince me otherwise, I’m always available to join anyone over a cup of coffee who wishes to discuss this or other issues. My office is the Starbucks at the corner of the Prince William Parkway and Hoadly Road in Prince William County, Virginia.
by Al Alborn
The Alborn Foundation
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