Thursday, March 12, 2015

Politically Insoluble Part 3: Directions

The previous two essays have outlined why political engagement alone will prove insufficient to reverse (perhaps even to decelerate) the totalitarianization of these United States. Indeed, there’s a possibility that political engagement is part of the problem rather than a component of any solution. But that’s ground we’ve already covered; if you accept the thesis, the obvious next question is “Then what?”

I’ll allow that there are many ways forward that appear potentially constructive at least. For my money, the one that’s most promising is a campaign of localized apolitical privatization.

What I mean by that might not be immediately clear, so let’s have a go at an example or two.

Smith lives in a neighborhood that’s being marred by a slowly increasing frequency of crimes against property. He ponders applying to the relevant police precinct for additional surveillance, perhaps a regular roving patrol, but realizes that, as his locale is neither as prosperous as some nor as badly off as others, he’d have a hard time making the case that the police ought to devote more of their resources to it.

What about political action? Some residential areas have used partisan influence to cause protective resources to be redirected in their favor. It could work – Smith’s neighborhood is largely inclined in the direction of the currently dominant party – but it would run the risk of being temporary, as political solutions always are. Smith files the thought away while he looks for another approach.

Smith suddenly remembers an article he read, a couple of years back, about a neighborhood in another state that formed a gun club specifically for its residents. That neighborhood had seen a dramatic decrease in local crime, as predators are naturally wary of law-abiding citizens with firearms. There was a cost – property suitable for a firing range had to be purchased, and someone had to be paid to administer the club – but the result seemed positive all the same. “What if such a club were coupled to a Neighborhood Watch program?” he muses.

Smith appeals to his neighbors for their thoughts. The bifurcated approach to deterring crime appeals to the majority of them. There’s some difficulty working out the details at first, but ultimately the necessary funds and scheduling requirements work themselves out. Presently the neighborhood has an armed guard, composed of the persons best inclined toward taking the problem seriously: its own residents. Crime decreases. Property values go up. Perhaps best of all, neighbors become better acquainted with one another: more neighborly.

Smith, delighted with the success of the anti-crime efforts, turns his attention to another problem of note: the inadequacy of the local public schools. Property taxes increase each year, always on the representation that the schools can’t do a decent job without more money. Yet the complaints against the schools increase even more swiftly, with special focus on the displacement of academic substance by politically correct indoctrination. The administrators turn aside every suggestion for improvement by crying poverty.

Smith is aware that there are a couple of homeschooling families not far away. He resolves to visit them, to describe his neighborhood’s problem, and to ask their advice.

The homeschoolers prove more than happy to share their knowledge and experience. They readily admit that homeschooling isn’t for everyone – that some children don’t learn well in such an environment and need more regimentation than a parent with multiple responsibilities can provide – but that a variation on familial homeschooling might prove suitable, if it can be “scaled up” to neighborhood size.

Smith looks up some retirees. A couple of technologists, a doctor, and a former public-school teacher agree to take part in an ad hoc private grammar school, admission restricted to children of the residents of the neighborhood, if there’s adequate compensation for their time and sufficient interest from the locale. Once a group of students has been assembled, each of the retirees agrees to put an hour a day, five days per week into operating a class in the finished basement of a suitable private residence. As the children are of varying ages, the challenge resembles that of the one-room schoolhouses of old, but without interference from the smothering hand of the educratic bureaucracy, the task proves manageable.

Without the interference of the unions and the massive superstructure of the government-run schools to impede them, the retirees prove equal to the task. The students actually learn. More, since their “school day” is only four hours long, they feel less stifled by the routine and have more time for their own pursuits. Interest grows in the arrangement among formerly skeptical parents.

Things are seriously looking up for Smith’s neighborhood. However, there remain some irritating problems. One such, potholes in the streets, rises to the top of the list.

Smith visits a local driveway-paving company for advice. The proprietors are happy to talk about their business, which tends to be seasonal, occasioning certain difficulties in cash flow management. When Smith raises the pothole problem, they disparage the efforts of the town highway department, which appears uninterested in providing long-lasting repairs, and assert that they could do a better job if trusted with it.

Smith’s next stops are at the homes of residents on a badly potholed street. He asks them, “Would you be willing to pay for good-quality repairs?” When enough of them have agreed, he arranges a meeting with the driveway-paving business. A deal is eventually struck that defines the scope of the job, the price per pothole, and the degree of responsiveness expected of the company. The pavers are happy to discount their services for the sake of an “off-season” income where there was none before. Even so, it’s not cheap, but by dividing the cost among themselves, the residents find it bearable and worthwhile.

Smith’s own street is a particular problem, as only he is willing to bear any share of the cost for repairs. He decides to hold onto the idea until enough of his immediate neighbors find the potholes as annoying as he.

Not everything is well. Local politicians and bureaucrats are not pleased. Smith’s neighborhood is making them look bad. They can’t abide the constant comparisons between “Smithville” and surrounding locales that continue to depend upon “official” institutions. Yet the incentives public employees face prove too strong to overcome; they know their jobs are safe, and that they’ll get paid regardless of how slowly or shoddily they perform. Wasn’t the effective lack of accountability a big part of the reason they agreed to work for a government?

So the politicians and school board members strike back in the way they know best, the way that’s proved most effective in the past: at the residents’ wallets. Taxes and fees escalate sharply. The police and town officials attempt to intrude into Smithville’s private arrangements, demanding payoffs before they’ll go away. Smithville’s residents begin to question the wisdom of Smith’s work.

So Smith calls in the press: reporters from the local weekly, the regional daily, and the local cable-television channel. All of them find the contrast between Smithville and surrounding demesnes striking and suggestive. As are reporters everywhere, they’re particularly interested in the politicos’ attempts to bludgeon Smithville’s residents back into conformance with government control. Nothing excites a reporter’s enthusiasm for a story like a whiff of corruption. Coverage of the contest becomes intense...and the residents of Smithville find themselves regarded as heroic champions of “the little guy.”

There’s no way of knowing how things will eventuate, but Smithville has an asset the politicians can’t match: the degree to which they’ve come together in a common cause for their own local interests. Whether the hand of government is heavy enough to offset that advantage is unclear.

The above are examples of what I mean by localized apolitical privatization:

  • They operate at a neighborhood level and resist being enlarged beyond that;
  • They eschew the involvement of government in local concerns;
  • They assume private responsibility for problems currently deemed as being in the government’s sphere.

Are they perfect? No. Are they absolutely proof against governmental counter-action? Of course not. But in emphasizing community involvement and private responsibility, they bear the characteristics any approach to getting off the Mishnory road must exhibit.

Freedom requires the exclusion of government from one’s affairs. You cannot employ or sanction coercion if you want to be free; the two are opposites in every way. Indeed, it might even be a mistake to oppose government, for that requires you to shift your focus from what you want to what you don’t – and there will always be opponents who’ll strain to keep your focus there. That’s no way to get off the Mishnory road.

Finally, watch out for Smith. Successes of the sort described above could go to his head; he could be persuaded that he’s become a large enough cheese to deserve public office. His public hanging would be a most unfortunate outcome.

I await your thoughts.


Manu said...

Good advice. My neighborhood has, to great extent, already started down this road. There is an old Spanish couple across the street. They are staunch conservative Catholics, but rising medical expenses have been hurting them greatly lately.

My wife still has to work part time for us to make ends meet, but we have a newborn son. Daycares here are limited to 3 infants per caregiver, by law, and this means the expense of daycare is utterly obscene. Around here, you would pay $1,500/month for such.

So since we have been friends with the old Spanish family across the street for some years, and trust them greatly, we struck upon a solution. We pay them $700/month to look after our son during the day. We save $800, and they get the extra money they need for medication. Our son gets *better* care, from religiously-minded, good people.

A few months ago, a couple of hoodlums began trying to break into homes. They jimmied our back door, but ran off before they could steal anything. The neighborhood came together, and kept a close watch on everyone's homes. The hoodlums were caught and detained in the garage of another neighbor they tried to rob, by the prompt, attentive actions of the neighbors.

The deputies here are closer to our side of things, than that of the Progressives in the incorporated areas, and so they came promptly and picked up the hoodlums without making a legal fuss about whether or not we had a right to detain. We haven't had any trouble from hoodlums since. Word gets around: these people are armed, and on the lookout. They go to greener pastures.

As in the old days, when I am too busy to mow my own lawn or do the weeding, I pay the teenager across the street to do it. Cheaper than a service, and if he does a poor job, his parents send him back to the thing right. Gives him spending money, too.

So much of bringing down tyranny is simply refusing the "services" they provide and doing a better job locally, getting to know people again and building local communities that take care of one another.

You'll save money and make the enemy obsolete in the doing. And when things go really South, as they must, eventually, you'll have defense-in-depth. Your neighborhood will be a local stronghold, a tough nut for enemies to crack.

GamegetterII said...

Excellent explanation by example.

Doing such things would be a great start,and would be very effective because of the lack of .gov inc. interference by regulation.
The use of local media could work to such citizens benefit-one of the few things they're good for.
By starting local,in multiple neighborhoods,in multiple cities,the movement could grow exponentially.
The homeschool movement is growing around here-(NE Ohio)-people are fed up with their kids doing nothing but taking tests,and being filled with far-left bullshit during what little lass time there is.
K-12 public education has been nothing more than leftist indoctrination centers since at least the mid 1970's.
There's been all kinds of examples of this in the news over the past year or so-schools teaching that there is debate over the second amendment-not that it shall not be infringed,teaching that blacks are being oppressed by whites,that "white privilege" is real,America has a terrible history of violating human rights,that we should just let anyone who wants to come here walk across the borders,and once they're here-they have the same rights as an American citizen-and on and on and on.
The reason it costs so much to have a plumber or electrician come to your house is because of .gov inc. licensing and regulation-we avoid that by just doing the work ourselves around here with everything except the few things that require a city/county inspection by a building inspector,and signed off on by a "licensed" plumber,or a "licensed" electrician. I have worked in the trades for many years,and have nothing against guys making a living,but some of the "rules/regs" are absurd-why do I need someone with a state issued "license" to do stuff I'm perfectly capable of doing myself?
Since I'm not a full-time plumber,or a full-time electrician-it doesn't make any sense for me to go take the tests,get my state certification,both of which I must pay the state for-then pay the state even more $$ for my license-which I then must pay to renew each year-there's just no point in my doing that to change out 4-5 hot water tanks per year,or add a couple new breakers,and run the wiring for a few guys new shops they're setting up in their garage,or put up a few new outdoor lights,and run a gas line to the new deck or patio I put in.
The quality of my work is the same as the guy with the license-so why does the state require a license?
Only so they can make more $$ from those of us who work for a living,and are not a part of the cheese eaters that make up the free shit army.
If I didn't do quality work-I wouldn't have repeat customers,and very soon,I would have no customers-without the state getting involved.
Ok,sorry that turned into a rant-but I did have a inc. does not need to be involved in most of the regulatory shit they are involved in-they make $35.00 for the permit every hot water tank that's replaced-for what-so their clueless inspector an look at it and say"okay there's cold line going in-hot line coming out,it's not leaking,so it's ok". Why do we accept this bullshit?

Backwoods Engineer said...

Great advice, Fran. I have lived among people who have fixed our own street potholes, educated our own kids, and protected our own neighborhoods, so I know this stuff is possible. And actually, I think it's happening more than is reported by the media.

In one neighborhood I lived in, the neighborhood banded together to get a local concrete company to fix a giant crack and a broken curb on a cul-de-sac.

My wife & I homeschooled our kids, and my wife taught other homeschoolers math, including the kid down the street who mowed my lawn and played XBox with my son.

As for security, my son & I once performed an armed "clearing" of a neighbors' house when they came home to find the door ajar, and came next door to ask my wife and I what to do. (All was well--they just didn't pull the door to the jamb when they left.) They asked us because they knew we'd gotten our concealed-carry permits and were shooters. Which proves you don't have to be the expert, just the local approximation of one.

I'm going to start thinking more along these lines. I hope you do, too, Fran; I'd love to read your novelization of "Smithville".

We're Toast said...

Having just arrived to your blog, I cannot express to you how satisfying it is to see someone articulate what I have been advocating for years starting with the question; When will others stand up and say, "I will not comply" with mindless tyranny being espoused at all levels of government?

I have renewed hope that I am not alone in the wilderness!

Thank you!

Ken said...

I think the press would be as likely to start a jeremiad against the "selfish, paranoid would-be vigilante warlords who won't share their good fortune with the rest of the community" (never mind that they are paying their taxes all along) as to champion the little guy against the corrupt government. The press traded watchdog for lapdog long ago, even when they are railing against the "opposition" faction.

Ken said...

PS -- otherwise, though, I think the author's premise is excellent, and would function largely as advertised.

Carl Stevenson said...

The fundamental problem I see with this is that it requires additional expenditure on top of what's already being extorted by the "public servants."
How do you propose to stop the extortion?
As you alluded, the ruling class and bureaucrats seldom go away quietly. They insist on getting their pound of flesh.
I saw nothin in your hypothetical Smithville that truly solved that problem, just that by banding together and paying extra that they got what the "public servants" were supposed to provide. (Other than the child care example which didn't seem to involve government "services.")

Anonymous said...

Nice concept---so long as you have like minded neighbors. But in most of today's ""Merika" you have an unhealthy mix of quislings, communists and race baiters.

The big problem is that the governments are deficit spending---printing their own money---to fund themselves, their friends and their programs all to wipe out and arrest Mr. Smith and any unlucky souls that join up with him.

As long as the deficit spending goes on---we are out gunned and out funded. And the vast majority of Fudds will laugh in our faces and turn us in one by one to the "authorities".

Pray that a dedicated group of men come to the rescue...or all is already lost.

Tucanae Services said...

Just a minor suggestion -- drop the Matrix Redux color scheme. It was cute in its day, which is long past. This is hard on the eyes.

Tucanae Services said...

My neighborhood actually lives a problem similar to this. Its an incorporated area without an HOA. (The reason I actaully moved in.I hate HOA's.) The alley in question is a private road. But there is a catch, the State/County have no provisions in law for special assessments for say road improvements. Several of us have tried to organize the homeowners to pave the alley. We all agree. But the alley is shared with business that also abut the alley. The lessors don't want to pay for the improvements but won't stop us from doing it.

Of course not! They would get a free ride! We are now looking into gating the alley in some fashion electronically. As well as getting the permits to do so. Its not all cut and dried unfortunately. But as a matter of concept what you propose has merit.

Anonymous said...

There is an interesting book about
this very subject that provides a
parallel path but includes a Christian slant on the whole plan.
It is called "They Fired The First Shot". Very comprehensive.
Take a look.

Paul Bonneau said...

There is a historical analog to the kind of schools you suggest; they were called "Dame schools".

"Of course not! They would get a free ride!"

This notion of a "free ride" is one beloved by government, because it paralyzes alternative action. There is actually no such thing as a free ride. There is only a business for whom the expense is greater than the benefit derived.

You have no legitimate claim on their money, even if they would be using the road. The best you can do is ask. If they refuse, you simply have to figure out the adjusted levy for the rest of you, and decide whether pavement is still worth it TO YOU. If it is, go ahead and pave. Stop worrying about "free rides".

This is not a theoretical question for me. We had exactly the same situation on our road. One homeowner would not contribute a full share, but he did say he would throw in $1000. That's what pavement was worth to him. We recalculated and just went ahead. No hard feelings either.

Anonymous said...

It is not the state meddling by itself. The plumbers demanded that the state create a licensing scheme in order to protect existing plumbers from new plumbers who want to elbow their way into a place at the trough. It's the same for all the trades and Lawyers, doctors, daycare providers, etc. The state is merely an equal opportunity goon employed by THEM against you. The only way to beat 'em is to join the racket. But you won't do that because you are a Man, not a tick.


Reg T said...

Excellent suggestions, but I fear that local media could be unsupportive against local government. Even here in SW Montana, our newspapers are owned and operated by the Left, and they make no bones at all about how great Obama is and how everything was Bush's fault. The editorial pages are enough to make a grown man vomit.

There is a lot of money in our county, and most of those folks are rabidly progressive.
This is true of most big towns and the one or two paces that might qualify as small cities. Too many transplants from San Francisco, Ann Arbor, and Chicago.

That is why Montana has elected rabidly progressive US senators for so many years, like Baucus (only recently replaced by a RINO) and Tester (who acts like Pelosi's retarded younger brother).