Monday, October 12, 2015

At Every Turn

I used the power of government against government. I gathered together a large community of people and we settled in unincorporated County land somewhere in the ineponymous West. We established a municipal corporation, settled a township, and gradually, took over the least-populated County in the entire State. It took a lot of work, but we managed it.

Now, we had control of the government. We still had to send state taxes to a distant capital, and federal taxes to a still-more-distant one, but we were closer to free than we had ever been. We revoked our property taxes and, at last, owned our own land. We established a perpetual commons at the center of town, organized a little citizen's savings association to replace the banks, a militia to replace the cops, a disaster fund to replace the insurance, and we breathed the sweet air of freedom.

The State came in. The Feds came in. They had regulations to control us. We thought that, with our own city, then our own County, we could protect ourselves. We were wrong. We were required to provide schools. Fine. No problem. We organized County children's facilities run by rotating parent volunteers. Many held advanced degrees. But the Feds crushed us: they required certain kinds of curricula. We were forced to buy tens of thousands of textbooks from elite publishers in order not to deny our children the "right" to learn what everyone else was learning. We had to destroy all of our teachers' independent professional lives by taking years sending them to get "certifications" from State and Federal offices. No longer could they maintain separate careers--they were now beholden to the licensing requirements of the State.

We had to establish "proper facilities." We couldn't just use the old community center we'd renovated when we'd taken over the area. We had to put in the right kinds of playgrounds, parking lots, travel routes, gymnasiums, changing rooms, administrative offices, grievance policies, and hiring committees. State and federal safety inspectors had to come in and review the buildings. We had to bring in "proper" police forces and fire forces, poison forces and environmental forces, a dozen kinds of committees that reported to State and Federal commissions from far away. If we didn't, they would send in federal troops to shut us down. We were the most democratic County in the nation, with around 96% voter participation, unified in our choices, but the centralists wouldn't let us alone.

Somehow, we managed. We built a four million dollar fire facility and a one-point-five million dollar police facility. We bought a fleet of school buses and paved hundreds of miles of federally-accredited road in order to offer proper opportunities to out students. It nearly destroyed our budget when we had to purchase the right kind of "crime lab" equipment, and "human resources oversight committee" salaries, that the Feds required for any County or municipality, but we managed. We protected our charter. We had to generate twenty-six million in bonds to cover it, but we managed.

And we managed without the big banks. A few of our most well-equipped founders pitched in the money that it took to fund the program without handing the County over to Chase Bank. It nearly broke us, but we made it through.

Then came the zoning. State inspectors showed up, then federal inspectors, to make sure that we were offering proper housing opportunities to ourselves. The report cost two million. They shut down a lot of businesses in the County seat--people who had farms that were too big in "residential" areas, or people who were selling handicrafts out of their houses. With everyone pitching in, we managed to put drinking fountains, access ramps, grip rails, parking spaces, and personal safety zones across what had been our burgeoning downtown. Running a massive debt, we were accused of being elitists. We had to send our new school buses (which no one here had been using, anyway) to pick up kids in other counties and bring them to our schools to ensure a lack of favoritism.

One of our bigger donors, strapped for cash, was forced to rent out one of his storefronts to a military recruiting center. Fine. No one went in, anyway. The police union, then the firefighter's union, stepped in from outside, and threatened major problems if we didn't start funneling our emergency services through union training centers. The feds hit us with a six million fine for not having a proper ambulance response network, which we'd been setting up, and which would've been in operation if we hadn't already been paying to put new handicap ramps across the entire County.

Then it turned out the DMV was required to be given an office in our land. Then the post office. The NYT ran a bunch of articles comparing us to Kazakhstan because we hadn't built a library. The Department of Transportation blocked all of our roads in and out, preventing delivery of anything, including food, because we hadn't coordinated with State & Federal offices to have our roads properly inspected. People started leaving when we were forced to triple sales taxes in a rush to lay more asphalt and throw together a modest library. The Department of Education wanted a museum, but somehow, we begged our way out of it. We put up a library and spent one point eight million stocking it with Stephen King, Harry Potter, Sue Grafton, and all major periodicals of note.

The DMV didn't like our job applicant base and the County and City found themselves defending a lawsuit against discrimination in hiring. We opened up Section 8 housing to a bunch of people from four states over, but they didn't apply for the jobs anyway, and a federal manager was appointed to staff the DMV with experienced employees from other jurisdictions who were given federally funded housing in our County. We'd planned to never allow Walmart to move in a supercenter, but it was either that or give in on rate-setting with the utility companies we'd so painstakingly courted to deign to offer their services to us at a higher rate than normal. To get the Walmart deal to work, we had to offer them exemption from the property tax we'd used to pay for the textbooks and buildings and changing rooms and teacher salaries for our schools, but based on the charts they showed us, a bump in sales tax revenue would help make up the shortfall.

Voting started to get weird not long after that. The old lady who'd started out as mayor got accused of hating all the newcomers to the County seat, and when she went down, so did the comptroller. Suddenly, the utility companies were nice, and suddenly, there was a new bond, a new football stadium at the high school, and a Target across the street from the library. We'd given in to the Department of Parks and Recreation on the "park" issue long ago--we'd always wanted there to be a lot of parks in settled areas, but to get approval for any of the "safe" playground equipment, you had to have some corporate team from Buffalo come out and "inspect the grounds" for something like twenty grand a day. After which, you still had to buy the equipment. So we got them off our back by shelling out for the right kinds of parks, and anyway, there were the parks and the new Target and Pier 1, the new Lennar development going up by the river, and we began to realize that, sometimes, it wasn't that you couldn't tell pigs apart from humans, but that even total control over the government itself was not the issue, because the pig-children, who prohibit mixing with their distant kin, work upon levers far removed from mere farms, nations, or planets.


  1. Well at least the Monday morning depressing column is fairly regular (can't start the week without it).

    But i did have a recent bar conversation where a (twice-divorced), old liberal woman was giving me the handicap ramps as an evidence of social progress.