Archive for the ‘About This Blog’ category

Politics are Not Two-Dimensional

31 December 2008

Some people can’t comprehend politics unless it fits into a neat box: conservative, liberal, or “moderate.” Unfortunately, that’s not just an oversimplification (although it is surely that). It’s also a false dichotomy (trichotomy?), which never made any sense to me. Why is it that if you favor increased immigration you should also favor centralized health care?

I took an on-line test, which I thought well-demonstrated the nonsensical typology:

You Are 60% Conservative,

40% Liberal

Social Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Just What IS Leviathan Montgomery?

23 May 2008

Leviathan Montgomery is the beast with the ravenous appetite, that spends over $4 billion per year. Whether or not there is a deficit, no matter what the circumstances, the size and scope of government in the county continually grows. Over the last ten years, we’ve seen these trends:

▸ County government spending is up 84%
▸ Property taxes are up 53.5%
▸ Income taxes are up 86.7%
▸ County workforce has increased 28%.

The political class, we all know, needs to continue spending in order to demonstrate value to citizens and campaign donors. After eight years of the Bush administration and a compliant Congress, we might think that runaway spending and feeding the pork barrel are just normal government. But that spending has consequences. The money has to come from somewhere. When the county government spends billions of dollars, and increases spending by hundreds of millions each year, that money comes out of the productive economy. The more they take from your paycheck, the less there is for the citizens of the county to spend on their own lives. The less there is for businesses to grow (or even start). The economy is worse than it otherwise would be, and there are fewer jobs than there otherwise would be.

And the growth of the monster is not just in fiscal terms. Leviathan Montgomery is also the overbearing, paternalistic monster that feels the need to control everything it sees, intrude on people’s lives, and stand in the way of people’s voluntary associations and dealings. There is nothing that private individuals can do right, in the eyes of the nannies, that can’t be improved by requirements from the Leviathan – because the Leviathan, after all, is sure that it knows better than the ordinary people. Thus we have requirements for what restaurants may offer, for what parents and babysitters may agree to, restrictions and mandates on the size and makeup of your home, and more. What used to be thought of as “the private domain” continues to shrink in Montgomery County, and it’s a zero-sum game. The scope of civil society – voluntary associations, charitable initiatives, religious organizations, all the social activity that de Tocqueville praised as being uniquely American – must shrink, as the scope of government increases. As the Leviathan grows, privacy and individual freedom shrink; and the damage to free association and civil society is palpable.

And finally, a special phenomenon in Montgomery, that feeds the beast: The idea that no one should ever have to buy a service from a private vendor. Things that are handled perfectly well by the market are under control of the Leviathan: Liquor stores, summer camps for children, music classes and tennis lessons – someone’s wisdom has dictated that taxpayers should be hit up for these services. As a corollary, the Montgomery politicians also seem to have the objective of ensuring that no one should ever have to travel to another jurisdiction to buy something or purchase a service. Yes, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Clarice Smith Center are only a half hour away, but we need to spend a hundred million dollars to have a concert hall on Rockville Pike. Yes, RFK stadium and Nationals Park and FedEx Field are a short ride away, but we need to have a sports stadium of our own in Montgomery. Keeping up with the Johnsons (and the Fentys) may provide glory for the Leggetts and the Duncans – but it’s debilitating to the everyday people of Montgomery.

This blog is about tracking the footprints of the Leviathan, and making sure that readers know about the damage the behemoth causes as it stomps about the county. Damage not just to our pockets, but to the civic life of our society.

Raison d’être

2 March 2007

The municipality where I live is an endlessly fascinating place. Sitting right next to the nation’s capital, Montgomery features family farms dating from the 18th century, as well as some of the world’s most advanced biological engineering enterprises. The county government, with a budget that is the envy of some states, produces sophisticated and expensive programs, as well as some of the silliest legislation you could imagine. It’s also a place where wealthy people subsidize their hobbies and artistic passions by taxing the less well off. I founded this weblog to chronicle and observe the wrestling match between civil society and activist government, and publicize and examine the consequences of that conflict.

— Zinzindor