County commissioners distribute our money like feudal lords



During the September 14 Alachua County Commission meeting, we were subjected to a long list of peasants begging for scraps from our feudal lords. The commissioners sat through a presentation of requests and staff recommendations for grants awarded under the Community Agency Partnership Program (CAPP).

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Surprisingly, the commissioners didn’t have each requesting organization send someone in person to prostrate themselves before the dais (that part was handled by the Grant Review Committee) so they could fully enjoy the benefits of buying favor with other people’s money.

Most people probably won’t care about the results—or the fact that the commissioners just agreed to spend $1.3 million taxpayer dollars—because it only comes out to about $11 per home in Alachua County. With only 29 organizations splitting the money, the average award was close to $45,000. These nonprofits are much more motivated to suck up to the commissioners than the taxpayers are to show up and complain about how their tax money is spent. 

Ignoring the potential for fraud, the program itself is bad because it puts the government in the middle of what used to be charity. Charity is supposed to be voluntary, but paying taxes is not. As Walter Williams frequently pointed out, “The act of reaching into one’s own pockets to help a fellow man in need is praiseworthy and laudable. Reaching into someone else’s pocket is despicable.”

In 2018 I wrote: “This is why political debates are getting more heated, with less civility and less common ground. The problem is that government has expanded beyond its original purpose and has turned into a system of legal plunder.”

That column summarized Frederic Bastiat’s The Law, which argued that the purpose of government is to protect life, liberty, and property. Any government action outside of that purpose undermines the law and the civil society because the law violates property rather than protecting it.

Bastiat called it legal plunder because “the law can be an instrument of equalization only as it takes from some persons and gives to other persons.” He wrote that the cause can either be human greed or false philanthropy; CAPP falls under the category of false philanthropy.

Bastiat’s test for whether the law is plunder was simple: “See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”

Many people may disagree with this philosophical argument about the purpose of government, but there is a more practical issue here: Why is our county commission getting involved in charity when they clearly can’t manage the basic functions of government?

Our county government is incapable of protecting life, liberty, or property and presides over crumbling infrastructure. Last year, motor vehicle theft and all violent crimes except rape grew at a much higher rate in Alachua County than the rest of the state. The county’s public works director just reported that 84% of the county’s road network is in “dire need” of repair. 

Are the “non-profits” who are looking for this grant money in the habit of taking money from junkies who can’t manage their own resources? That’s basically what they’re doing.

At the national level, politicians put our kids and grandkids into further debt to buy favors from their supporters. Our local politicians are no different, but they can’t print money, so they’re neglecting our infrastructure and public safety while redistributing our tax dollars to nonprofits that promise to work toward the commission’s priorities (see image above). They pat themselves on the back and portray themselves as charitable, but it’s not their own money, so this redistribution of our money is, as Walter Williams wrote, despicable.


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