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Our aspiring tyrants

EDITORIAL

BY LEN CABRERA / AUGUST 16, 2019

Our local politicians are salivating at the prospects of increased power after next year’s elections, when the city’s election coincides with the presidential primary. The wide-open field of Democratic hopefuls to challenge the Republican incumbent promises a massive turnout for Team D, which practically guarantees the passage of all sorts of bad policies to further grow the size and scope of government. 

Typically, politicians camouflage their quest for power by dressing all their policies in compassion, social justice, or equity. When you really look at their proposals, you realize they’re just aspiring tyrants, longing to regulate your life in every imaginable way, from what you can earn, to what you can eat, to where you can live. As F.A. Hayek warned in 1956, the good intentions of socialist movements lead to “arbitrary administrative coercion” and set the stage for totalitarian government.

In a July 6th Gainesville Sun article on “affordable housing,” City Commissioner Johnson’s solution to the problem was as trite as kissing babies: increase the minimum wage. It’s a nice-sounding policy but is really just a cynical ploy to get votes from the very people the policy will hurt (and get campaign contributions from labor unions). The Congressional Budget Office said a $15/hour minimum wage will actually decrease total family income. This conclusion echoes the result of Seattle’s minimum wage law, which the National Bureau of Economic Research found resulted in a decrease of $125/month for the beneficiaries of the higher wage (in additional to a loss of 5,000 low-wage jobs). Policies like this are win-win for those who crave government power. They attract money and votes but also increase the number of people who will have to rely on government when their jobs are regulated out of existence.

It’s not enough to ruin the lives of current residents. County commissioners plan to rob future generations to feed their insatiable desires. Alachua County Commissioner Hutchinson wants a 20-year tax with no specific plan. It’s supposed to generate $400 million, but the commission wants to spend it all (and more) immediately on any projects they can add to the list to dupe voters into approving it next year. The Gainesville City Commission also wants more, so it’s raising property taxes, GRU rates, and fire assessment fees. The increased revenue won’t go toward more city services but to higher pay for city employees and salaries for new apparatchik positions created “for equity.”

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Taking our money also isn’t enough. At the July 18th city commission meeting, Commissioner Ward said “the landowner has property rights” out of one side of his face, then went on to support an arbitrary change of zoning rules to restrict what a landowner could do (1:19:35 into the video). The commissioners basically decided they want to use someone’s private property to establish a greenbelt.

In the same meeting, Commissioner Hayes-Santos announced that single-family housing is “exclusionary,” so he’s “not going to support any land use or zoning changes that allow single-family sprawling housing zoning.” (1:26:34 into the video). He’ll likely combine this brilliant thought with zoning changes to force those in single family homes to house residents of Dignity Village. You can almost hear his best Darth Vader impersonation: “I am altering the deal, pray I don’t alter it any further.”

Nothing is too trivial for our self-proclaimed betters. In addition to eliminating plastic bags, plastic straws, and styrofoam containers, City Commissioner Warren wants to limit the number of days you can receive online deliveries. Some of the recent votes by the city commission have ignored (or selectively interpreted) the city’s own rules.

Don’t worry, if you fear local politicians imposing arbitrary taxes or effectively confiscating private property, you can always have your voice heard at commission meetings. That is, as long as you don’t disagree with your overlords. During the July 18th meeting, Mayor Poe refused to remove items from the consent agenda (so they could be discussed publicly), and he kicked people out of the meeting. At the August 8th meeting, the commissioners voted to restrict citizen comment (both frequency and topics) with no discussion. The city is redefining the “citizen centered” part of its motto. 

As Frederic Bastiat  warned in “The Law,” once the law goes beyond protecting life, liberty, and property, it becomes a tool of plunder and a weapon to wield against political enemies. Years later, F.A. Hayek warned that there is no personal or political freedom without economic freedom. Our city and county commissioners have been using the guise of good intentions to restrict our economic freedom. The more power they amass, the more likely they are to deny individual freedom. That is exactly how tyrants are made.

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