Prof. Reynolds comments on the Philadelphia blogger tax, and quotes emailer Trent Nix, who says in part:

The losers who put [the tax] in place should have their pictures plastered everywhere as enemies to free speech. City politics tend to be the place where the nexus of stupidity and vanity are at their greatest. [my emphasis — RL]

Add “counties”, “school boards”, and “ad hoc tax districts” to “city politics”, and you can strike the “tend to be”, replacing it with “are”. It isn’t hard to see why that’s natural, indeed well-nigh inevitable, once you realize that it’s a matter of having time.

Merchants running viable businesses and people who have real jobs are fully occupied during the day and tend to have lives afterward. You can’t ignore customers in order to dash down to City Hall or Commissioners’ Court, employers trying to get things done are notably unsympathetic to requests for time off to go protest the latest idiocy, and when the Council meeting conflicts with the kids’ soccer practice the kids win every time. Councils arrange things to make it worse — you can pay your taxes or fines starting at daybreak, but[sneer] your representative [/sneer] is only available from 11:00 to 11:30 AM three days a week, and definitely not outside of working/business hours or during lunch break, when they take care of their own business and/or leisure. The after-hours sessions which do occur, declared with self-congratulatory piety as making government available to the citizens, are carefully scheduled for maximum interference with dinner, soccer practice, and the like, or for such late hours as to make it impossible for mere citizens wishing to interfere with the smooth flow of money from one hand to the other to get to work the next day — often both.

The result is that local government is dominated by three groups: the self-important idle rich, people with the work habits of a snake, and obsessed nutcases. Distinguishing the first and last classes falls mainly on dress issues and scope — the weirdo who passionately demands that City buildings be painted cerise and yellow or that all road signs must be at exactly the same height is different from the well-dressed defender of the viewscape his ancestors bequeathed only in the scope of their demands. Both groups can be, and usually are, dismissed as non-contributory or obstructive, except to the extent that the rich guy’s largesse is lavished on the deciders, which generally happens in support of the second group.

Many lawyers, some doctors, owners of fast-food franchises, and above all real-estate agents[1] have in common that their income is not dependent on day-to-day trudging. When they are obliged to work, they almost always work hard and with single-minded focus, because the outcome of that work is a big payoff — but between such spates of frenzied activity they have plenty of leisure to devote to “other interests”, especially when such interests coincide with their own (or can, if properly nudged). Street vendors are forbidden, or taxed and regulated to the same end, and this is justified by solemn intonations of public health and/or traffic obstruction issues, but the real reason is that they cut into the profits at McDonalds; you can’t park your pickup or RV in front of your house or take effective measures to make your home energy-efficient, because real-estate hunters (mainly but not exclusively female) insist that anything Victoria regens couldn’t have seen daily is unsightly and Reduces Property Values; the reason you have to drive thirty miles to the airport has nothing to do with the possibility of crashes and everything to do with new property owners’ insistence that long-established practice must yield to their comfort and convenience; and any lawyer worth his salt is delighted to see ill-maintained, impenetrable thickets of laws, regulations, and restrictions, because his income derives from finding a way through just such growths.

Comfortably ensconced in office, insulated from any concerns but their own by the ability to set office hours and conditions for approach — and, nowadays, by “security concerns” mandating isolation from the ill-mannered and ill-intentioned mere public — the office-holder delights to find him- or herself wined, dined, and flattered by applicants, able to distribute largesse to grateful recipients at no personal cost, and boosted in ego by the gratifying ability to give orders and have minions and “constituents” scurry to comply. Sound familiar? It should. “All politics is local” is not a complimentary characterization.

Warnings to  not get cocky over poll results from many of the usual suspects apply here, in spades. The only way to end, or even modify, this vicious cycle is for people outside the [sneer]normal political process[/sneer] to get involved. That goes for lefties, too. If the stuff you like gets implemented by a corrupt process, it doesn’t advance your goals, it discredits them.

By an unexpected™ twist of fate, that might just be a realistic possibility for the first time in, well, maybe ever. “Funemployment” and business failure has left a lot of us (notably myself; please hit the tip jar) with time on our hands, and there is no better use for it than to devote it to infiltrating the haunts of the petty power-mad and pissant tyrant wannabees. It’s an opportunity, folks; when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Get involved, with your Party’s precinct organization and your City or County Government’s machinations. No, you won’t make much difference, and that can be disheartening — but if you aren’t willing to try to make some difference, you are definitely part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Advertisements