Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Working for the state requires humility 

There are numerous posts of outrage over Corporal Timothy Jensen, head of the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association, who has launched a vicious attack comparing David Strom's Taxpayers League to the violent Posse Comitatus. Mitch has posted the article and his annihilation of it. Doug at Bogus Gold is keeping a list of other declamations.

I'm often amused here in St. Cloud by my liberal friends -- off-campus friends are usually liberal, often reasonable, unlike our on-campus leftists -- who demonize David. My usual answer to them is "I don't recognize the David Strom you're talking about. When did you meet him and how did he come across to you?" That usually works: Most of them have to say they have never actually met him. I have, and I do recognize David in the accolades he receives from Mitch or Chad. That annoying laugh you hear on his radio show is not faked.

The David I know has a pretty straightforward worldview: The expansion of the state comes at the expense of freedom. The expansion of freedom allows the human spirit its greatest expression in individual creativity. Those things which expand the state, therefore, are to be opposed as an assault on individual expression. That view is quite libertarian, as are many of his critiques of Republicans (like this one of ethanol subsidies, which is bipartisan stupidity at its best.)

Like Corporal Jensen, I work for the state. I find it more than occassionally a source of embarassment as a small-l libertarian. I do not find it at all troubling that David would prefer that MnSCU, my employer, gets less money. Given the power, I would free SCSU from MnSCU, as would many people here. I take my job here because the state has crowded out private universities that would provide higher education in the absence of the state; I do not feel any need to martyr my avocation because of the state's aggression into a place it does not belong, which is what higher education is. If David's actions some day cost me my job because the university is closed due to its redundancy to private alternatives, that will be a great day for America. If I've done my job well, I will have no problem finding private employment from firms whose taxes have been reduced and who now can afford to create new goods and services.

Even in a libertarian dreamworld, police like Cpl. Jensen will probably exist. (Though not necessarily.) But he takes himself far too seriously here:

I'm a conservative who would rather not pay taxes.
Here's a clue, Tim: There are a lot of liberals who would rather let someone else pay taxes too.
However, I have grown to expect a certain quality of life that is somewhat dependent on our government. Government doesn't run on air and promises, it runs on citizen contributions in the form of tax dollars, which fund valuable public employees, expected services and quality of life issues.

"Citizen contributions"??? Am I to understand that Cpl. Jensen has never enforced a tax lien? If a member of my church makes a pledge and then does not obey it, I don't seize his car or hold him at gunpoint and take him to the pokie. Governments do. It bears noting: taxes are coercive. Those two words offend me. Does that make me a member of a posse?

{An aside: Comparing this to the Posse Comitatus -- which originates from the use of the U.S. Army enforcing civilian law in the post-bellum South in the last century -- is the height of absurdity. The most references I get to Posse Comitatus in the internet world is from libertarian groups claiming Janet Reno broke the Posse Comitatus Act in sending troops against the Branch Davidians. Example. If anyone can find a connection between that and the Taxpayers League, send me an ounce of your stash.}

And then valuable public employees? What the hell ever happened to the words "your humble servant"? They do exist, of course. The cop that has helped get my son to the hospital after an accident, who blushed as I thanked him for keeping my son safe and said "just doing my job." The officer last weekend who got my daughter from her grandmother to us after grandma had to go to the hospital with an asthma attack. (St. Cloud readers: His last name was Bunde, I do not remember the first. If you see him, thank him for caring to the Littlest Scholar. I never did get the chance in person.) They are valuable beyond words.

But working for the state requires some recognition that you are a public servant, with all the meaning the word "service" implies. It requires a little humility. Complaining that ...
State department budgets have been cut to bare bons over the past two years, hundreds off employees have been laid off, services have been cut, most of us reecived no wage increases for two years, employees benefits have been reduced, and working conditions have become downright dangerous in some jobs. not the language of a servant. Those who serve with the recognition that their pay derives from the coercive power of the state do not speak in this way.