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Front Page » January 25, 2005 » Opinion » At what point does the government owe its citizens
Published 3,907 days ago

At what point does the government owe its citizens

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Sun Advocate community editor

Most people understand how business works. A company provides a product or service and customers buy them. If the company doesn't provide good services or good products, or fails to support them properly, customers won't buy them or they may buy them once but never again. It is a basic law of economics.

Business also knows that if it tries to provide services beyond its means it can go out of business. Customers pay workers and managers' salaries and provide a profit for investors.

Government is not business. It has customers, true. It has services, true. It should provide support, true. But it doesn't make a profit and it has a captive audience; it's citizens.

That means that all citizens have to contribute to the pot of money that runs the government. While it is true that some deposit more than others, and often it is the less well off folk that contribute proportionately more, still all taxpayers contribute.

So does that mean that all taxpayers should receive the same services? Now think about that carefully. It's easy to answer yes to that question and be altruistic about it, but when we think about it, shouldn't services from the government to citizens make sense? Shouldn't both the government and the citizen have a reasonable exchange? Shouldn't private citizens who make decisions have to live with those decisions, even if they are bad decisions.

Case in point is disaster relief. If you are of any age at all, count how many times the outer banks of North Carolina have been hit by raging hurricanes that destroyed peoples homes, businesses and lives? I can count at least five or six in my life, but there were probably more. Yet each time it happens, those people rebuild their homes and businesses in the same places. Sure, a few get sick or scared of it and leave, but they actaully are the crazy ones, because the people who live in these kinds of places get financial aid from the government every time they rebuild. As a taxpayer and a citizen I found myself resenting that situation.

True, the loss of someone's home is a tragedy. The loss of the homes along the Santa Clara River this past two weeks in Washington County was a tragedy, and we should do everything we can to help those people. It was a once in a hundred year event and who knew it could do that? But if it happened every five or ten years would we be so willing to help?

There is also a reverse side to this. When people build houses in areas where the government tells them there could be a problem, how responsible should the government be to try and mitigate the situation? Case in point, mountain developments in Carbon County.

No one wants to see homes or structures burn to the ground anywhere in the county. Homes not only provide shelter for residents, they are good for the tax base. But to be honest, they are not good enough for the county to spend lots of other taxpayers money to protect them when they are few and far between, water systems are inadequate to handle fire emergencies and the access to them is limited. And on top of that when residents of those areas have been warned before hand that there will be limited fire protection.

Certainly in years to come as those areas grow, having a fire station in those areas would be an obvious necessity. And with enough full time residents in the area, that would make it also viable to have a true volunteer fire department.

Until that happens the county should do everything within its financial means to protect seasonal and regular homes in mountain zones. They are now moving toward an ordinance that will require sprinkling suppression systems in new construction. That is a great idea, even though it could add nearly $6000 to a 2000 square foot house.

Certainly that doesn't help those that already have homes in the mountain zones and to remodel would be even more costly.

All this makes me recall what my father once said to me just after I got my drivers license and after I ran his 1958 Rambler into the side of the garage. In the melee I scraped the car's fender trying to turn it around so I could get out of the driveway easier, because we lived on a busy street and his car's 0-60 acceleration took from dawn to dusk.

He said, "You should've thought about what you were doing before you did it, not after."

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January 25, 2005
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