Sunday, June 2, 2013

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

It seems pretty logical to me: if you don't pay for things, you can't have them.  If you don't pay for your bridges to be maintained, they eventually fall apart.  If you vote for lower taxes every time the opportunity comes up, the amount of money that your community has to provide critical infrastructure decreases.

If you vote against all your transportation levies, your area will no longer be able to provide good support for transportation.  The number of bus routes that your community can feasibly support goes down and your service will degrade.

If you vote against all your educational levies, your area will not be able to provide materials that schools require, such as new textbooks, technical equipment, or pay for additional teachers when there is growth in the area.  Your extra-curricular programs such as music and art will get cut because they aren't central to the mission of teaching math and english.  Maybe you have enough money to provide support for these extra items for your children but the quality of your community as a whole will degrade because the children on average will lose opportunities to learn and grow.  It is not financially prudent to do these items individually, as they are more economical to provide in appropriately subdivided groups.  It is simple economics that you spend less raw money as a community if you take care of your children in groups together.

You can complain that the government is not using your tax money efficiently.  Please, do.  Help them find ways to use it more efficiently.  I'm sure that they would welcome any input you have on using the funds more effectively if it actually results in better service on less funds. But complaining about corruption and fixing the corruption are two different things. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, after all.

Members of the transportation department have a pretty good incentive to use your tax money wisely.  While some parts of the government may indeed be unlikely to get seriously cut for mismanagement, transportation departments that don't provide service that their communities value will lose funding. These people have plenty of motivation to use your money wisely, to keep the bus drivers and maintainers and road workers from getting laid off.  If you as a community decide not to fund public transportation or reduce funding, all these people lose their jobs.  So questioning their capitalist motivations and accusing them of relying on cushy government jobs is not going to get you very far.

None of us could get to work the jobs we do without some sort of transportion department.  It isn't reasonable to expect a modern society to provide the quality of life we enjoy without the ability to deliver goods and people beyond walking distance. Mass transportation is required to allow us to have all the things we take for granted every day, such as toilet paper and cereal and shoes.  We have to pay for road building and maintenance in order to make our society run.

So before you complain about your taxes, please consider that you wouldn't even have your job to pay your taxes without the society you live in providing the critical infrastructure necessary for your job to even exist.  And if this isn't true for you because you live in a commune and make your own shoes and milk and card sheep for wool and so forth - if you're reading this article on the internet, the internet itself wouldn't exist without community infrastructure.

Perhaps some day communities will be able to be truly self-sufficient with solar power and we can all move to a futuristic Star Trek world where things just work and everyone can survive without paying in to a central organization to manage infrastructure for the whole society, but we're not there yet and pretending we are because we want to believe that is the way it ought to be isn't going to keep our schools funded and our bridges from crashing down around us.

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