toledo (24) cleveland (14) ohio (14) columbus (5)

Friday, November 28, 2008

City budgets vs. services

Here we go again, with the question of who will provide services if not the government. I always say that private groups of individuals acting together can provide services better than the government. Now that city budgets are having such a hard time in this economic downturn, it's easy to see how shortsighted and inefficient they are.

We all know what happens to city services when times are bad. They end up cutting services, from public swimming pools to police and fire. Either that or raise taxes. Governments know they don't have to provide efficient services because they can just take more money from the people with the excuse that they need it to function better.

The cold reality of it is that extra money might as well go into a sinkhole. The excuse is used time and time again for public schools. We need to keep throwing more money at the problem and it will somehow be fixed. Then they take the liberty of putting the same taxes on their ballots over and over until people finally give up and pass it.

They even screw up things as simple as trash collection. They have to resort to alternating trash and recycling days in order to make ends meet. Toledo already has a trash fee, $7 for people who recycle and less for people who do. It will eventually be raised to $10 in the year 2010. I'm not saying you wouldn't have to pay fees for trash collection in a free market. Just they they would be much more efficient and cost effective.

From what I can tell, history has shown that as products and services get more and more efficient, prices for them will gradually drop. This happened with Standard Oil's prices, until the free market for energy was taken away. It happens with the relatively unregulated markets of computer and electronics today. Not so with governments, holds true right down to the smallest of city services.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Spying on the people in downtown Cleveland

There's a rather short news report from the Associated Press making the rounds in all of the area's news media. So far, four cameras are now up and there will be nine more coming on soon. According to Cleveland's Public Safety Director Martin Flask:

The cameras have blue strobe lights attached to them so people can see them and feel safe.
Damn, if blue lights are all we need to feel safe I guess we no longer have anything to worry about. We can finally walk around Public Square safely, knowing that these flashing lights will be there to protect us. Maybe they could also quit sending cops to patrol the area as well... assuming they actually did useful crime fighting work to begin with.

Somebody unaware of the huge privacy issues associated with government surveillance might not understand what the big deal is. To see why we people might be concerned about privacy, this would be a decent starting point. There is further discussion about government related privacy issues in chapter 5 of David D. Friedman's latest book "Future Imperfect." If you're still in doubt, read George Orwell's 1984.

Furthermore, from Wikipedia,
There is little evidence that CCTV deters crime.[8] According to a Liberal Democrat analysis, in London "Police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any." [9] A 2008 Report by UK Police Chiefs concluded that only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. [10]

As usual, the state throws away our money and resources on solutions that don't work while criminals literally get away with hurting real people. At this point, I am certain that public officials really don't care whether the measures they take are effective. They have to give people the idea that they are "doing something" about these problems or they will get thrown out of office. Meanwhile, stuff that would actually work remains untouched.

Property owners in the area might as well be allowed to keep their own money and use it to take private security measures on their own. People continue to claim that we must have a government in order to fight crime. Yet it is increasingly known that their actions do next to nothing to improve the situation. Inner cities continue to be a haven for gangsters, while the government spends more money on areas that don't need as much protection.

I wouldn't claim that getting the state out of the crime prevention business would magically make everyone safe. Of course there would still be criminals. The question is whether the government does a decent job, or whether private individuals and companies could do it better. This is just more evidence of the latter.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

now just northern ohio

So I already had one going for the cleveland area, but I recently moved out of town. Still in northern Ohio though, so now I am starting this one in an attempt to be more inclusive of my new region. I'm sure some Cleveland stuff will still make it in here since I will still be over there fairly often.

If anyone is wondering, "the 'shoe" is a reference to the Ohio State Buckeye football stadium down in Columbus, the horseshoe. Even though the school and football team are wrongfully subsidized by the government with taxpayer money, I still root for them. Cuz hey, college football is great and they are one of the best.

Thankfully, my alma mater is a completely private school, not beholden to government money - at least directly. I would rather deal with Mormons than the government any day. It's actually a pretty decent school too, a testament to the success of privately funded education. Anyone who insists that society must have the state must fund universities through funds confiscated from the people needs only to look there. An alternative is always available, and it's almost always better than political force.