My parents live in a verdant corner of northeastern New Jersey. Down the street from their home is a mid-sized reservoir, one I’ve frequently jogged past while visiting them, wishing I was loping around it rather than along the heavily-traveled byways that typify even the Garden State’s rural parts. A trail of some sort was evident along its shoreline, but an encompassing chain link fence and ominous “No Trespassing” signs, also visible, sternly suggested I’d better stick to the pavement.
Then, some months ago — O, Joy, O Bliss! News came the town had refurbished the basin’s pathways and lifted those anti-perambulator restrictions. Suddenly, I was free to workout along its wooded course — and as a guy who runs not because I enjoy it but, basically, for health and weight reasons, anything making the perspiration-popping drudgery a little less “drudgerous”? I’m all for it.
But, true-confessions time: were I a town resident? I’d have voted against tax-payer dollars being plowed into this reservoir-transforming initiative.
I try to be a man of consistent principle. I also strenuously oppose politicians’ insouciant addiction to pouring sacred, public monies into anything besides indisputably necessary projects which only government can accomplish. Thus: any support from me for a local municipality’s wringing a portion from my neighbors’ paycheck to spruce up a jogging path for my pleasure/convenience? Rank hypocrisy alert!
I’m pleased I can take my cardio-boosting jaunts around mom and dad’s reservoir — it’s just, I can’t justify the manner in which it came about.
What I would have endorsed? Enthusiastically? How about a privately-supported Reservoir Development Committee’s issuing an invitation: Attention residents of XYZ,! We are sponsoring volunteer workdays to augment the network of walkways around our beloved reservoir. Those desiring to expand accessibility to this local attraction, please come out Saturday morning at 9 AM. We’ll put your services to good use.
From what I’ve observed up close, fifty determined citizens armed with their own rakes, weed-whackers and a chain-saw or three, with minimal direction/supervision, could have knocked out this meritorious endeavor in short order — and, thereafter, kept it operational with a little, annual touching-up.
Public-sector workers required for completion? Few to none. Tax-dollar cost to hard-working, penny-wise residents? Virtually nothing. Mind-blowing concept that makes such an arrangement possible? Radical volunteerism.
It’s actually a startlingly effective, yet pretty straightforward, solution to lots of the paralyzing dilemmas and epic crises currently beleaguering our United States: radical volunteerism flowing from a radically new way of thinking about desires, needs; about life. Volunteerism which provides not just make-work exercises concocted for helping bored people feel noble about themselves; but which plays a shoulder-to-the-wheel role in meeting actual demands; relieving government’s having to do so; in the process, idling official busybodies and measurably shrinking the taxpayers’ tab.
It’s self-reliant people freely choosing to pitch in time and treasure — uncoerced by Uncle Sam’s or the local elected chieftains’ strong-arming — to troubleshoot problems and urge along society’s functioning. Thus: the State, in all it’s manifestations, becomes smaller, cheaper — and stays so.
It shouldn’t need spelling-out: this only happens if those boldly pronouncing the fiscally-restrained, limited-government line lead the way, living out those convictions.
Not long ago, chatting with a fellow “conservative”, I mentioned the benefits of ditching our current income-tax monstrosity for, perhaps, a “flat-tax”. His reaction? Not what I expected: “No, no, no”, he growled, shaking his head disapprovingly.
Perplexed, I probed a bit and found out that, much as he derides the Left and their collectivist standard-bearer in the White House, when it comes to April 15th’s levy? The status quo is working out just fine for his particular situation, so he’d like to leave it alone, thank you very much.