Here Thar Be Monsters!

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23.2.11

Stirring Up Hornets

Well, seems I stirred the hornet's nest with the Cheesehead article.  Can't say that makes me unhappy.  I always like a good debate.  We got a few responses from it, with most running along the lines of this fellow:

Interesting little rant on public service employees.
You are, however, quite wrong.
Obviously there are problems with all government bureaucracies.
Would you have been one arguing against public water projects in the 1860's and public education of children at the turn of the century?
Not totally sure if you ever benefitted from public education, getting a fire put out or checked out a library book.
Few of the Texans I live among who are still in the country know where the library is.

Before I start picking a fight about the educational level of Texans, will point out that you mentioned the few who still live in the States, which tells me most of them are pretty smart and have bugged out. I suppose a little background is in order.

I received a private Catholic education from kindergarten through my first college degree. The second I received from a very fine public institution called the University of Houston.

My father was a state legislator for 14 years, and as such, I spent my formative years meeting some of the giants of 20th century American politics, as well as being a political prop. My father's political protege was Ron Paul, whom you may have heard of.

My father was also a history teacher and had a Master's in American history from the above-mentioned University of Houston.

I had American history pounded into my head from the moment I could sit up. I have also spent 40 years of my 50, working in film, TV and theater, so I have seen unions from the inside out.

In addition, I spent 15 years in the Texas independence movement, and consequently spent many hours in libraries learning the law and studying Texas history. So I know a little about libraries, archives and the Dewey Decimal System.

Finally, I have lived in Indonesia for three years, and before that I lived in Ireland, Germany and Spain, so I have a pretty broad view of socio-political issues and experience in how other countries do things.

All that by way of saying, I know what I'm talking about and I speak from experience, not just blowing hot air, though I do so love to spout off once in a while.

With that said, I would like to address the good reader's points individually, if I may.

Would I have argued against public water projects in the 1860s?

I'll side-step the War of Northern Agression issue, which would normally get tied up in the argument at this point, and jump directly to my answer, "Yes." Why?

Thumbing through my pocket-sized copy of the Constitution of the United States of America, annotated, which I keep in my private library here in my home office, I find not a single mention of 'public water works.' Therefore, they were/are illegal.

The next point is, I fully support the neighbors getting together and deciding to pitch in to pay for the community water system. I even support their right to join together and issue bonds to help with the project, if they so choose. Even more, I urge folks to hire a drilling truck to come out and poke a hole in the backyard. Think of the peace of mind that brings, and the fluoride it doesn't bring.

Oh, I forgot. That's illegal and there's an army of paper-pushers and goons to kill you, should you decide to take responsibility for your own water.

Final point. I live in one of the largest cities, by population, in the world. My neighbors have goats and chickens for their private food supplies. I also have a connection to the public water supply, but just outside my office door is a trap door in the floor that provides access to the house's private well. Should the city water supply prove unreliable, as it does quite often, I can flip a lever and turn on the pump to get water from directly beneath my feet.

I have indeed benefitted from a public education. I get paid by one daily. I also received a subsidized university degree from a fine public institution, which I paid for myself, working 30-40 hours a week while carrying a full load. Greatest decision I ever made.

Have I ever had a fire put out? Yes. I lost everything in an apartment fire some years ago, then promptly received a bill from the city for the service. The corporation that owned the complex filed for bankruptcy that same month and sold itself to another division to avoid being sued. Thankfully, my private insurance pulled my bacon out of the fire, literally and figuratively, when two government-sanctioned entities (fire department and corporation) tried to screw me seven ways from Sunday, after I had just lost everything and very nearly my family, as well.

Have I ever checked out a book from a public library? In addition to being one of my favorite destinations on a Saturday afternoon when I was a kid, I wore out several library cards and did hours worth of research in the stacks and archives of the central public library in Houston, Texas (along with hundreds, if not thousands of my fellow Texans). I have written and produced documentaries that were quite successful using materials that I discovered languishing in the bowels of libraries. In fact, one of my fortes is research and archival parsing. I've made quite a bit of money off of libraries over the years.

I also have a rather extensive private library. My mother, being an English teacher, has literally thousands of books stacked around her house. I personally have maybe two thousand books both here in Indonesia and back in Texas. The titles and authors span all of Western civilization and many are in the original languages, since I speak roughly 16 or 17 whence last I checked (my father forced me to take Latin in high school, too).

Some of the richest grounds for research and study that I have found are private libraries and archives. I do support the public libraries, and I donated my father's papers to the excellent library at the Univeristy of Houston, which is a public library. I think the public should freely donate and support the libaries, but they shouldn't be robbed at the point of a gun to pay for them. And with the advent of the internet, it seems that brick-and-mortar libraries are becoming extinct, once every last document is scanned and published.

I am sorry that you, dear reader, know some uneducated Texans. I suggest that they are probably Yankee transplants, like the Bush family. The Texans I know are some of the most well-traveled and well-read people I have ever met. They also happen to be some of the best teachers in my acquaintance. Indonesia would greatly benefit from having more of us around, I think.

You made some very good points, dear reader, and I am grateful that you took the time to both read and respond, as I am to all who wrote in with their concerns. In my experience and education, there is nothing that government can do, that private interests can't do better, cheaper, faster, and which adds to the overall economy, rather than drags it into the dirt.

Furthermore, if a private interest came to me and demanded money while pointing a gun at my head, I would be justified in shooting first. So, it works out better all around.

In the end, I remain unconvinced. The best government is virtually non-existant. It is one of the big attractions for me living here in Indonesia. The discussion brings to mind the old oxymoron:

"Hi! I'm with the government and I'm here to help!"

When you hear that, you should grab your wallet and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

By the way, did I mention that Houston has one of the best arts scenes that I've found anywhere in the world. Whether you want live theater, symphony orchestra, ballet, opera, contemporary music, or any other fine arts, Houston offers a world-class selection. In fact, in Hollywood, there is a significant representation from Texas, both in front of and behind the camera. We're a rather creative lot, which is a key factor in determining IQ.

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