Brad Harrington

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

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A "local" piece, published in the Wyoming Tribunbe-Eagle on April 30th, 2011.

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES

By Bradley Harrington

“Action without thought is like shooting without aim.” – Proverb –

It isn’t very often, in today’s self-righteous orgy of fascist-state tyranny, that you’ll hear a politician question the validity of a particular area of government operation or control.

But it does happen on occasion – and, when it does, it should be encouraged. When the questioner, furthermore, is a man one would normally associate with a more interventionist, “progressive” outlook on government management – Cheyenne City Councilman Patrick Collins - it’s definitely time to open both eyes and take notice.

The first clue came when Mr. Collins requested at the beginning of last Monday evening’s Governing Body meeting to pull item 14f off the Consent Agenda.

This item, “An agreement between the City of Cheyenne and the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra for use of the Civic Center for Youth Education Concerts,” is actually a contract by which the city agrees to pay the CSO the sum of $6,585 for expenses related to two CSO performances for Laramie County fifth- and six-graders come next January.

And - while that expenditure is chicken-feed in comparison to the way the city spends money in other areas - Mr. Collins, to his credit, decided to question the principle of city funding of school district educational projects anyway:

“How do we pick music, how do we not pick tennis, how do we not pick mathematics, or science, as a project that we would do? It just seems like this isn’t the job of the city to pay for concerts for kids to come to school...How do we pick this one? And why? I haven’t got an answer yet that makes me understand it.” (City Council Video, http://www.cheyennecity.org, April 25th.)

Unfortunately enough for both Mr. Collins and the rest of us as well, he found no answers that evening, from either the public or his fellow governing body members - the last of which, shortly thereafter, all stampeded to award the $6,585 contract anyway, with Mr. Collins casting the lone “No” vote.

Yet the questions Mr. Collins raises warrant major levels of discussion, for their answers have implications that make themselves felt far beyond such relatively simple budgetary issues as who should be funding school concerts: they strike right to the root of the very existence and purpose of government itself.

For, in Mr. Collins’ questioning the city’s alleged responsibility for funding school concerts, the further question arises: What exactly is the city, as a political organization, responsible for, anyway? And that question, in turn, brings up the further question of: What exactly is any political organization, as such, responsible for? What are its purposes for existence? And, just that fast, we arrive at one of the greatest questions in political history.

And it is only here on this fundamental level that the proper answer to Mr. Collins’ questions can be articulated, for the answer to this last question will set the boundaries and terms of the entire debate.

If one believes, as did our Founding Fathers, that the purpose of government is the protection of life and property and little else, then one would necessarily question any taxpayer-funded project not related to those purposes, would they not? And wouldn’t the implications of those questions ripple throughout the entire “practical” political sphere?

For, as an example of this last, if it’s not the city’s responsibility to fund school concerts, why is it the city’s responsibility to fund art projects, or the Botanic Garden, or the economic “planning” of the DDA?

Why is it up to the city to worry about what kind of roof tiles are permissible on a downtown building? Or whether or not all alcoholic businesses should be banned within two city blocks of a girl’s dancing school? Or what color the sidewalk corners are?

If, on the other hand, one believes that government’s purpose is to engineer society and not merely protect individual rights, then one will advocate all sorts of “progressive” projects and legislation along those lines. None of it will achieve any of the supposedly desired results or work worth a damn, but the “progressive” proponents will merely use that as an excuse for more funding in the next fiscal cycle.

The puzzle, in this particular instance with Mr. Collins, is that much of his time as City Councilor has been spent on enacting just that type of “progressive” nonsense – and one can’t help but wonder from what subterranean volcano Mr. Collins’ questioning of city funding of school concerts erupted from.

There’s clearly a case of mixed premises at work here, and there’s only one way to clear up such conflicts: By checking those premises and comparing them, not only with reality, but with how they interact with one another as well. Premises that pass those tests are retained; those that don’t are discarded. The result is an internally-consistent, coherently-articulated value structure capable of providing a blueprint for intelligent action.

And anything else? A whim-based recipe for disaster – for what’s the cliff we’re going to stampede over next?

--

Bradley Harrington is a former U.S. Marine and a writer who lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming; he can be reached at timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com.

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The puzzle, in this particular instance with Mr. Collins, is that much of his time as City Councilor has been spent on enacting just that type of “progressive” nonsense – and one can’t help but wonder from what subterranean volcano Mr. Collins’ questioning of city funding of school concerts erupted from.

Maybe he's been reading your op-ed pieces, Brad. :)

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The puzzle, in this particular instance with Mr. Collins, is that much of his time as City Councilor has been spent on enacting just that type of “progressive” nonsense – and one can’t help but wonder from what subterranean volcano Mr. Collins’ questioning of city funding of school concerts erupted from.

Maybe he's been reading your op-ed pieces, Brad. :)

Yes, an ongoing re-assessment of premises in the process of being checked could certainly explain this anomaly. <huge grin>

Bradley

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