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Brad Harrington

The Rec Center's Underlying Realities

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A "local" piece, published in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle on May 21st, 2011.


By Bradley Harrington

“There’s no fair way to steal.” – Andrew Galambos, “Sic Itur Ad Astra,” 1998 –

Last week, when I referred to the proposed recreation center for Cheyenne as a “boondoggle” and said that “If a society or community cannot marshal enough voluntarily-contributed resources to build a ‘public-works’ project, then that project needs to remain un-built” (“Here it comes again,” Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, May 14th), I knew I was bound to get some heated responses from proponents.

For when you strike out at “public works,” you are striking out at things very dear to some people’s hearts. And such people will tell you unequivocally that the “good” of such projects lies in the increase in human happiness that they provide.

Yet such projects actually breed the opposite: They create discord, dissatisfaction and resentments on the part of the taxpaying population they use as their base. As proof, consider the following letter I received from reader John Thompson:

“Burns Mayor Vern Testerman was said to have led the fight against the Rec Center. So, he got his money, but then says to hell with what Cheyenne wanted, even though it would not cost Burns one cent more in taxes…Well, Burns and Albin had better not need any more 6th penny money in the future; we are rallying to stop ALL expenditures outside of Cheyenne. We have learned our lesson, now it will be Burns’ turn to learn. I don’t care how important an issue is, I’m voting against it. Payback is a bitch.”

Whoa! Where’s all that “brotherly love” and “shared sacrifice” we’re always hearing about? Sounds to me like Mr. Thompson is a bit angry. But why? Don’t Laramie County voters have the right to vote as they will? And aren’t we all supposed to just go along with such decisions like good little citizens? In the interests of the “good of the public”?

The actual results, however, seem to be decidedly the opposite. And we haven’t even built the thing yet.

Which should come as no great surprise to anyone with a glimmer of respect for property rights: What other results can possibly be attained by regarding the lives and property of individual human beings as nothing more than fodder for a public auction block?

For that, in essence, is what the “public works” hypothesis is based on: Since we are all obviously too stupid to know how to spend our money the way we choose to, we have to have it done for us instead. And the fact that such a collectivist approach to human relations creates far more problems than it solves should give pause to anyone truly concerned with expanding human happiness. How can you possibly “expand” human happiness at the point of a gun?

And the answer is: you can’t. But that has never prevented “public officials” throughout history from trying anyway. Isn’t that how the pyramids got built? Through slave labor? Anyone care to be a slave in Ancient Egypt under a slave-master with a whip in his hand?

In our more modern times, however, we don’t actually enslave citizens and force them to build rec centers. No, we just steal their money to do it instead. Now that’s a real “improvement.”

The “public works” hypothesis of government is based on the following supposition: That you have no right or ability to spend your own money as you see fit – but that somehow, at the same time, you’re intelligent enough to cast votes to determine how others are to spend theirs.

How’s that again? The fact that someone can actually utter such nonsense with a straight face and receive nods of approval instead of universal condemnation is, perhaps, the most eloquent indication of the sordid level to which our social and political discourse has degenerated. We’ve sold our rights for free dentures and a rec center, and everybody claps when they ought to be horrified.

But human freedom, I’ve discovered, is a value few recognize or appreciate. So, in the face of such intellectual corruption, pardon me for a moment while I state a couple of principles of my own:

(1) My life, money and property are not tools for your social engineering schemes. You can get your gangster governments to steal it from me if you like, but you will never gain my moral sanction in doing so. I will, properly, regard you as the thieves you are, for the fact that you might build a “public works” project with your loot instead of hightailing it to Tahiti does not change the nature of your original theft;

(2) And, when such actions are engaged in, the net result for “society” will not be an increase but a decrease in human happiness - as must always be the case when you turn free human beings into slaves. What level of liberty do you people really believe is possible when you view other human beings as nothing more than tools for your own ends?

For those who accept such a designation, you’ve got it coming. Put on your little serf hat and smile! “Better Red than dead,” right? And, for those who don’t: Wake up. The collectivists have claimed your life as their own. How long do you intend on standing still for it?


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

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