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The Good Neighbor Policy

I have been reading a great book by Dr. Mary Ruwart, “Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression”, and working on some ideas for blog posts as a result. This week's topic is a great opportunity for an introduction; hopefully I'll do it some justice.

Last week an Indy Star editorial raised questions about property tax exemptions for non-profits. The suggestion was that due to this “time of crisis” for local government, we should put more scrutiny on these exemptions and even consider changing them - possibly charging user fees for public services, or a sliding scale based on their “ability to pay.”

This topic is a good example of how to apply what Dr. Ruwart describes as the Good Neighbor Policy. To contribute to the peace, we should refrain from using or threatening force against the peaceful actions of others, and respect property that is rightfully theirs. It is a pretty simple concept, extrapolated from things most of us learned at a young age. Most of us would not steal our neighbor's car or assault him for making choices that are different from ours, nor would we join or hire a gang to do so for us.

Property taxes violate the Good Neighbor Policy by imposing force against the choices of people, and disrespecting their property. If your neighborhood wants to build a park and imposes a tax to fund it, you are forced to pay for it - even if you do not want the park and have no intention of ever using it. If you refuse to pay the tax, you risk losing your property by force to the government, even though your actions are peaceful and you have done nothing wrong. Unfortunately, the breaking of the Good Neighbor Policy usually leads to more of the same. People will pay the tax (begrudgingly) and then try to persuade the government to use its force for projects they are more interested in. The cycle of force and disrespect for property continues while we ignore whether what we are doing is even right or wrong.

I believe that's the core of this matter. Scrutiny of property tax exemptions shouldn't be what's being discussed, but whether property taxes are even right to begin with. Personally I do not see how they can be justified, but I am curious what you think and welcome discussion on the matter.

P.S. - an older version of the book is available to read for free on her web site.

This article was originally published on INtake Blogsquad.

View responses or leave your own response


Ali Ali
i can see the point, but using your example, how would parks ever get built? there seem to be certain things that serve the public good (and even commerce, like roads) that should be the responsibility of everyone. that's my only problem with pure libertarianism. i've heard ron paul say he'd do away with agencies like the EPA and FDA. they're not perfect, and i think they could use some reform, but those agencies do a lot of good. without them, i think we'd look a lot like china, and we've all seen how china's lack of regulation has had ill effects - not only on consumers but on china's reputation as an exporter. sorry to make this a larger argument about libertarianism in general, but i think that's the only way i can answer the question about property taxes. to sum up, tax reform - yes; tax elimination - no, it's not practical.

Well, parks existed long before there was government funding of them. The people who want to build parks can easily work together - voluntarily - to fund and maintain one, or come up with a workable solution. Sell stock, charge admission, sponsorship of some kind, or who knows what other creative solutions could be come up with. Humans are quite creative.

These types of ideas aren't far-fetched, look at one of the most successful private parks (and also a great example of private roads), Disney World.

The EPA and FDA I don't have a whole lot of comment on other than to say I believe they do more harm than good, and the free market would more efficiently supply those needs (and they are needs; most everyone wants to eat food that is safe, for example), while not imposing force. Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) is a great example of free market certification at work. Ruwart addresses these well in her book (in general, and the FDA in particular. Not sure if she specifically addresses the EPA)

On the topic of taxation in general, while I prefer none at all, there are some that are particularly more heinous than others. For example, I consider a tax based on the assessed value of “my” property to be ridiculous. (It's not really “my” property if an outside party can charge me rent / evict me)

However, if a *legitimate* government function requires $X, I do not have as much of a problem with a direct,_apportioned_tax.

Ali Ali
again though, i think we see the problems with an almost unfettered free market (ie, lack of regulations) with china. sure, eventually market forces will put pressure on companies there to be cleaner and provide safer goods, but in the meantime, how many people will be hurt? will they do irreparable harm to their environment?

I can't really speak to what's going on in China, I haven't been following it closely. An important corollary question that you don't seem to be asking is: how many people are already being hurt by the regulations?

Particularly when it comes to the FDA, regulation can be quite harmful to people. The drug lag has increased drastically over the years without significant improvement in efficacy or safety. Ruwart cites an analysis from 1950 - 1980 that for every American life saved by drug lag, 64 - 364 were killed by it. That's one example, she cites a lot of sources on different aspects of the regulation that don't paint a pretty picture. I'd recommend that chapter alone, if nothing else (particularly since you're in medicine).

Jon Jon
Maybe this is the ultimate in paranoia but this concerned me somewhat.

I watched a news broadcast concerning presepective employeers, graduate schools, etc who will search or pay companies to search these online journaling communities (myspace/xanga/facebook/etc) for people whom they are thinking about hiring, looking to hire, looking at accepting into their program, etc.

They are using the information they gain from these sites to determine whether or not they will hire or accept these people.

I did a simply google search for my name and found my Xanga to be one of the top 3 things that came up. I'd prefer that if someone were to visit xanga not to know about my shady past (meaning there are things that I don't feel are relevant to my current/prior job history or even graduate school applications that they need to know about). Plus with signing a code of conduct in accepting to work at Olivet I must abide by their rules, regulations and standards. I would prefer them not to be able to go back through 2 years worth of posts and seeing references to drinking, smoking, swearing, etc. Not that that should be relevant if it happened prior to working here, but that it may bring cause for concern.

Yea I'm probably being a little paraniod, but I'd much rather be a little paraniod and keep my job than to “let it all hang out” and stand the chance of losing my job.

Beyond that, it comes down to a little bit of privacy and image. And though it shouldn't matter, in this world one should be able to express their opinions without reprisal (disagreements yes), it does and I need to keep that in mind.

So I know the concept of an online journal which was created for allow you to share your thoughts with millions of people, now being changed to share your thoughts with only friends (or a select group of people) seems a little counter to its origins it is what is has become for me.

Hopefully that sums up why I move posts to private after a period of time.

This is an older post, so the public comment form is now closed. You can still use the form above to send me the link of your reply or sign in with your email to leave a comment. You can always send me a message, too.


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