Are you your neighbor’s (yard) keeper?

Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, December 14, 2012.

For the purpose of illustration I am going to create for you two fictional neighbors. The first is named Maudine Poovey. Maudine is a sweet old soul who, ten years ago at the age of 68, buried her beloved husband Herb, with whom she had shared nearly 48 years.

Maudine’s passion has always been working outdoors on her lawn and landscape and even after Herb died, Maudine kept her landscape as neat as a pin.

But now at age 78, sweet old Maudine can’t work in the yard anymore. Her arthritis bothers her so and she can no longer use her hands very well. What’s worse for Maudine is that she can no longer afford the young man that mowed her yard every week. That’s because her retirement assets suffered some setbacks in the past few years. That, taken together with the fact that the nest egg that she and Herb worked a lifetime to put away doesn’t provide much income these days, has reduced Maudine to living pretty much hand-to-mouth. Low interest rates may help with financing the federal deficit, but low rates punish people who live off what they have saved.

So Maudine is alone, financially strapped and getting old. Her yard is becoming overgrown and now looks every bit as bad as it once looked perfect.

This is where we meet your second neighbor. Her name is Hillary Gooddeed. Hillary decided that the whole neighborhood should get together and help Maudine. Toward that end, and at Hillary’s urging, someone went in to your garage and helped themselves to your lawnmower, string trimmer and leaf blower for the stated purpose of cleaning up Maudine’s yard.

You, upon finding out that your lawn equipment has been up and taken, get plenty ticked off about it. That’s when neighbor Hillary swells up in self-righteousness to put you in your place. “How selfish of you,” says Hillary. “How can you be so insensitive to poor Maudine? For that matter, why do you even need your own lawn equipment in the first place?,” she goes on. “You can afford to hire someone to take care of your landscape for you. Maudine can’t.”

So here’s the question. Is it immoral for you to object to the confiscation of your property even if for the benefit of someone in need; or is it immoral for someone to seize your property? Did they steal your lawnmower? Or do you have an obligation to surrender it?

In this simple little story lies the fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals with respect to the ongoing argument over tax rates. Conservatives believe in the sanctity of individual property rights, including the right to accumulate wealth and to dispose of it as the individual sees fit. Liberals believe that those who are well off should be compelled to forfeit wealth for the greater good. No one in this story disagrees that your lawnmower was confiscated just as no one disagrees that taxes are confiscatory.

The difference is that liberals believe that such confiscation is justified (look at poor Maudine). Conservatives believe that confiscation is by its nature unjust (Maudine’s situation is an entirely separate issue). Conservatives believe that taking someone’s property, no matter how noble the stated purpose, is stealing.

What liberals overlook in forming their arguments on behalf of Maudine is the fact that history has shown that Maudine does better when individual property rights are respected than she does when they’re not. People who don’t have to fight to hang on to what they’ve earned are by their nature more generous. The United States has more purely voluntary, non-profit agencies dedicated to helping the world’s Maudines than any other nation on Earth. Such is made possible by the generosity that naturally flows from people who are free to create wealth and free then to direct that wealth as they see fit. There was very little charity in Soviet Russia.

What those who would help Maudine fail to understand is that if too much wealth is forcibly confiscated, Maudine’s plight will be worse. Not only will no one be willing to help her, no one will be capable.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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7 Responses

  1. Linda E. Montrose says:

    There is a certifiable difference in charity(as in helping Maudine of your own freewill)and coercion(others taking YOUR equipment to help Maudine). It seems that our government doesn’t know the difference. Maybe someone should explain the difference to them…

  2. P K Lewis says:

    Of course, if there are so many neighbors who are lawn-inspectors,the thing to do is to make a caring committee to do her lawn as well as other things she may not be able to do anymore..



  3. Fred says:

    Taking anyone’s property is theft and anyone doing so is breaking the law and should be punished like the criminal they are. Every society or country in history that has taken (property/wealth) from those who have earned it by working hard and providing goods and services for those not willing to do the same. Has collapsed and faded from history or is currently run by a dictator or a group of dictators who oppress and abuse their responsibilities to their people. Political office is a privilege not a right, politicians are PUBLIC SERVANTS not the other way around. People like Hillary Gooddeed (politicians) are only buying votes and taking from those that earned something. And giving it to someone else who is too lazy to work for it. Politicians are public servants and are not above anyone. And if they are trying to turn our country into socialist country then they are traitors to the people and constitution they swore to serve and should be removed from office.

  4. Mark Olinger says:

    Instead of following the Robin Hood myth of taking from the rich and giving to the poor. She and her friends should have organized a benefit concert with musicians, comedians, and other high profile people to raise funds to hire a landscape or lawn mowing firm to take care of the problem.

  5. Tony says:

    First of all there is no mention of family,friends or the church helping this woman.Back before government got involved in things it had no business getting into families pulled together,friends stepped up and filled the void and churches took care of their flock. My parents live on a fixed income and because they were struggling to make it I moved back home to help.

  6. T. J. Snyder says:

    If you didn’t support Gary Johnson then you are part of the problem. He was the only true, proven fiscal conservative in the Republican primary.

  7. Alan Whitten says:

    Mr. Gleiser, I do not have concrete, hands-on, easily applicable answers to our tax structure or any of the many huge economic, political, social questions of today. I do think of myself as a conservative, I am a fifth-generation Texan, I do live on land that has been part of my family since 1853, I do own weapons (and a lawnmower). We as a listening community do not need to go towards polarization. I do not know or understand many questions of today, but my life habit is to ask “Why?” But as I ask why, I work at constructing a clear, small question that leads to a small, actionable answer that leaves aside the inaction of polarization. Perhaps a radio station in the world of today has to ask provocative, argumentative-type questions. I hope not. How do we as a community take care of Maudine’s yard? That could be a real question. And there exist actionable answers that do not use the words liberal and/or conservative.

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