When a big snowstorm hit my suburban Virginia neighborhood last weekend, the question was: Will the government ever plow our streets? Four days later, as another storm approached, the answer was: not yet.
A few blocks over, residents stuck hand-lettered sign in a snowdrift imploring the state department of transportation to please plow their little lane. It was pure sarcasm.
Where I live, two things are certain in life other than death. One is taxes; the other is that taxes will go up. Every year without fail, the local government reassesses the value of your home. Virtually every year, it determines the value has risen and slaps you with higher property taxes.
You also pay a state income tax every time you earn a dime, a state gasoline tax every time you fill up your car and local sales taxes every time you purchase almost anything else.
If you are a law-abiding, property-owning, middle-class person and do not send your children to the local public schools, state and local government is simply a bad deal for you. There are few regular benefits you get in return for all the taxes you regularly pay.
Yes, it is true that you get a police and fire department -- and these are worth paying taxes for even if you never directly need them to protect you and your family from a criminal or a fire. Arresting criminals and putting out fires are public goods, and local government provides a public service when it does them -- just as the federal government provides a public service when it, say, stops terrorists from boarding U.S.-bound flights.
It is also true that where I live, a truck comes by once a week and takes away your garbage and your "recycling," provided you have properly classified and separated your rubbish and hauled it out to the curb in the correct government-prescribed containers. A private garbage company, however, could handle this job just as well.
A few times in the fall, a different truck comes by and vacuums up the leaves that have fallen in your yard, so long as you pile them up beside the street before the appointed leaf-collection day. Yet, a private garbage company could do this, too.