Author's Note: If you don't get this, then you aren't reading enough Walter Williams. Of course, one can never read enough Walter Williams.
I used to be caring and compassionate and liberal. I supported gun control and the “right” of the government to seize a large chunk of my paycheck in order to plan my retirement for me. But, somewhere, somehow, along life's twisted way, I became a greedy capitalist pig. And, truth be known, it's affecting my entire neighborhood.
It all started on New Year's Eve when my friend Adam came by to help me with a small project inside the house. On that Eve, Adam informed me that my property wasn't exactly looking like the Garden of Eden. He suggested that I take the time to paint my front porch, which was beginning to look a little worse for the wear. The winter was mild (and the porch was covered) so I decided to try and knock out the project before classes resumed for the spring semester.
Unfortunately, when I repainted the front porch, I noticed some rot around a leaking gutter. I called Adam to fix the rot and the gutter. Adam focuses on structural repairs and does the very thorough work I can't always do myself given my hectic speaking schedule.
After I finished painting the porch, I decided to go all the way around the house and paint all the trim and windows while I was at it. Truth be known, I was concerned that there might be other rotting areas that had popped up in the five years since I had last painted.
Sure enough, I found two rotted window sills. I had them fixed immediately. While the work was being done, my across-the-street neighbor came over to chat. Realizing he hadn't inspected his upstairs windows and trim in some time, he climbed a ladder and got to work on his house. We both appreciated each other's efforts. In a few short weeks, we both got to look across the street at a freshly painted house instead of a dingy one.
Both of my window rot problems were caused by bushes that had grown against the house and trapped moisture on the window sills. So I decided to have all my flower beds flipped and all the bushes in them trimmed back away from the house. With so much work to do, I enlisted the help of my friend Mark who owns a lawn care business. We managed to shape up the entire property in just a few weekends - just in time for the azaleas to bloom in the month of March. Were it not for my Colorado summers, my North Carolina springs would be my favorite time of year.
The neighbors seemed to appreciate my landscaping efforts. A couple of them stopped by to thank me for motivating them to get to work improving their lawns. I'm not sure why they were thanking me. I wasn't doing it for them. But I'm afraid I'm getting ahead of myself.
When Mark came over, we discovered a problem with a small creek that runs along the line separating my property from my neighbor's. We followed the creek, which dumps into the intercostal waterway about 300 yards from my house. We discovered that some creek obstruction on a contiguous property was causing draining problems on my property. So we solved the problem by planting a grove of four Cyprus trees along the property line. Those trees suck water faster than deficit spending sucks the life out of the economy.
Shortly after planting the trees, I got a call from a neighbor who wished to thank me. It seems that my new row of Cyprus trees was placed perfectly in order to block the line of vision between his back porch and a neighbor's yard that was filled with unused equipment - including four empty boats. He said that my decision to plant those trees would greatly enhance the value of his home and his ease in selling it. Of course, I wasn't doing it for him. Now, I'm not so far ahead of myself.
My decision to start this spring's round of home improvements began with a realization that I needed to give my house a facelift in case I decided to sell it in the near future. I was not motivated by my desire to improve my neighbor's asking price. I was motivated by my desire to improve my asking price. I also realized that my structural rot problems had to be fixed before I closed a sale some time in the future. I could choose between a) having my friend fix it for a reasonable price, or b) operating on the terms of the buyer at a later date.
In other words, all of my decisions were motivated by self-interest. And each of them had a positive effect on other people. But none of the improvements would have been made had I not been personally invested in the outcome. The implications for our current assault on individual ownership and property rights are difficult to miss.
Of course, socialism is a cancer that rots deep inside of structures long before its occupants take notice. The longer we wait to treat it, the more everyone loses in the end.