OUR VIEW: Not everything has to be paid by government

Government doesn’t have to pay for everything.

And with the financial challenges and burdens that Richmond County’s governments face — low tax base, low-income residents, increased infrastructure costs — there are some things that can’t be done.

But just because government can’t afford to use its coercion-based coffers to fund pet projects doesn’t mean those projects aren’t good ideas or shouldn’t be done.

In Thursday’s Ellerbe budget meeting, Commissioner Elsie Freeman said she’d like to see new Christmas decorations and more flowers around town.

With the small town’s small revenues and expenses, those wishes will more than likely remain just wishes — however, there is another solution.

“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society,” wrote French economist Frédéric Bastiat in his classic 1850 essay, “The Law.”

“As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all,” he continued. “We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”

If Freeman would like to see new flowers planted, she could take it upon herself (granted the rest of the council would be OK with it) to plant them. She doesn’t have to do it alone. She could enlist the help of other like-minded folks to voluntarily commit their time and money.

Progressives seem to often repeat the mantra “It takes a village …” However, the village doesn’t mean government, which gets most of its coin through the threat of violence — taxation.

This brings us to another recent wish-list item: the recreation complex.

The sprawling $10 million to $12 million complex with baseball, softball and soccer fields, a walking trail, two playgrounds, a splash park, kiddie train and disc golf course was intended to draw traveling youth sports teams from throughout the Tar Heel State.

A bond referendum to build the complex by instituting a quarter-cent sales tax increase failed overwhelmingly at the ballot box in November of 2014 — partly because residents in other parts of the county didn’t want to pay for something for Rockingham, and because there was no sunset clause saying what the money would be used for once the complex was paid off or if the sales tax would revert to its former rate.

The increase would have raised Richmond County’s 6.75-cent sales tax to an even 7 percent and was expected to generate $600,000 to $700,000 per year.

Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, said at the time that a lot of the money would have been coming in from outsiders making purchases in county had the referendum passed.

While that hardly seems likely, with Richmond County not really being a tourist destination, it also isn’t morally justifiable. Why make someone who’s not going to use something bear the burden of its cost?

“The only way to do what we wanted to do was with the sales tax money,” Rockingham Mayor Steve Morris told the Daily Journal after the measure was shot down 7-10 by voters. “Now there’s no way to do that.”

Our suggestion: start a crowdfunding campaign. That way, those who want it can voluntarily help pay for it without being forced to through taxation.

It’s not totally unheard of in government.

In fact, a GoFundMe account has been started to upgrade the playground equipment at West Greene Elementary School in Snow Hill. A little more than $1,700 of the $10,000 goal has been raised since the campaign started June 6.

We’re sure some of Richmond County’s high rollers could contribute quite a bit to the cause.

We’ve written before how generous the people in the county are when it comes to supporting others.

It may take a little longer to raise the funds, but at least it would be done by the willing.

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