I see ICC, see?

So, they’re building this road, see?  It’s called the ICC, or “Intercounty Connector.” Anyway, it’s been very controversial in my area for a long time, for environmental reasons, for traffic reasons, for aesthetic reasons, basically for any reason that a road can be controversial.

This road has been in the works for 40 years, at least.  Fifteen years ago, the most probable plan on the table would have involved bulldozing my parents’ house to build it.  That was because of some sort of fish or something that lived in a stream along the route.  Eventually, the fish all had died, or they weren’t a problem anymore, or something, and they decided that they were going to go with a different plan.  The new plan runs the road almost adjacent to my house!

Where the road is going to go is woods right now, but the map above shows what it will be like in a few years.

Now, we knew this was a likely possibility when we bought the house.  I was somewhat pleased by it, actually, because it should provide us with a 5 minute route to both Laurel and Gaithersburg, which are currently about 20 minute drives.  Also, we’re much better off than some of the people in our community who will have the road directly behind them.

When the realtor came to visit, she said it wouldn’t be a problem at all (check out the lake and bike path that will be between us and the road, it might actually look nicer from our porch).  So, I’m alright with it for personal reasons.

For political reasons, I’m a little more cool to the idea.  I don’t think the government should be building or maintaining the roads in general, and this road, specifically, is apparently going to be a toll road, so the government plans to charge us double (once for building it, and again for driving on it).  Many groups near where it will be constructed are against it because it will increase traffic everywhere else near it and because they think it will lower their property values.  Essentially, I’m against it but not for their reasons, so I don’t join them in protesting it.  But there are some big protest groups in my area.

Anyway, I’m hopefully going to be selling in the near future so this affects me less than it otherwise would, but I still find the whole process interesting.

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A Lion in Late Winter

Many people who know me know that I am a member of Lions Club International and also my local Lions Club in Sandy Spring.   The Lions are a good organization, I just went to a meeting tonight, but I have been missing some of my commitments there recently due to my separation and me just generally blowing anything off until Melissa is gone (either to spend more time with her or because I am too sad to really commit myself).

I hope to redouble my efforts in the near future and be sure to be a useful and contributing member of the club.

My grandfather, who asked me to join, asked me a few years ago why I had done it.  I told him I joined so that I could help people and be an upstanding member of my community.  These are both totally true statements.  But I also had a bit of an ulterior, selfish motive.  The libertarian / agorist political stances I take require me to take responsibility.  If I don’t want the government helping people, building and maintaining institutions, or structuring society, then voluntary organizations need to arise to do all those things in a voluntary manner.  The club just happened to be one such organization that was doing so, and one that I was invited to join by my grandfather.

And we do good work!  We genuinely help people and help organizations that help people, and we do it all with voluntary action.  I am proud of all the good things that lions do, but it’s not exactly a radical organization (and I do consider myself a radical).  I’m too timid to try to push it in that direction, mainly because I don’t think it’s my place to do so, and because putting a political slant on something that is generally a-political feels like I would be cheapening it.  I would like to expand my horizons, though, and possibly join or form another organization that does take radical agorist stances but also helps people and supports the community in which it arises.

The one thing I can’t abide at the Lions Club meetings is the pledge of allegiance.  I basically just mumble through it, considering each of the phrases and whether I could support them or not, deciding not and continuing to mumble, until we get to “with liberty and justice for all” which I put some force into.  I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person or a bad lion!  The invocation is also a little sketchy, since I don’t believe in God, but generally I can get past that.

I recommend that everyone join an organization whose sole purpose is to help those who need help.   The Lions are a good one.  I’m sure there are others.  If you know of any that are also trying to “build the structure of a new society within the shell of the old,” will you let me know?

Kids Rights: trade

If you’ve ever talked politics with me, you know I have a thing about voluntary trade.

When a voluntary trade takes place, it is always mutually beneficial. Both of the people involved are getting what they want out of it, no one is being coerced, and the world is a better place because the exchange took place.

And yet, good kids are getting suspended for buying candy in school.

Being an entrepreneur at this early stage can give more valuable lessons than can be learned in a classroom. A child can learn that being a good citizen means helping others by fulfilling their needs and providing a useful service. They can learn math skills and simple economics.

These principles were recently demonstrated by season 4 of HBO’s The Wire, which I know is a favorite of the blogosphere. That season, focused on kids in a Baltimore city school, showed one character, Randy Wagstaff, who was selling candy in school, and got in trouble for it. The trouble he was in cascaded until it ruined his life, and all because he showed some initiative, and the system shut it down. I don’t think that is the way to help kids who are just trying to do right by themselves and everyone around them.

Suspending kids who engage in this kind of trade is counter-productive, and a travesty. They should instead be lauded for having that spark of ingenuity and the drive to not just sit around playing video games, but to DO something.

Finally, you all know, or should know, my take on black markets. When something like candy is banned in a school, a black market will form. Obviously! And participation in the black market should be lauded! Free mutually beneficial trade is a boon to all who participate in it, and when your participation is underground, it can’t be taxed or have other extra burdens placed on it.