In the past few years, I’ve come to the conclusion it does not pay to be responsible. I’m about as honest as they come, I don’t lie, cheat and have some high code of conduct and ethics. This is not only for myself, but what I expect from others. I’ll give a few anecdotal examples from my own personal life, and a few government leaders playing out in the press. The wifey and I did not over-leverage our house purchase in 2005, and we’ve maxed out our retirement savings to ensure we have a decent retirement. Unlike others is society we’ve been responsible with our finances, yet others get bailed out for their financial stupidity.
Here’s the first example. Our air conditioner broke in our house, in fact the day my new born son came into our house. So we started looking at local HVAC companies to do the work. Unknown to us, the town we live in requires a permit to do the work. In fact, also unknown to us, if you even make a change to an electrical outlet they want a permit for the work. So on the advice of our HVAC contractor, we went to town hall, and asked for a permit. Well that just opened up a whole can of worms. It appears the previous central air conditioner was not mentioned in the title records, and because of this we must pay 3 times the normal permit fee. It was too close to the edge of the property, and needed to be moved to another location. After all was said and done, the fee for the permit came to $800!! Even though it was the previous owner that did it illegally, and we were trying to be on the up and up and do things legitimately. I kid you not, after the work was completed the town inspector took two seconds to look at the air conditioning unit. He literally said, “Un and went off his way. Which proves my point it was solely for a revenue generation purposes. Why were we punished, when we had no idea this was an issue. Recourse with the title insurance company would have been a drawn out battle, and not worth the time to recoup the $700.
The second example is also with our property. Our neighbor pulled me aside, as if we were discussing drug smuggling, and suggested to run my sprinklers at 4 AM instead of the 7:30 AM I was running them at. The town drives around checking for sprinklers that weren’t “christened” by the them. She mentioned there is a $100 annual fee with the town to turn on your sprinklers. For what purpose, other than revenue making, does this annual fee serve? I refuse to pay an annual fee to my town for an in-ground sprinkler. To conserve water? No, because traditional sprinklers use much more water and are not set to a scheduled time.
When someone moves into a town why don’t they send you a nice welcome packet with the details of the rules and regulations. No different than the condos I’ve purchased in the past. There is no excuse of this because the town gets notified of the title change, so they know when a property changes hands. Instead, because of incompetence, or hoping you voliate the rules on purpose, you have no idea what rules and regulations the town has. Sure you could go to the town and ask for these details, but then they would proceed to hand you legalese I can guarantee longer than our Declaration of Independence and Constitution combined.
For both situations, the only logical reason is it is a form of legalized payola. It makes other fellow home owners either not do the work, or do it subversively. Local business owners are hurt because they don’t get the business. I suspect this form of payola will get worse, as Business Week, had a great article about the troubles of Nassau County. For readers not familiar with the area where I live, it is one of the highest taxed area of the country. To put into perpective, my small one bedroom condo rental I pay over $4k annual in taxes (which is also in Nassau County).
Now mind you as a libertarian, I’m not suggesting no laws or regulations. They are very much needed. My point and question is when do these “well intentioned” laws cause much more unintended consequences than the positive effects? In many cases these regulations increase the cost to do business, add red tape, and decrease the flow of legitimate commerce. The more our government leaders push for rules and regulations, the more chance it has to go underground. The free market will always exist no matter what our government does.
Yet we also then entrust our civil servants to be honest with us regarding the policies they create. They always state it is for our best interest, yet can’t even tell the truth about some mistaken twitter post that was supposed to be a direct message. So if they cannot be truthful with simple things, we should trust them on government laws? We can even get someone like Charlie Rangel to be honest with his taxes, yet expects us to to the same? He got a censure big deal. If it were a regular citizen, they would be in jail for the thing he did. Hypocrisy at it’s finest. While I’m not suggesting I’ll do anything illegal or immoral, as our leaders have shown , it does not pay to be responsible.