Our school district has a combined middle school and high school. It’s over forty years old and not in the best shape anymore.
Every year for the last few years, they’ve put a proposition on the town ballot to bump the property taxes a little so they can use the extra money to finance a thorough renovation and expansion of the middle/high school complex that serves five different towns. Every year, it has failed so far, by ever-declining margins. Yesterday they had another town election for local offices, and the proposition was once again on the ballot. And like good Libertarians, we voted to…support the renovation?
That’s right, I voted to not only see my own property taxes increase, but also those of all the other property owners in my town and the four towns next to ours. How on EARTH does this jive with the libertarian principles of lower taxes and less government?
Turns out my concerns are both self-interest and communal benefits. In the self-interest column, I supported the school renovation because if there’s a chance my kids are going to attend that school (we plan on exploring alternate educational routes once they get to middle school age, but you never know), I want that middle/high school to not be an unsafe 40-year-old school in danger of losing accreditation. In the communal benefits column, I supported the school renovation because it increases property values and the desirability of my home town in the long run. The town is more attractive to prospective new residents with a renovated high school that can meet the needs of the district’s students in the future. Lastly, I think it’s a reasonable investment–it adds an amount in the low hundreds to our annual tax bill, which is trivial in the long run. And I won’t mind the cost even if we decide to not send our kids to that newly renovated school in a few years after all.
So there you have it: I’m a TERRIBLE libertarian, voting to increase my taxes to improve my home town a bit. Ayn Rand would sneer, call me a “looter”, and then go back to writing some 1,500-page tome where people give three-hour radio speeches.
(Oh, and the measure passed this year. In our town, voters approved it with a 3:1 margin.)