Why People Hate Government

Went outside earlier to walk the dogs and was greeted by two trucks and a backhoe in my alley, carving a four foot wide and about 8 foot deep hole in the ground behind my pine trees. Completely took out the root structure to one of the trees. I asked them what the hell they were doing, and they informed me that all of this was to replace the water meter. For years they have come inside to read the meter, apparently this was too much of a burden.

When I asked them when the hell they thought they should inform the home owner, the guy shrugged and said “We have right-a-way.” At any rate, I’m concerned they have damaged the tree to the point that it is no longer sound, so I went out and filmed all the jackasses and the damage.

But really- how much of a burden would it have been to send a letter with my last bill? Or even knocking on my door prior to digging? The guy had to knock on my door to get inside to change the meter. Why couldn’t he do it PRIOR to destroying my trees?

If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis, they might actually be able to build their party.

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170 replies
  1. 1
    Jude says:

    If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis, they might actually be able to build their party.

    You seem to think that libertarians care about something more than devoting the government, its services, and its tax policy entirely to the service of the rich.

  2. 2
    cleek says:

    did they at least fill the hole back in when they were done?

    i came home last winter to a giant ditch in my back yard. no sign, no note. no warning tape around the 4′ hole. they missed tearing up the irrigation pipes by sheer luck; i could see the PVC along the side of the ditch – a half inch to the left and they would’ve ripped the pipe to hell.

    three days later it still wasn’t filled so i called the town to see who had been digging, and why, and when were they going to fill it. they didn’t know. no permits were requested.

    so, i went out there and put all the dirt back in the hole myself.

    never figured out who dug the hole or why…

  3. 3
    BR says:

    Huh? All I hear is some liberal hippie environmentalist who want to protect some ‘trees’ instead of the jobs of hard-working -white- ‘merikans.

  4. 4
    Short Bus Bully says:

    IMO, even worse is when your dipshit neighbors do something like this and then talk about property lines and their grandfather’s fence and their right to leave cars in their yard that drop crankcase oil into the water table and breed mosquitos in the abandoned tires. Sure, every once in awhile the nasty gub’ment does something stupid (read: idiot people WORKING for the gub’ment) but I would rather have them around to help me with my neighbors which seems to be a bigger danger.

  5. 5
    Davebo says:

    Pines have tap roots, don’t sweat it.

  6. 6
    Joe Beese says:

    You want the libertarians to focus on the utilities company not notifying you that they were going to uproot one of your pine trees?

  7. 7
    Ash Can says:

    But if libertarians were to focus on things like that, it would force them to deal with the real world, at which point they would cease to be libertarians.

  8. 8
    4tehlulz says:

    >smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis

    But that stuff’s like air to a libertarian; if you can’t be smug and contrarian, then what’s the point?

  9. 9
    Alex says:

    John, if we did this, then you, Doug J, and all of the ragin’ redistributionists on this site would register a complaint similar to the one voiced by Doug in his complaints about Matt Ygelsias’s attacks on the stupidity of occupational licensing. In other words, any attempt to point to the myriad ways in which the State inefficiently delivers services is met with caviling and pedantic objections about how much of a red herring it is. What you and Doug apparently fail to understand is that these are not “simplistic, humorous examples” of such inefficiency. They are not isolated either — they are symptomatic of structural problems with governmental interventions that proliferate in our daily lives. Glad to see you’re coming around though.

  10. 10
    Steve says:

    The water company may be a regulated utility but I dunno that they’re “the government.”

  11. 11
    Daddy-O says:

    “If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis, they might actually be able to build their party.”

    I prefer my third parties weak and powerless–especially the ideological ones. Don’t give them any ideas, John. Let’s just steal the ideas that work.

  12. 12
    Ash Can says:

    @cleek: I’d lay odds that it really was the town that did it, the guys figured out too late that they had fucked up and dug in the wrong place, and they just didn’t want to own up to it.

  13. 13
    BGinCHI says:

    I’m thumbing through Atlas Shrugged and honestly, I can’t find anything on pine trees.

    My copy has an index, but most of the entries have to do with being selfish. Maybe pine trees are just too altruistic.

  14. 14
    Face says:

    Theres a “running water? In West Virginia?” joke in there somewheres.

    Da Googz tells me pines run for $35 bones. Take your Bachmann ad money and run down to the nursery.

  15. 15
    West of the Cascades says:

    Here in Oregon, anyone doing an excavation is required by law to notify a central call center (not necessarily the homeowner, but the law does require that excavation – by anyone – be performed with due care).

    In West Virginia, there is a similar reporting center – “Miss Utility” – I doubt they can directly do anything to penalize the contractor for damaging your tree, but they may ding the contractor if it didn’t report the dig first. And there are some direct phone numbers to actual named people that might be cathartic to call and give a good rant to:

    http://www.muwv.org/HOME/tabid/228/Default.aspx

    Miss Utility of West Virginia

    * 1-800-245-4848 (or dial 811)
    * http://www.muwv.org
    * 5608 MacCorkle Ave. SW
    South Charleston, WV 25309

    Liason Managers

    * Tom Taylor
    5608 MacCorkle Ave. SW
    South Charleston, WV 25309
    Phone: 304-345-3959
    Email: tomtaylor@muwv.org

    * Norm Launi
    Northern WV
    RT 5 Box 219
    Keyser, WV 26726
    Phone/Fax: 304-788-5090
    Email: pte00939@mail.wvnet.edu

  16. 16
    Tractarian says:

    I asked them what the hell they were doing,

    I asked them when the hell they thought they should inform the home owner,

    Ah, here’s the problem, you were being a jerk! If you had acknowledged their hard work and sacrifice, they probably would have apologized and offered to immediately replace the entire tree.

    In all seriousness, though: Do you really think you own the part of your tree which lies under public land?

  17. 17
    JasonF says:

    Why don’t libertarians focus on this? I’ll tell you why. I don’t know if your water company is a public or private company, but around here, the city provides the water and all other utilities are private. I can guarantee you that the water company is no more likely to engage in the kind of “We don’t care. We’re the phone company — we don’t have to” behavior than the private electric company or gas company. So if you start frothing at the mouth about the water company’s behavior as a symptom of government run amok, it becomes very hard to avoid talking about the private utilities and their identical behavior. At which point, you’ve pretty much admitted that the problem has nothing to do with government.

  18. 18
    BTD says:

    I don’t understand this post. Is the electric company a government entity in West Virginia? Or is it a water meter? (Strange that water and sewage never were seen as utility type businesses.)

  19. 19
    Ash Can says:

    @Alex: Because God knows that private-sector companies NEVER fuck up.

  20. 20
    Comrade Darkness says:

    Pics or it didn’t happen ;-)

    What you are talking about is easy to fix. The utilities are a captive monopoly. They operate on pre-defined rules. Changing the rules about disclosure of future work seems like a trivial regulatory fix, honestly. Libertarian policy would simply make them a private company with no mechanism whatsoever for homeowner complaint. If NZ and the UK are any guide, they would cease all maintenance until the system collapsed.

    But aside from that. Print out those 8×10 glossy pictures with the writing on the back . . . and attach them to a polite but clearly angry letter to the utility, cc your state reps and the state or muni office that oversees the utility. In our state, controlled monopolies get fined for every complaint that goes unresolved at the end of the year. You’d be surprised how responsive they are.

  21. 21
    Soprano2 says:

    I work for the sewer department in a mid-sized Midwestern city, and we never dig in someone’s yard until we’ve contacted them so that they know what we’re doing. I agree that the utility should have notified you if they were going to dig on your property, even if it is in the right-of-way, especially because their digging has the potential to kill some of your trees. I’ll warn you that you’ll probably have to rag on them to do the clean-up work.

    Did you notice any utility locate marks in the area? In my state they’re supposed to have all underground utilities located three days before they begin digging unless it’s an emergency. Every now and then we get a phone call from someone who wants to know why the grass in front of their house has all that spray paint all over it. It’s rarely our job, though, because we talk to people first.

  22. 22
    Brachiator says:

    If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis, they might actually be able to build their party.

    Libertarians are not pragmatic. They are not even sensible. And since in their world water and power should be privatized, your concerns are meaningless to them. You should either find another service provider. Or move.

  23. 23
    Martin says:

    BTW, the libertarians would declare that utilities have no right-of-ways, that the state’s interest cannot supersede the right of property. That’s pretty much the starting point of libertarianism.

    You wouldn’t have water unless you could drill for it. They’d also suggest you do that yourself, by hand, because you wouldn’t have any electricity or gasoline either.

    Funny thing about libertarianism is that it can’t exist until enough socialism has been implemented to permit people the time to be libertarians.

  24. 24
    daveNYC says:

    If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis, they might actually be able to build their party

    Except that libertarians would say that the water service should be done by a private company. So combine that with their love of property rights and you’d have a company ripping up your trees roots instead of the government. And the company would probably be charging you more money.

    Key point being: Libertarians don’t want better government, they want less government.

  25. 25
    Martin says:

    FYWP! I hate that goddamn soçialism filter! It’s like fucking filtering for ‘fucking’ on a website about fucking!

  26. 26
    John Cole says:

    @Joe Beese: I know you are just a smug dipshit trying to be cute, but yes, if libertarians focused on issues like property rights at the micro level, zoning issues, etc., they would really resonate with a lot of people. Instead of, as they do now, looking for one great messiah to run for President who talks about the Gold standard and shit no one cares about.

  27. 27
    ricky says:

    Don’t blame government. Blame stupid people. Educated by stupid government skools.

  28. 28
    Tractarian says:

    @JasonF: Exactly. The problem isn’t “government” per se, it’s monopolies (most of which exist only because the government allows them to).

    Think of your cable company. No government there. But there’s no competition. (Satellite TV and DSL notwithstanding.) So there’s no incentive to provide decent customer service. You don’t need to be a glibertarian or supply-sider to recognize this dynamic.

    Unfortunately for libertarians, the cable company example obliterates their world-view. Because it proves that, in order for markets to run efficiently, the government needs to step in to provide structure and protect competition.

  29. 29
    New Yorker says:

    I like libertarians when they challenge neocon blowhards to actually stand behind their delusions of grandeur.

    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org.....Liberty%29

  30. 30
    Steve says:

    @daveNYC: Well, there are two different ways we could do this. We could have four private companies with four sets of redundant water lines running to your property, and they could compete with one another on price and service. So if one company treated you like crap, you could switch to another company. Of course you might think installing four sets of water lines under the entire city might not be worth it even if your customer service improves.

    Alternatively, we could have one set of water lines, operated by a regulated utility. And if you don’t like the way they treat you, there’s a regulatory body you can complain to, or you could call your legislator. And in the interests of getting more votes, they might be very happy to put their name on a bill providing that utilities can’t dig up your property without giving you a week’s notice, or whatever.

    There is no perfect answer, but somehow I find I can live with the second scenario even though government is far from perfectly responsive. It’s not like you’re going to be able to install four sets of water lines without digging up everyone’s property anyway.

  31. 31
    Ash Can says:

    @BTD: Of course you don’t understand it. That would require a sense of humor.

  32. 32
    Citizen_X says:

    @Alex:

    these are not “simplistic, humorous examples” of such inefficiency…they are symptomatic of structural problems with governmental interventions

    Bullshit. As others have pointed out, you’d get the exact same result with a private company. Both types of utilities would reflect the prevailing cultural attitude that nature strictly observes our property boundaries and if it doesn’t, well, that’s not important.

  33. 33
    Ryan says:

    @JasonF:
    Nails it, thread over.

  34. 34
    Comrade Darkness says:

    @Martin: It’s actually fairly easy to remove from the list if one is using the default list and not an extra plug-in.

    http://codex.wordpress.org/Spam_Words
    “Comment Moderation box in your wp-admin/options-discussions.php page”

  35. 35
    Ben says:

    Even assuming that John’s correct in his premise – that the utility that behaved stupidly is a government agency – it’s incorrect to view an error such as this as justification for “hating government.” Although most people have experienced similar episodes, so, too, have they experienced them at the hands of private enterprise.

    Don’t get me started on Continental Airlines, for example; just thinking about that crappy company gets my blood pressure up.

    My point is not that we should accept crappy treatment, it’s that there’s nothing unique about the government in meting it out, and in many cases, there are more avenues for redress with the government than with private business.

    I never got an apology from Continental, for example. But don’t get me started…

  36. 36
    MTiffany says:

    @Ash Can: Beat me to it.

  37. 37
    ricky says:

    @New Yorker:

    Loved your link. Especially the headline “Chinese Drywall Maker Held Accountable Without Government Meddling.”
    “Accountability without Meddling” will, I think, resonate
    with a burdened public yearning for transparency.

  38. 38
    Zifnab says:

    @Joe Beese: Actually, yes. Regulating the assholery out of government would go a long way towards improving public opinion of government.

    All that so-called “red tape” requiring folks to give X weeks notice and hold Y committee meetings and notify Z residents of a pending action was put in place because people got sick of some government pumba waking up one morning and deciding he was going to drop forty miles of turnpike through your backyard. At the end of the day, it’s done a lot to curb the wrecklessness of government officials and gives residents a vent for civil complaint.

    If Libertarians wanted to focus more on balancing out government authority with citizen rights, they’d come across less as money grubbing narcissists and more as pragmatic populists.

    But local property rights aren’t nearly as sexy as man made tax free floating communes. So I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  39. 39
    Ross Hershberger says:

    Our gas company has been pestering me to do this for several years. I’ve been ignoring them, because the place they want to dig up is in the middle of some landscaping, and right up against a section of foundation that’s probably not the most stable. They say they’ll ‘restore the area’ but that probably means filling the hole and striding briskly away leaving my uprooted shrubs in a heap.
    They’re up to sending letters indicating unspecified ‘legal action’, so we’ll see where this leads.
    maybe I should just let them dig, and when my Art Moderne glass block wall on that corner cracks, file a homeowner’s insurance claim and let State Farm sue them.
    Regarding pines, they have lateral roots rather than tap roots. Digging the surface near the trunks fcuks them up. Sorry.

  40. 40
    Ash Can says:

    @Tractarian: Butbutbut monopolies exist because the ubermenschen running them were so much better than all of their competition! They are the PINNACLE of CAPITALISTIC VICTORY, the FREE-MARKET IDEAL! …Or something.

  41. 41
    Comrade Darkness says:

    @Steve: Especially since in option 1 your service costs 4x as much, and people in rural area and distant suburbs aren’t cost effective to serve, so they don’t get any service at all under that scheme.

  42. 42
    JasonF says:

    @Tractarian: Government can facilitate monopolies, but they can also break them up. In the case of utilities, they have massive start-up and fixed costs (to build a network) and low variable costs (to add one more subscriber), so they naturally tend toward monopoly with or without the government. Anyway, when you look at utilities like cable and phone companies — where there are multiple options for people in many parts of the country — you don’t really see any more sensitivity to customer complaints. I mean, I’ve got Comcast cable and I’ve got ComEd power. For cable, I could switch to RCN or AT&T (let alone Dish or DirecTV). For ComEd, I’ve got no other options. Both are a pain in the butt to deal with

  43. 43
    Don K says:

    @Steve:

    Gee, I don’t know about WV, but here in MI the local water delivery is done by the township (and taking the water from Lake Huron and treating it is done by the city of Detroit). In any event, when the township swapped out the meters they sent out a notice about a week in advance that it would be done, did no digging (the old meter was already outside), and the water was shut off for only about 15-30 minutes. No problem.

  44. 44
    ricky says:

    I find incessant whining about government behavior to be a symptom of those who shun their individual responsibility to take up second amendment remedial solutions.

  45. 45
    Binky R. says:

    In Monongalia county there is an ordinance against digging/construction within 15 feet of a tree: here Perhaps your town is violating itself.

  46. 46
    MTiffany says:

    @Brachiator:

    And since in their world water and power should be privatized,

    Don’t forget the air. Something no one can live without for more than three minutes? Now there’s a commodification opportunity just waiting to be exploited! I mean, privatized so that it can be improved.

  47. 47
    Joe Beese says:

    @John Cole:

    I know you are just a smug dipshit trying to be cute, but yes, if libertarians focused on issues like property rights at the micro level, zoning issues, etc., they would really resonate with a lot of people.

    I never noticed you writing about property rights and zoning issues before – though I could easily have missed it.

    Do you have any links to your previous writings on the subjects? Or is this something you’ve only started bitching about now because it was one of your trees?

  48. 48
    soonergrunt says:

    @Steve: That depends on where you are. In a lot of small towns in particular, the municipal government is the water company. Hell, that’s the case in a lot of big towns, too.
    Water, sewer, trash pick-up are usually fee-for-service.
    I haven’t had any problems with government about water. It’s fucking AT&T from whom I don’t buy services that uses their right of way to place one of their little tower things in my back yard. The utilities and city have a 15-foot easement and all the others, Cox Cable, whom I do have my service with, OG&E, and the city all have their access trunks clustered in one little corner. AT& Fucking T places theirs 14.5 feet out from the back fence, and six feet in from the side, and there’s nothing I can really do about it, and nor can anyone else.

  49. 49
    ricky says:

    Reason # 39 why we should let the private sector magic work:

    The speed with which Google computers determined this thread was ripe for successful placement of tree trimming services advertisements.

  50. 50
    Comrade Darkness says:

    @Joe Beese: John didn’t get a good night sleep last night. That negates the need for precedence on what’s pissing one off today.

  51. 51
    peej says:

    My local water/sewer government entity has been replacing the pipes in my subdivision. Their communications to the homeowners have been great. The local non-government power company, on the other hand, has a deserved reputation for crappy communications, work, etc. It would be nice if they told us why the power goes out in my neighborhood when it’s nice and sunny out…but rarely during storms when everyone else’s power goes out.

  52. 52
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    O/T (and on the road, not far from the PA/WV line incidentally) — anyone hear that someone fired shots at the Pentagon this morning?

  53. 53
    someguy says:

    WTF is your beef with Librarians John? You’re always going on about Librarians this and Librarians that.

    For Buddha’s sake, you don’t like Librarians, just get your books from Amazon.

    Jeebus…

  54. 54
    ricky says:

    @Joe Beese:

    Go easy on Cole you smug dipshit. He does not realize the Libertarians explored the root protection coalition building long ago only to find the Green Party had monopolized the vegetative constituencies.

  55. 55
    p.a. says:

    Hate to tell you this, but my (interior) water and gas meters have radio transmitters on them so all the utilities have to do is drive by to get their readings. Have had them for years, the ut’s installed them for 0. ‘Course, I live on the socio-anarcho-atheo-murka-hating East Coast.

  56. 56
    Violet says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:
    Yep.

    Shots were fired at the Pentagon early Tuesday, authorities said, striking a window of the building.
    __
    Pentagon police spokesman Chris Layman said it’s not known who fired the shots. Pentagon police officers heard at least five shots around 4:50 a.m., Layman added.
    __
    According to another Pentagon Force Protection Agency spokesman, Terry Sutherland, two bullets hit the Pentagon on the south side of the building — one striking a window and the other hitting the building itself. This is an unoccupied part of the building that is being renovated.

  57. 57
    Mark Kolmar says:

    Deep in the city in Milwaukee, workers for gas/electric company We Energies forced open my back gate often enough that the solid metal latch had to be replaced. So I let my dog outside into the so-called fenced yard, only to find him at the other end of the block. And this is, for example, planned, scheduled power drops as needed for tree trim.

    Contractors dug up everyone’s front yards for gas meter replacement. The notification letters arrived by mail a few days after I complained at the private contractor on my front lawn. They had to enter my fenced yard to drill through my neighbor’s foundation for a new gas meter. First I heard about it was while they dug.

    I keep a chow-chow, whose job is to monitor the perimeter and to eat intruders. The difference between bad-news confrontation and friendly reception, dog-wise, is the doorbell and my friendly greeting. You’d think someone would have half a brain among the whole team to realize some of this.

  58. 58
    Luthe says:

    Is there a utility easement plotted on the original site plan of your property (the one filed with the town clerk’s office)? Because if there is, the utility company does actually have right-of-way and the ability to do pretty much whatever the hell they want. Whether they are legally obligated to notify you and/or restore the land to its original state I don’t know, but there is nothing you can do about an easement.

    ::is currently taking Land Use Planning Law (and should be studying for the midterm >.>)::

  59. 59
    Keith G says:

    Don’t get mad. Get a supervisor.

    Decide what outcome you want and work your way up the organizational flow chart until you get an answer you can live with. I bet you will be done in 15 minutes. Hopefully it was an errant city crew, since ultimately citizens have more clout.

  60. 60
    jrg says:

    My mother had a similar experience with the local water and sewer authority. They dynamited nearby, severely damaging the foundation of her house. They even took pictures of the foundation beforehand which showed that the damage was done by the dynamite, yet they refused to pay. For some legal reason, they were able to get away with it, sticking her with a $50k bill.

    There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that shit like this makes people hate the government.

  61. 61
    ricky says:

    @<a @Violet:

    Guess they never did find the guy who shot up Eric Cantor’s unmarked office in his consultant’s unmarked building, eh?

  62. 62
    BTD says:

    @Ash Can:

    If your comment is an example of what you mean, I’m happy to be missing it. My gawd, the dumbest people think they are funny.

  63. 63
    Hunter Gathers says:

    I doubt that libertarians have a solution for people acting like assholes. The problem Cole described has nothing to do with government; it’s the guys working for the utility acting like complete dicks. They could have knocked on his door telling him that they were going to dig up the yard, but they chose not to, because those guys are obviously assholes.

    There is no cure for White Male Asshole Syndrome. I find that most libertarians suffer from WMAS, so thinking that libertarians can ‘solve’ that type of problem is wishful thinking. Hell, you could pass legislation specifically addressing the situation Cole’s dealing with, but there’s not a damn thing you could do to keep people from acting like assholes. If there was, then there would be no eminent teabagger takeover of Congress in 2 weeks.

  64. 64
    Punchy says:

    Careful with pissing off the utility guys. They’d just as soon connect your sewer to your water intake and laugh their ass off. See, also: policemen and Fantastic Sams hairstylists.

  65. 65
    Joey Maloney says:

    @BGinCHI:

    Maybe pine trees are just too altruistic.

    There is unrest in the forest
    There is trouble with the trees
    For the maples want more sunlight
    And the oaks ignore their pleas

    Hmm, nothing specific about pines…someone email Neil Peart.

  66. 66
    Left Coast Tom says:

    If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis, they might actually be able to build their party.

    If they were actually interested in stuff other than the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis they might take you up on the idea.

    Here in CA, after _Kelo_ they could have put up a ballot measure that did nothing but amend the state constitution to prevent the state from using eminent domain for private benefit and, I’d guess, gotten it passed. Instead, they put up an initiative that both addressed eminent domain _and_ declared any new environmental regulations to be a “taking” – it failed. Then they put up another initiative that both addressed eminent domain _and_ overturned local rent control ordinances – it failed.

    They won’t focus on your issue because they don’t care about it. They might, however, fold your issue in with someone else’s pet peeve if that someone else is willing to pay them to do it. Then when that pet peeve goes down in flames, your issue goes down with it.

  67. 67
    LiberalTarian says:

    I don’t agree that necessarily the tree will be fine. Trees are worth a lot of money on your property. I worked for a law firm for a long time where some people came into a public park to do some contract work and gouged a bunch of trees while they were at it. They painted the trees with black paint to try to cover it up. The trees didn’t die right away, but they couldn’t be saved. The park estimated they killed 10 trees, and each of those trees were worth $50,000. Yeah, the contractor’s insurance was fighting big time to get out of the liability, but they lost.

    Right of way or no, if they caused property damage you can file a claim. Look into how much it would cost to replace the tree and/or how much full grown trees add to the value of your property and file against them.

  68. 68
    zzyzx says:

    One of my favorite Libertarian concepts is the Free State Project, where they wanted to overwhelm the local population of a state and turn it into a Libertarian paradise. Back when they thought it might work, they wrote some essays about how NH (sorry guys, you got nominated. Blame it on your license plates) would look afterward.

    I like this one because it assumes that wacky small businesses would somehow win out instead of the more obvious conclusion that multinationals would come in, undercut the competition, and drive everyone else out of business.

    Then there’s the guy who mentions how their quiet suburban neighborhood would be a place where people wouldn’t leave home without a gun and that’s supposed to be a good thing…

    Oh if you’re wondering how it worked, it immediately scismed once a state was announced into an eastern and western project and never got any sort of critical mass. That’s the reason Libertarians will never take over anything; they have too much fun calling each other statists to work together on a goal.

  69. 69
    jharp says:

    “Why couldn’t he do it PRIOR to destroying my trees?”

    Because you might have tried to stop him. And that would cost them money.

    I hope you can sue the living piss out of them over the tree loss.

  70. 70
    Allan says:

    My water utility did a very good job of communicating to us when they finally installed meters at every home in the city.

    Yes, I live in northern California, where we spend many summers under lawn-watering restrictions, etc., but in this city we have always paid a flat monthly rate for water no matter how much you waste. Crazy.

    There were advanced communications about the plan, door hangers and door knocks for the affected residents when their neighborhood was next, they warned us again about the window of time our water would be shut off, and since mine had to be located in a flower bed, they relocated the bulbs that they dug up.

    Now that the meters are installed, our utility bills will show for the next year how much water we actually used, and what that WILL cost once we are billed for our actual usage, so that we will all have the opportunity to take steps to bring our water usage under control BEFORE we start paying directly for it.

    I’m sorry you live in a place that sucks, but hating on government is not the solution for your problem. Consider a stern letter to your water utility.

  71. 71
    Citizen_X says:

    @p.a.:

    my (interior) water and gas meters have radio transmitters on them so all the utilities have to do is drive by to get their readings.

    No! Get some tinfoyl their READING YOU’RE BRANE!

  72. 72
    Ash Can says:

    @BTD: tl;dr

  73. 73
    Suzan says:

    I know it is not fashionable right now, but why not be glad they don’t have to bother you to read the meter, or have people keep coming back when you’re not home, instead of screaming “get off my lawn”? I know, I know, “the pine tree”. Dude. Really.

  74. 74
    jharp says:

    Oh, and one more thing. It can take years for your tree to die because of the root damage.

    I’m not an expert but I do know a lot about trees. It can take 5 to 7 years, I think.

    I just lost a maple that I did major root work on about 5 years ago. It was badly girdled and I ungirdled it.

  75. 75
    BGinCHI says:

    @Joey Maloney: Peart probably doesn’t do email since he went Galt.

  76. 76
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @someguy:

    They’re so smug and contrarian with their “classification systems” that don’t make any sense and their obvious self-satisfaction at the fact that they hoard most of the best books in their so-called “reference sections” and don’t allow them to be removed from the premises. To what, exactly, are these books “referring”? Perhaps to the true Librarian agenda, maybe?

  77. 77
    someguy says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    There is no cure for White Male Asshole Syndrome

    Oh yes there is… but not if you believe Violence Never Solves Anything…

  78. 78
    jrg says:

    The problem Cole described has nothing to do with government; it’s the guys working for the utility acting like complete dicks. They could have knocked on his door telling him that they were going to dig up the yard, but they chose not to, because those guys are obviously assholes.

    What a load of bullshit. Easements are not “white people can do whatever they want in your yard” zones. Lots of people are assholes: it’s just that only some people have the right to go digging in your yard. Care to take a guess what those people have in common?

  79. 79
    Corner Stone says:

    This post about “people hating government” is about as intellectually honest as Sully’s was about liberals not acknowledging our betters.
    Your problem has very little to do with “government”, but it is a clear example of the kind of dishonest conflation conservatives have used for 30 years to trash “government”.

  80. 80
    bemused says:

    @cleek:
    Perhaps previous owners had forgotten they had buried a stash of gold/jewels. That or a body.

  81. 81
    Karmakin says:

    @Hunter Gathers: This.

    I actually agree that there’s an argument to be made for better government/better corporations/just better human relations in general. But yes, this is basically people acting like assholes because they can.

    And it sounds like this was a contracted out thing. Honestly, these types of B2B contractors can be amazingly over the top with their assholeishness.

  82. 82

    Other comments I have read online featured people who hate the government and then give examples of govt failure: Always local government failure.

    I usually tell them to move to a place that has decent local government services.

    John, you live in West Virginia. You live in a village in West Virginia. You don’t even have mail delivery. How much big-city competence do you expect?

    And folks in WV might not treasure trees as much as people in other places do.

    On the other hand, I am sorry about your tree. Yes, it might be lost. Sorry, baby.

  83. 83
    DPirate says:

    I thought you said somewhere before that you rented. Was that some other guy?

  84. 84
    GVG says:

    I’ve lived where the utilities are private and where its “government/town”. Results are mixed with both. What people tell me its like tends to remain the case after I move into whichever kind of monopoly. In other words a lousy attitude my friends warn me about turns out to be true and cheap or high priced also tends to continue. Apparently management and “corperate culture” make a big difference and it doesn’t always seem related to my inability to change to another carrier.
    Some government utilities are excellant, good service and nice low prices…actually that was in the state capital and I think it might have been because all the state legislators could really hurt a bad company.
    I just don’t see this as pointing at government as the cause. Private companies can be much worse.
    What are the laws about notice and redress of damage on pine trees in WV?

  85. 85
    Martin says:

    @jrg: They all work for utilities? Even non-governmental ones. One you have the power to redress at the voting booth, the other you don’t. Hell, go to city hall and try and talk with the city manager or someone at the utility. It’s easier than you might think, and I’ve always found them to be responsive, even in my 150K sized city.

    And after Cole spent 3 months wrongfully imprisoned by PayPal, I’d think we would all have a somewhat better perspective of what the public utilities are competing with on the customer service front.

    Who wants PayPal delivering their water? Anyone?

  86. 86
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    A sound money supply is actually quite more important than some tree’s root system. Especially a pine tree.

    This will become apparent in due time.

  87. 87
    morzer says:

    @cleek:

    Perhaps they were preparing to plant a giant (c)leek?

  88. 88
    cleek says:

    @bemused:
    it’s a possibility

  89. 89
    fasteddie9318 says:

    @Martin:

    Who wants PayPal delivering their water? Anyone?

    Aside from the fact that it will take them 18 months or so to verify that you are actually a living being that must consume water to live, I don’t see the problem.

  90. 90
    Woodrowfan says:

    “But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.”

    “Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn’t exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything.”

    “But the plans were on display …”

    “On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

    “That’s the display department.”

    “With a flashlight.”

    “Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”

    “So had the stairs.”

    “But look, you found the notice didn’t you?”

    “Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

  91. 91
    Hunter Gathers says:

    @jrg:

    What a load of bullshit. Easements are not “white people can do whatever they want in your yard” zones. Lots of people are assholes: it’s just that only some people have the right to go digging in your yard. Care to take a guess what those people have in common?

    I never claimed that they didn’t have the right to dig up the yard. But they could have at least told him that they were going to do it beforehand. Cole could not have stopped them from doing it. But at least these guys could have had the common courtesy to inform him ahead of time. Even five minutes before. But they chose not to, because they are assholes.

    Not all assholes are white people. But most white people are assholes. Or have you not payed attention these last 30 years?

  92. 92
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    Not all assholes are white people. But most white people are assholes. Or have you not payed attention these last 30 years?

    Well, that really adds substance to the discussion.

  93. 93
    jrg says:

    Not all assholes are white people. But most white people are assholes.

    WTF is wrong with you? Do you really think this kind of racist nonsense helps anything at all?

  94. 94
    WaterGirl says:

    @Comrade Darkness: I would be pissed off, too, if that happened to me, so I doubt it’s a matter of getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

  95. 95
    Violet says:

    @Linda Featheringill:

    John, you live in West Virginia. You live in a village in West Virginia. You don’t even have mail delivery. How much big-city competence do you expect?

    The other side of small town living is that John has a greater chance of knowing the people who did the digging. Or knowing their parents or siblings or extended family. Gives him the opportunity to say things like, “I know how much your Aunt Linda loves trees. I think she’d be sad to see you butchering my tree.” Word gets around in a small town.

  96. 96
    morzer says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    I assume you are white, and so know of what you speak. At least, in your immediate vicinity, under the bridge.

  97. 97
    stuckinred says:

    @Hunter Gathers: And most black people are . . . ?

  98. 98
    BTD says:

    @Ash Can:

    Richard Cohen.

  99. 99
    Larry Bird says:

    If they sent a letter with your last bill would the root structure of your tree somehow be intact now? Not really getting the point of the bitching. Shit happens and that includes water meters getting replaced.

  100. 100
    ricky says:

    @Violet: the a-holes were a bunch of McCoy cousins. And probably Church of Christ, too. Better a faceless big city bureaucrat if you ask me.

  101. 101
    p.a. says:

    @Citizen_X: I know they aren’t using them to read my brain, because if they could read it I would have been detained a loooong time ago!

    And speaking as a utility worker who has had a few (ahem) property damage issues, the utility has a fund set aside for these kinds of things. In fact, these hacks’ (in my company we call these types ‘slash-and-dash’) manager might pay out of his own pocket to avoid a report. Tell ’em to get their manager out there.

  102. 102
    eemom says:

    dunno, if I were AA and reading a blog where front pagers are “objectively pro-impeachment” of the first black president if the republicans take back Congress, I might be tempted to think most white people are assholes too.

  103. 103
    LanceThruster says:

    But really- how much of a burden would it have been to send a letter with my last bill?

    That might set the precedent of giving the erroneous impression that you actually have any rights.

  104. 104
    morzer says:

    @eemom:

    And if I hadn’t read the piece in question, didn’t think that generalizing a whole race from one blogger was moronic, and had had my sense of humor surgically removed, I might agree with you. But there we are.

  105. 105
    Juicebaggers, ho! says:

    John,

    This is just you bitching about something that bothers you, and then poorly bootstrapping it into a way to bitch about one of your pet peeves. Try to restrain your urge to punch people in the neck as a way of stress relief, because it just makes you sound like a whiny, entitled asshole.

    Also didn’t you spend a couple of decades deprecating government and public services? Maybe you should let that hangover fade a bit more before complaining about what your handywork has wrought.

  106. 106
    WaterGirl says:

    I am always happy to see a post that is not about the subject of the day at all the liberal blogs. Legal or not, what the water company did was not right, and it’s maddening when it happens to you and it’s your property, or your tree. This doesn’t have to be about libertarians or politics, it can be about the frustration you feel when shit like this happens that’s out of your control, and what, if anything, you can do about it.

    Edit: if this had happened to me and someone told me it was no big deal, it’s only $35 to buy a new tree, get over it, I think I would want to smack them. Which I wouldn’t do, of course, but I would surely want to.

  107. 107
    Cris says:

    @Steve: (paraphrasing:) you can run four water lines to your property, or you can have one regulated utility

    There’s a third option, the example of which is the phone company. Since telephone deregulation, you still have only one line running to your house, but you can have multiple companies competing for who services that line. Water and sewage could be split up under the same model. (I’m not advocating it, though.)

  108. 108
    Jason T. says:

    @stuckinred: And most black people are . . . ?

    Soshulist mooselims. Glenn Beck has a chart.

    In Western Pennsylvania, many (if not all) utilities (gas, water, electric) are privately owned, except for sewerage authorities, and some of those are now run by outside contractors, too.

    One of the sewer authorities near my home — which had been outsourced to a French multinational, Veolia — was caught dumping millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Youghiogheny River, just upstream from several marinas, a bike trail, a township park, and a municipal water intake.

    Luckily, the invisible hand of the free market was catching the largest lumps as they floated by. Ha! Ha! Sadly, no, big-government regulators stifled this innovation.

  109. 109
    Cyrus says:

    @Larry Bird:

    If they sent a letter with your last bill would the root structure of your tree somehow be intact now? Not really getting the point of the bitching. Shit happens and that includes water meters getting replaced.

    It looks pretty obvious to me. If he had had advance notice of it he would have had a chance to challenge it before the digger were actually on his land; even if the utility company technically has right of way there still might be some other alternative he could have explored. And he would have had a chance to move the tree himself, to get it out of the way without killing it.

    All the points in this thread counter to the original post are fair, I think (assholes are everywhere, whether utilities are public or private-but-regulated varies greatly, the free market is horrible with utility and infrastructure, etc.), but John has a point that eminent domain is too easy and too likely to be hard on individuals over the state or corporations.

    So what does that have to do with the Libertarian Party? As many people have already said, the conflict resolution method that’s consistent with their philosophy is constant lawsuits, but their revealed preference is either screwing the little guy with no remedy, or bringing back the code duello. Republicans are little better. Not to be all when-all-you-have-is-a-hammer, but to the extent that any parties are particularly concerned about that it seems like it fits the Democrat’s platform most of all.

  110. 110
    Hunter Gathers says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: @jrg:
    For the record, I am a self-hating white male who hates white people. We are the center of everything that’s fucked up in this country. Love endless war? Odds are, you’re a white male. Scared/hate blacks/hispanics/muslims/women? Odds are you’re a white guy. Teabagger? You’re a white guy. Complete asshole who treats the people you work with and interact with on a daily basis like complete shit? You’re a white guy. Think that the upper class deserve budget-busting tax breaks? Whitey thinks that is the most important thing evah.

    For fuck’s sake, asshole white people are about to turn control of the Congress over to the batshit insane because they feel dumped on because the POTUS has the temerity to not be white. White people believe anything they see on TV or hear on the radio, especially when it pertains to blacks or hispanics. Have a shitty job, well you wouldn’t if we just kicked out all the dirty mexicans and kept the lazy black people from collecting welfare.

    Hey, I know, let’s invade a country based on complete bullshit and re-elect the fucker who led us into it, because, well, the people in said country are brown heathens who worship the wrong god, and the guy running against the fucker who got us into this mess is probably a French , cheese-eating surrender monkey or something like that. Let’s start a interrogation program that tortures the shit out of the brown people whose country we invaded, and then when we find out what dirty shit went down, we turn a blind eye, or claim that they deserved it, because, well, none of the people tortured were white, so who gives a fuck.

    This country will be much better off when Whitey becomes the minority. And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the fucked up shit that happened to Cole this morning will be a thing of the past.

    I know I’m a racist. I don’t need you to tell me that.

  111. 111
    Corner Stone says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    But at least these guys could have had the common courtesy to inform him ahead of time. Even five minutes before. But they chose not to, because they are assholes.

    Maybe they tried to but he was out looking for Tunch.

  112. 112
    John Cole says:

    Some of you confuse me. Of course I am pissed off and bitching. Their behavior was infuriating. I called the manager and talked to him until he started with the “right-a-way” bullshit. At that point I just lost it.

    “Did I say you didn’t have right of way? Was I arguing that? No, I was not. Of course you have right of way. What I am complaining about is that there is a right way to do things, and there is a wrong way to do things. The right way to do things would have been to send a notice in a bill ahead of time, informing me of the change. If that was too tough, you could have, at the very least, knocked on my door BEFORE you started digging. That would have been the right way to do things.

    The wrong way to do things was to show up unannounced with a backhoe and start digging up my yard without even so much as knowing whether or not I was home. How the hell were you going to get into my house to take out the meter? Would you have just left the hole there for weeks, waiting for a chance to get into my house? And then, when I confronted you, to just mumble about right of way.

    Do you understand the difference? Do you understand why your approach is wrong?”

    He then promised me they would inform everyone else in my town before they dug on their property.

  113. 113
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cris:

    Since telephone deregulation, you still have only one line running to your house, but you can have multiple companies competing for who services that line.

    In theory, you can, but it never seems to work out that way. I don’t get to pick between, say, AT&T and Verizon for my home phone. I move in and they say, “Phone service comes from AT&T.”

    Same with cable. In theory, we should have competition that lets you choose which cable company you want to use, but in practice it’s a monopoly by neighborhood and you get what’s there once you move in, and if you don’t like that company’s offerings, you don’t get cable.

  114. 114
    Mayur says:

    @Alex:

    John, if we did this, then you, Doug J, and all of the ragin’ redistributionists on this site would register a complaint similar to the one voiced by Doug in his complaints about Matt Ygelsias’s attacks on the stupidity of occupational licensing. In other words, any attempt to point to the myriad ways in which the State inefficiently delivers services is met with caviling and pedantic objections about how much of a red herring it is. What you and Doug apparently fail to understand is that these are not “simplistic, humorous examples” of such inefficiency. They are not isolated either—they are symptomatic of structural problems with governmental interventions that proliferate in our daily lives.

    Wrong. There’s nothing “symptomatic of structural problems with governmental interventions” going on here. What the “ragin’ redistributionists” pointed out about Yglesias’s anti-barber screed was that it confused cartelization with government intervention. In fact, government intervention has been one of the only ways to effectively combat cartelization and its big sister monopoly, from the dissolution of guilds to the Sherman Act all the way to ACA. As a member of the ABA and NYSBA, which are about as government-approved a pair of associations as you can get since non-practitioners get thrown in jail, I can tell you that absent government sanction, attorneys would continue colluding to limit unlicensed practitioners, and would exercise even more rampant control over the barriers to entry. Look at how the AMA deals with foreign medical graduates, for instance.

  115. 115
    morzer says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    So, to summarize, you’re a sad bastard who hates himself and therefore blames every other white person for the woes of the world.

  116. 116
    Cris says:

    @Mnemosyne: My area is the same way. Like with most economic bonanzas, scale comes in to play and smaller, more rural areas don’t get the supposed benefits of competition because it’s not profitable for too many dogs to fight over the small bone.

    I’m just saying that the CLEC model does exist (though usually only in large markets).

  117. 117
    Corner Stone says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    For the record, I am a self-hating white male who hates white people.

    WHAT??
    I’m…stunned…everything I know is wrong. Up is down, East is West.
    You’re WHITE?!
    I’m going to have to take a personal moment here.

  118. 118
    Hunter Gathers says:

    @morzer: Well, I’m not a sad bastard, but I am a bastard, no argument there.

  119. 119
    eemom says:

    @morzer:

    fair ’nuff

  120. 120
    Jay Schiavone says:

    Government water sounds preferable to some of the water monopolies that are able to extort unholy sums from many communities. Right-of-way is a legal term the niceties of which might not be known to certain backhoe operators. Chances are, if you were to follow this incident up the ranks, you would likely learn that someone fairly low in the command structure had fucked up. Right-of-way is not tantamount to wanton destruction of property. Besides, your tree probably sassed them.

  121. 121
    LanceThruster says:

    @John Cole:

    Yeah, it never occurs to them to shut the barn door till after the cows are gone.

    A city crew trim trees around utility lines near a lawyer friend’s home and killed two of his. His were not disrupting the lines but the crew thought they were doing preventative trimming. They cut back the trees too severely at the wrong time of year and killed them (expensive ones that took some time to reach maturity). His cooling bills went through the roof as they were shade trees.

    He is a trip and fall attorney. He’s used to suing people.

    And there wasn’t really a damn thing he could do about it. He said the city’s right of way and obligation to keep utility lines free of hazards and obstacles allowed them virtually unlimited leeway in their fulfillment of that task. Short of killing someone through extreme negligence, they get to do what they do, public be damned.

  122. 122
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Cris:

    I’m in heavily-populated Los Angeles, so I can tell you that it doesn’t work that way in larger markets, either. Honestly, I’ve never heard of any area that lets you choose between cable companies or landline phone companies. You get what you get based on where you live and that’s the end of it.

    Like I said, the theory is that there was going to be competition, but the cable companies and phone companies arranged things among themselves to ensure that wouldn’t happen.

  123. 123
    Larry Bird says:

    @Cyrus:

    I’m all for personal property rights but unless we’re talking about some historic 100 year old tree I’m on the side of shit needs to get done. Chances are with the water lines being where they are not much can be changed on where they dig. If everyone slowed up work to protect a apple tree or their vegtable garden nothing would get done. It sucks about his tree but there is a water line underneath it that needs to be accessed. Tree’s are cheap. This just doesn’t outrage me that much as other examples of government(if it really is) incompetance.

  124. 124
    Elie says:

    @Alex:

    And the answer is to have no or little government? No structure to accomplish the many important and large tasks of existence — no structure for safety, to meet our justice, protect or try to protect the weak? Just anti any of that. These things would be accomplished by magic I suppose.

    Look, its so convenient to blame “government” rather than how government is run or managed by people. We need a structure and process to accomplish many important collective tasks that allow us to live together with civility and fairness. If you eliminated our current institutions, we would end up replacing them with a structure of some sort and that would be government, now wouldnt it?

    Our society needs government. It also requires competent, fair and well executed governance. Too much time is spent railing against that reality and too much time giving the corporate sector, the most likely to use and abuse the public, a free pass…

  125. 125
    Gravenstone says:

    @Brick Oven Bill:

    A sound money supply is actually quite more important than some tree’s root system. Especially a pine tree.

    This will become apparent in due time.

    Did the BoB-bot get an upgrade to the software? it’s seeming much more BoB-like.

  126. 126
    ricky says:

    @Hunter Gathers:

    This country will be much better off when Whitey becomes the minority. And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the fucked up shit that happened to Cole this morning will be a thing of the past.

    So which non-white or non-male led country should we aspire to emulate? Korea? Singapore? Uganda? Britain under Thatcher. Phillipines under Emelda?

  127. 127
    jrg says:

    @Hunter Gathers: The problem isn’t white people, it’s uneducated, low-information voters who live mostly in rural communities.

    If you focus on the wrong “problem”, you’re going to get the wrong result. The focus should be on education and communication.

    There are people chopping each other up in the Congo. Their problem isn’t that they’re black, it’s that many of them are illiterate, culturally isolated sub-Saharan “rednecks”, so to speak.

  128. 128
    ricky says:

    @John Cole:

    Only in a country with freedom like ours can a detemined young man, by addressing a wrong done to him, secure for others a better future.

  129. 129
    ruemara says:

    They may have utility rights but there is a noticeable amount of time for residents. You can, if you’re so inclined, head to your city hall and register a complaint plus get some information.

  130. 130
    Elie says:

    John:

    I would also contact any homeowners group that you might have in your neighborhood. If you have one, as we did back in Atlanta, they are pretty helpful in making sure such abuses do not recur and usually have good ties to the city government to communicate their displeasure. Your problem is that you are thinking about yourself and your options as an individual instead of acting through the collective power of your neighbors or others in your hood with similar interests and values. You need to learn how to work being a citizen….

  131. 131
    numbskull says:

    He then promised me they would inform everyone else in my town before they dug on their property.

    Thanks a lot Cole. More letters and phone calls from the utility companies. Just what I need.

    And besides, maybe I _want_ my pine trees culled. For free. Without notice. Didja ever think of that? Hudh, didja, ya selfish bastard!

  132. 132
    Roger Moore says:

    @Mayur:

    What the “ragin’ redistributionists” pointed out about Yglesias’s anti-barber screed was that it confused cartelization with government intervention.

    More specifically, it assumed that since cartelization was a possible outcome of occupational regulation, all occupations should be deregulated. He wants that even when there are good reasons for the regulations (e.g. barbers work with potentially hazardous chemicals and can spread diseases) and there’s no evidence of any actual cartel. It’s a great example of ideology overwhelming evidence.

  133. 133
    Hunter Gathers says:

    @jrg:

    The problem isn’t white people, it’s uneducated, low-information voters who live mostly in rural communities.

    As someone who lives in a rural area, in Illinois, I agree. Another problem is the embrace of ignorance that occurs. Nothing like seeing a Confederate flag in Illinois. Or complaining about black people on welfare while you bust out the Link card. We live in strange times.

  134. 134
    wrb says:

    You are just experiencing the standard operating procedure of utilities everywhere in the nation- except Berkeley.

    To be fair, it is universal for a reason. The utility or city owns the right to dig in the easement or right of way. However property owners come to think they own it and cause all kinds of trouble when the utility gives them a chance, hiring lawyers, threatening violence etc. The utility can spend a bunch of rate-payer money trying to be diplomatic but it is just for show- they are just explaining their rights, they are gonna dig anyway. And dealing with the jerks can be very expensive. They pretty much all have concluded that it is best to go in unannounced. It is their property, they don’t have to ask.

    I interviewed the Berkeley engineering department when researching how cities handle hillside building. Berkeley has a lot of sewer easements down the center of blocks so the uphill lots don’t have to pump up to the street. The Berkeley council ruled that the engineers couldn’t go in until they had reached a consensus agreement with the property owners. A very frustrated engineer told me that it can take them months to effect a repair that they could have completed in an afternoon.

    His solution, however, sounds like your situation, and you still aren’t happy. He recommended making dedicated alleys instead of easements because homeowners KNOW they don’t own the alley and SURELY won’t complain when the utility digs there.

  135. 135
    Paris says:

    Since this is a semi-libertarian thread, I offer this:

    Unionized marijuana farmers (photo #2)

    Discuss.

  136. 136
    cmorenc says:

    I have a house on the barrier island at Sunset Beach, NC where the town is finally imminently about to install a citywide sewer system to replace reliance upon each homeowner’s individual septic tank system. The now mature, lushly dense, beautiful subtropical landscaping that’s grown up over the fifteen years I’ve owned my house presents several problems: where the sewer connection line currently exits my house into my septic tank over on the north side of the property, it will be difficult to connect to the new sewer line out in the street without digging up (and probably destroying) some of this landscaping, including either a now-mature pine tree + a now-mature coastal cedar, or else running a longer line and digging up a set of four mature, deep-rooted oleanders plus some hawthorn bushes that can probably survive being re-transplanted.

    THE GOOD THING THOUGH is that other than some underground hardware immediately on the street, the city is leaving it up to each landowner to contract with a private plumbing company to determine the exact route and (within certain limits) timing of when the sewer lines into each owner’s property will be laid. Apparently, I won’t be suffering from waking up some morning and having my property all torn up to Hell without any notice or choice about how they go about it.

    It will be expensive though. There’s a nearly 10K mandatory connection fee to defray costs of the overall system, plus probably another 2k to have my individual line installed and the old septic tank either filled with sand or dug up and hauled off.

  137. 137
    someguy says:

    @jrg:

    Their problem isn’t that they’re black, it’s that many of them are illiterate, culturally isolated sub-Saharan “rednecks”, so to speak.

    Maybe that’s our solution right there. Send our rednecks to sub-Saharan Africa. There will be plenty of black people for them to hate on, and between guns, machetes and necklaces, we’ll be able to put a dent in our redneck surplus. It’s a win/win, you ask me.

  138. 138
    soonergrunt says:

    @john cole:
    sorry about your tree, and glad you got something (not much apparently) from the city, but as to your assertion:

    If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis, they might actually be able to build their party.

    Libertarians aren’t interested in fixing things like that, which are relatively easy to fix anyway. They don’t want local government, the level of government that has the most day-to-day impact on citizens’ lives to work. They want to burn it down.

  139. 139
    Allan says:

    @Hunter Gathers: This.

    I had to start deleting people from my Twitter and Facebook feeds because of their petulant assholery about the failings of Chocolate Carter. At this rate, I’ll be the only white person I “like” in about six months.

  140. 140
    The Other Chuck says:

    Why the hell would they need to dig up your yard to replace a meter? Here in the civilized world they just come and, uh, replace the meter. You know how they solved the “come inside to read the meter” problem in the Bay area? Wireless meters. Whoah, aint technology something? Granted that’s for electric meters, but I got this funny feeling it’d work for other meters too.

    Anyway, you can chop half the roots off a pine tree and as long as it wasnt diseased or anything, it’ll be fine. They’re tough trees.

  141. 141
    Roger Moore says:

    @soonergrunt:
    I don’t think it’s just a matter of wanting to destroy government. I think they don’t like the hard work of trying to come up with real solutions to real problems. It’s much more fun to imagine an ideal world that doesn’t have any of those difficulties. They don’t want to be in a position where they have to try implementing their ideas, both because that would be a lot of work and because it would risk proving that their ideas are just a bunch of bullshit.

  142. 142
    MikeJ says:

    @Paris: Picture 13 proves Colbert is right: bears are a threat.

    Although anybody who lives in the PNW could tell you that. People growing doesn’t bother me, but we already have far too many bears that don’t mind being around people.

  143. 143

    […] without notice – rip out some of his trees in order to replace his water meter as “Why People Hate Government,” John Cole asserts:  ”If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all […]

  144. 144
    Juicebaggers, ho! says:

    John Cole: Cry me a frickin’ river. Let me know when you have a real problem. And, again, try not to let your personal grievences nurture your hostility hobbyhorses.

    White boys jacked up about property rights is so passe.

  145. 145
    monkeyboy says:

    A basic rule of human behavior is that if party A has the right to perform action X that party B may object to it is simpler for A to just perform X (while obeying all laws) without informing B, rather than to inform B and waste time on a lot of negative interaction with B that won’t make any difference as to whether X happens.

    This why there are a lot of laws about digging that require A to inform B of intent and ways for B to prevent A from acting.

    Yes laws and regulations really are needed though often at best they put the burden on the aggrieved party B to see if they are being followed or to advocate for new rules that would prevent X from happening in the future. With such regulations in place, A then has to devote resources to informing and to deal with legitimate complaints and obstreperous cranks.

    This basic maxim of human behavior can be stated as “Don’t ask for permission”.

    When I lived in Venice Beach, LA, I once found a flier from Stephen J Cannell on my front door telling me that his production company was using the alley behind my house for filming and that I would not be able to drive in or out of my garage. I assume this action was illegal because he didn’t ask for permission – he assumed most people would be tickled pink to have Hollywood in their back yard and asking permission would be an extra hassle – particularly dealing with the holdouts who wanted monetary compensation

  146. 146
    gwangung says:

    If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis, they might actually be able to build their party.

    Do people note that this sort of behavior is emblematic of government with little power and funding? More bureaucratic governments have to time and resources to cross the is and dot the t’s because they have time and money to pay attention to citizen complaints.

  147. 147
    soonergrunt says:

    @Roger Moore: I’d love to see a libertarian enclave of the type they frequently advocate deal with a cholera outbreak.

  148. 148
    Cyrus says:

    @Larry Bird:

    I’m all for personal property rights but unless we’re talking about some historic 100 year old tree I’m on the side of shit needs to get done. Chances are with the water lines being where they are not much can be changed on where they dig. If everyone slowed up work to protect a apple tree or their vegtable garden nothing would get done. It sucks about his tree but there is a water line underneath it that needs to be accessed. Tree’s are cheap. This just doesn’t outrage me that much as other examples of government(if it really is) incompetance.

    That’s all very nice, but so what? I don’t see what any of that has to do with any of what I said. Letting him know in advance would still have given him a chance to explore alternatives, not any kind of veto power or anything. Even if no such chance exists at all – and the likelihood of that would vary greatly depending on what kind of eminent domain thing we’re talking about – it would still be better PR that just doing whatever the hell they feel like. And notifying him probably wouldn’t have slowed anything down; these things are planned much further than a month in advance.

    wrb might have a point, maybe towns and utilities deliberately avoid notifying property-owners for a reason, and if so I might be wrong about all that. But even if it were somehow made clear that the impending work is inevitable, I imagine John and people in his position would still strongly prefer to get notification to avoid walking by your own house and finding huge gaping holes and construction equipment out of the blue.

    @ricky:

    Only in a country with freedom like ours can a detemined young man, by addressing a wrong done to him, secure for others a better future.

    I assume this is sarcasm, which is a relief, because at first glance I read it straight and found it really, really annoying.

  149. 149
    JWL says:

    Ask how much it cost taxpayers to extend the line. I handled the relocation of a gas line for an elderly relative (long story short, a neighbor had him by the balls- it had to be done). Granted, my situation appears to have entailed a bigger production (length of pipe-wise). Still, it ended up costing my long retired/fixed income uncle a small fortune.

  150. 150
    debbie says:

    All utilities suck.

    After spending all of last summer actively trying to get the electric company to resolve a situation where my neighbor’s AC woke up my computer and triggered my UPS’s alarm every time it kicked off, out of nowhere in the middle of February, a guy gave me 2 minutes’ warning to shut everything down so they could replace the transformer. I had just come home, and if they’d started in without giving me a chance to shut down my computer, I’d have been screwed.

  151. 151
    Cyrus says:

    @wrb:

    I interviewed the Berkeley engineering department when researching how cities handle hillside building. Berkeley has a lot of sewer easements down the center of blocks so the uphill lots don’t have to pump up to the street. The Berkeley council ruled that the engineers couldn’t go in until they had reached a consensus agreement with the property owners. A very frustrated engineer told me that it can take them months to effect a repair that they could have completed in an afternoon.

    It sounds like part of the problem there is the decision to build down the center of blocks. That looks very much like a stereotypical engineer’s solution: technically efficient, but obtuse to the point of farce about how people actually think and act. Yup, they saved a little money or electricity or whatever from having to pump half a block’s width uphill. It sure looks optimized to me. Good job.

    And now whenever anyone from the utilities wants to do any kind of work they have to go through the middle of someone’s house, and whenever a property-owner wants to do any kind of work on their property they have to do it right over the utility company’s right-of-way. Whoops.

  152. 152
    Binzinerator says:

    @LanceThruster:

    He said the city’s right of way and obligation to keep utility lines free of hazards and obstacles allowed them virtually unlimited leeway in their fulfillment of that task.

    My neighbor behind my house once had planted 6 hickory trees in the powerline ROW at the back lot line. After some 25 years they grew into nice trees.

    Then a few years ago a big storm came and knocked down some other neighbors’ trees which knocked down the powerlines. The hickories weren’t damaged but when the crews came out to restring the poles, they cut down all the hickories. They didn’t remove the stumps, my neighbor had to hire someone to do it. All the power company cared about was the trees getting in the way. The stumps didn’t get in their way and they had no obligation to remove the stumps, so they didn’t.

    Seems dickish, but consider what would happen if they had found he had put a garage there — they would have made him move it or demolish it, also at his own expense. And my neighbor would have had to comply.

    Now there wasn’t any come-home-from-work surprise about this, when the lines went down everyone knew crews would be out because nobody had power, so people were in their yards watching. The surprise was learning what they can do in a right-of-way.

    FWIW, the crews weren’t dicks in their replies to questions, that is they listened and were polite and explained with sympathy that any trees in the right-of-way interfered with their work and made it dangerous to do their jobs and were going to be removed, and that they had the right to do so.

    Lessons I learned watching my neighbor’s predicament:

    1) don’t ever build anything in the right-of-way,
    2) don’t ever plant trees in the ROW,
    3) don’t plant big trees even close to it — trimming crews will lop it when it encroaches and they don’t consider aesthetics,
    and
    4) to be safe don’t plant anything in a ROW that will give you grief if it were to be cut down (or dug up), because it very well could be.

    IOW, you own the land but they have the legal right to determine whatever the hell is on it. Which, if they wanted to exercise that right to the fullest, would be nothing but grass.

    I have to admit, the thing that made the difference between dismay and anger was how they handled the whole thing. They were polite. Yeah the trees still got cut down. But it was more a response like ‘Damn, that really sucks’ than ‘Damn you, you people really suck.’

    edit: fix italic fail

  153. 153
    monkeyboy says:

    @debbie:

    All utilities suck.

    No. It is just that people expect them to be competent, reasonably priced, and essentially invisible. You don’t notice them when they are doing their job correctly, and you hardly ever hear stories about customers being satisfied with how well things work.

    Of the numerous utility problems I have experienced most all were near painlessly corrected. The only provider issues I have had is that the electric company needs to upgrade their infrastructure so my power goes out less often, and that the phone company can be a pain to interact with for non-basic issues.

  154. 154
    wrb says:

    It sounds like part of the problem there is the decision to build down the center of blocks.

    There is a pretty good case for doing it that way-at least when alleys rather than easements are used- although it involves tradeoffs.

    What they have are blocks that are long parallel to the contours with maybe ten lots taking access from an upper road and ten from a lower.

    The individual grinder pumps that would be used to pump to a gravity line in the upper road use energy every day for forever and break down, clog and require maintenance.

    By having a gravity line in the middle of the block those lots are served by a low-maintenance system in which gravity does the work.

    I do think a center-block easement is a classic example of the typical flaws of an engineer’s solution: The engineer says “We have reserved the absolute right to come in if need be and people are on notice so where is the problem?” However if they see it as part of their lot people will forget the easement and will landscape and build fences and garden sheds with no regard for it. And when the engineer comes in and knocks their shit down they will be unhappy. Arguably needless suffering has been caused. And in some cases politicians will try to make them less unhappy and mess up the engineer’s elegant solution.

    Converting the easement into an alley solves most of these problems and creates the possibility of moving garages and big dead garage doors from the street. On the other hand you lose the quiet, private, interior space of joined back yards.

    Tradeoffs

  155. 155
    Larry Bird says:

    @Cyrus:

    Notifying him and everyone who had a water line replaced would surely slow things down for an agency whose sole job is not PR but updating and maintaining water lines and sewers. Give people an option to complain and they will take it a lot of the time.

    Heres a question for you… Say John’s whole block got a generic letter saying “this monday we will be installing new water meters” would John have known automatically his tree would be torn down? Doubtful. Most people have no clue where that stuff is buried.

    Again I feel for him here but this happens all the time and its not an example of government incompetance. If things like certain tree’s on your property are precious to you (which I can understand) you better find out where your water and sewer lines are buried because you don’t own them and they can be torn up at any time.

  156. 156
    Corner Stone says:

    @John Cole: I’m surprised the guy didn’t tell you to “sit and spin, asshole”.
    Because really. What would you have done next?

  157. 157
    LanceThruster says:

    @numbskull:

    [chuckle] Wattah numbskull!

  158. 158
    LanceThruster says:

    @monkeyboy:

    Yeah. It’s known as, “Act first, apologize later.”

  159. 159
    LanceThruster says:

    @Binzinerator:

    Thanks for the add’l info binz.

  160. 160
    LanceThruster says:

    Why People Hate Government

    BTW, I hate them for traffic tickets. Not anyone else’s mind you. Just my own.

  161. 161
    TKOEd says:

    Most of the things people hate govt for are things that are done by LOCAL govt. Yet do folks vote in large numbers in their local elections? Fuck no. Do even 40% of people in this country know who their city coucilmember or equivalent is? I doubt it.

    Folks rail against “govt” all the time. It’s almost always their local govt they have a beef with, but somehow it gets transposed onto the fed govt.

    You wanna change your daily life for the better? Vote in your local elections. No place is your vote & voice more amplified.

    BTW, this is not me bitching about John Cole bitching. I’m speaking generally, not about Cole.

  162. 162
    Kifaru1 says:

    The utility guys were probably right about the easement (and it is called a “Right of way” or ROW as we say in the planning department. Check your plat and it should show up as a ROW, usually 5 to 10 feet wide. I don’t understand why they need to go through all that trouble, though. Where I live they updated our meter with a little box and now they just drive by and use some kind of a scanner to read the meter….

  163. 163
    Nylund says:

    The guys who hurt your tree have absolutely nothing to do with lowering the federal income tax rate for the rich, ergo, Libertarians don’t care.

    That’s a bit unfair, in reality, what the Libertarians want is for ANYONE to be able to destroy your trees without telling you. Not just the government.

  164. 164
    Ross Hershberger says:

    Wait. I know this one: “We’re digging up your yard to serve you better.”

  165. 165
    kwh says:

    What makes you think that in some Libertarian Utopia where the roads and water mains are privatized that some corporation that has the right of way and hires the same jackass to dig up the road is going to show you more courtesy?

  166. 166
    Nathanael says:

    My local *government owned and run* water service is apparently nationally viewed as a model. My government run sewer service is apparently also top notch.

    My private power utility, well, the power goes out every week at least once.

    The private Internet provider provides decent service, but at exorbitant prices.

    What is the lesson here?

  167. 167
    Nathanael says:

    @Kifaru1: I wouldn’t expect that the utility people know where the ROW actually runs.

    My local highway department planted a sign on my property outside the ROW recently. I haven’t bothered them about it yet because I’m too busy and it’s less than a foot outside the ROW, but I’m pretty sure I could just remove it if I liked.

  168. 168
    hmm says:

    If libertarians would focus on crap like this instead of all the smug bullshit and contrarian economic analysis, they might actually be able to build their party.

    As a former urban forester I’d have to say that sucks. As a libertarian I’d have to ask how stupid do you have to be to complain about the government digging up your yard by complaining about libertarians not being enough about property rights (which is laughable). BTW property rights have a significant role in the economic theory that libertarians endorse. But such smug contrarian economic theory should be mocked and discarded as silly unless it’s your property. Right?

    I seriously don’t understand how half this country ties their shoes in the morning.

  169. 169
    LanceThruster says:

    For the record, this strategy seems worth recommending the next time a similar situation presents itself.

    The glistening globules of glee

  170. 170

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