In the 1960s, Patrick McGoohan’s iconic individualist “The Prisoner” was stripped of his name, told he was “Number Six,” and imprisoned in “The Village.”
In the 1990s and beyond, the dulcet-toned Hillary Clinton told the world that “it takes a village,” implying not voluntary aid based on mutual respect and love, but state force.
Now, it seems that residents of a certain hamlet in Ohio have rejected this notion of forced “village-hood,” for they just voted to eliminate their own town – entirely.
According to Bob Adelman, of The New American, voters in Amelia, Ohio voted 2-to-o1 in early November to dissolve the town.
After the votes were verified, Amelia officially dissolved on November 25, leaving the mayor, several police officers, and other government officials without jobs.
And, though this isn’t the first dissolution of a corporate town entity over the past 20 years in the U.S., it appears to be the first brought about by dissatisfaction over taxation.
Although the dissolution of Amelia is just one of an estimated 130 such dissolutions between 2000 and 2011, it is the first generated by governmental dissatisfaction. The others reflected sharp declines in population or annexing by nearby cities.
According to Adelman, typical Amelia residents were suffering under $1,400 per year in state income taxes, $780 a year in sales taxes, “$130 in local sales tax, and $3,300 in property taxes.”
The "final straw" came in the form of the passage of a town income tax that was passed contrary to the legal requirement of a public hearing.
But many of them (residents) were pushed over the edge when they learned in early July that the village council had passed a one-percent income tax without the usual three-day public hearing required by law. For Ed McCoy, a local salesman, this was the final straw: ‘That’s just too many layers of fat. The best way to get rid of that fat is to start at the bottom.’
The question is whether the town will be any better off. As Adelman notes:
Essential services to the residents without a village will be split between Batavia Township and Pierce Township, suburbs located about 10 miles east of Cincinnati.
It remains to be seen whether these “services” will be provided through private payments by each individual resident hiring the “services” in the amount he wants from those other townships, or (more likely) if the dissolution still has within it some form of forced collective payment by Amelia residents to those other town governments. It could turn out that the folks in Amelia will continue to struggle with votes, and battles, and money-hungry government agencies and politicians, but the Amelia "majority" will "choose" for their neighbors from a couple options, rather than their single town choice.
They might do well to step beyond clinging to this remnant of their “one size must be forced on all” mentality and look at other historical precedents, precedents that show us that majority-based compulsion and taxation aren’t necessary to provide the so-called “essential” services.
For example, even today, private entertainment parks, businesses, and shopping malls not only provide their own well-kept parking, roads, trash management, water, sewage, air conditioning, dispute resolution, fire protection, and policing without the “village” compulsion of taxation. They do this because of the competitive market incentive to please the customer and the economic punishment of not pleasing the customer – the customer who is free to NOT PAY.
This is not an option under the compulsory government system, regardless of whether taxpayers are forced to pay for “services that are provided” by agents of their local government or other governments.
And, historically, two major and long-running civilizations operated without this form of compulsion. As Kevin Flanagan, founder of the Brehon Law Academy notes, for a thousand years until the 1600s, the ancient Irish tribes operated under a polycentric, zero-compulsion system called the Brehon Law. Tribes, living in “Tuaths” chose elders and kings, but the kings could make absolutely no compulsory laws. The people operated under a property-rights system of restorative justice should property or bodily injury occur. Cáin law was recognized across all of Ireland. It was a set of customs parallel to what was known later in England as “Natural Rights”, wherein people recognized their neighbors’ rights to their property, acknowledged that peaceful neighbors brought no harm to each other or their property, and that they honored contracts and participated in voluntary resolutions for disputes from tribe to tribe. Urradhus Law dealt with local practices inside each Tuath, and people were free to move from one to another -- again, with no compulsory payments to any Tuath.
Similarly, Viking Age Iceland was civilization that operated without compulsion or taxes for nearly 400 years during the Middle Ages. During that period, the residents lived voluntarily in that was called the Godord system, a locally-based system of competing “Godords” or temples, at which people could meet not only to worship, but to resolve disputes. Rights to live and property were recognized, again, in a precursor to what became known in England as “Natural Rights”.
As Thomas Whiston explains for The Mises Institute:
Then there was the National Assembly or the Althing. Each quarter (clan area) was represented by their own Althing. If a dispute was not settled by the (smaller) private courts, the dispute would go up the ladder to the next highest court until the dispute was resolved.
And here’s the key about that long-lasting civilization:
There was no public property during the era of the Vikings in Iceland, all property was privately owned.
So when one advocates liberty, and people ask questions such as “Who will build the roads?” and “What about justice?” one can point to these systems. The folks in Amelia, Ohio have shown their dissatisfaction with their way of doing things through taxes and compulsion, but they might want to look to history and see some successes that are often overlooked in contemporary America.