Colin McNickle: Liberty, freedom & economics

| Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012, 9:33 p.m.

In Medford, Ore., Gary Harrington is serving a 30-day jail sentence — for collecting rainwater and snowmelt that falls or flows on his property, CNSNews reports.

The state says such water is the state's.

Says Mr. Harrington, who also was fined $1,500, “I'm sacrificing my liberty so we can stand up as a country and stand for our liberty.”

Harrington says government has become “big bullies and if you just lay over and die and give up, that just makes (the state) bigger bullies.”

Perhaps Oregon next will be jailing its citizenry for catching breezes.

• Closer to home, in Hampton, Max Rosarius also is refusing to be bullied by the government.

He keeps chickens on a 14-acre farm and cites a state law as his defense.

But as the Trib's Deb Deasy reports, Hampton Manager Chris Lochner — for purposes of columnar calamity, we'll call him Local Yokel Lochner — says Mr. Rosarius' “farm” is no farm.

Hampton Solicitor Tom McDermott — for purposes of journalistic jocularity, we'll call him Muckety Muck McDermott — says the Rosarius “farm” in reality is “a large residential lot.”

And the Queen Mary really was a large skiff.

Hampton's zoning board apparently will decide whether or not to take the already twice-cited Rosarius to court later this month, board chairman Severino Bigante says.

Indeed, the ante is big in this case, given that government is betting against fundamental freedom and liberty.

• Why is it that “the state” is so averse to learning and understanding fundamental economics? Aside from the obvious political equation in which your tax money is the constant and the only variable is how many suck-up pimps for crony capitalism can be plugged into it, that is.

To wit, reports Melissa Daniels of the PA Independent:

“After state investments helped swell Pennsylvania's solar energy industry to the point of overproduction, the industry is headed out of the commonwealth, taking millions in tax incentives and a job market.”

And true to form, there are plenty of economic ignorami out there all too willing to attempt to correct their misguided interventionism by, you guessed it, proposing more government interventionism.

“The state” that deludes itself into believing that it can create and command markets has to keep telling bigger, bolder and more expensive taxpayer-funded lies to cover up the failures of all its previous lies.

• There's likely no bigger economic lie these days than tax-increment financing, better known as TIFs. In short, a TIF uses the projected increase in tax revenues from a development essentially as collateral to win public subsidies for said development.

And if you haven't noticed lately, there has been an explosion in TIF requests all over Western Pennsylvania. Here a TIF, there a TIF, everywhere a TIF-TIF.

So, does tax-increment financing, on an aggregate basis, do what it's designed to do, namely redevelop truly blighted parcels and increase the tax base? Nobody really knows. For as the Allegheny Institute's Eric Montarti and Jake Haulk unearthed, none of the required biennial performance reports that the state statute authorizing TIFs requires ever have been filed — for 20 years — because the same law does not require TIF participants to report anything.

How convenient. Where's state Auditor General (and presumptive Pittsburgh Mayor) Jack Wagner when you need him?

Colin McNickle is the director of editorial pages for Trib Total Media (412-320-7836 or

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