We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

City (Government) of (Fallen) Angels

It appears that Los Angeles is well and truly in the tarpits:

Los Angeles is getting pummeled by economic woes beyond its control. Like so many Western cities, vital services are provided by the county. And L.A. County is $800 million in the red.
The sheriff’s department, which provides support for the city’s police, has cut 900 deputies and closed two jails. Baca says any more cutbacks will jeopardize public safety.
And so the county’s only option is to cut back services — vital services the city depends on.
“I’d cut back on something else instead of lifeguards. Someone who would save your life, I wouldn’t cut back on that,” said 15-year-old Michael Harter, playing with his brother in the surf.

But the truth is, most of these things are not “vital services the city depends on”. Lifeguards? Sorry but no one is forced to go swimming, so if lifeguards are so damn important then allow companies to provide the service on a fee paying basis. Health? Do it all privately. Education? The state has no business whatsoever involved with the education in the first place, particularly in this era of cheap internet access and in a country with probably the most efficient and inexpensive phone system in the world.

Security is a legitimate concern, so the solution to the problems faced by the sheriff’s department should be clear… cut back on everything else, scrap irrational drug prohibitions (less jails will be needed) and remove all the ludicrous restrictions on ownership of the means of self-defence (less police will be needed).

The thrust of the linked article is that ‘Los Angeles is in crisis’.


It is the city government of Los Angeles and the people who think that theft based appropriation is the only way to satisfy their needs (which usually means wants) who are in crisis, and far from being ‘beyond its control’, this is a crisis of their own making.


13 comments to City (Government) of (Fallen) Angels

  • LA County makes a substantial amount of income through charging people to park in the carparks at the county’s beaches. (Last time I used one of their carparks, which was two or three years ago, I was charged $7 for the privilege). Get rid of the lifeguards, and it would be obvious that beach users are being milked for revenue with being provided in return.

    In Australia, a substantial number of our lifeguards are volunteers. As well as training and providing lifeguards, surf clubs are excellent social and community organisations. In addition, they hold competitive sporting contests in events related to lifeguard skills. The favourite event is something called the “Iron man”, which is a mixture of running on sand, ocean swimming, and ocean canoeing. The best competitors at this event often become celebrities, and the media coverage of the event can raise a lot of money for the volunteer lifesaving movement.

    What’s my point? Well, if lifeguards are genuinely needed, it doesn’t actually require governments to provide them. Comminity actions on their own can do quite well by themselves. (Generally, local councils do pay lifeguards to work on weekdays when volunteers are not available. However, they hire people who have been trained and tested by the volunteer movement. The presence of the volunteer movement rather dramatically reduces the cost to local government).

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    We’re having the same “crisis” here in New York: Every group is whining that their funding is being cut. Yet according to the Rockefeller Institute, a respectable public policy institute, spending growth is consistently increasing faster than inflation and what extra might be needed for population growth. According to Table E-1, spending in the first six years of the Pataki administration increased from $61B to $79B. If I crunched the inflation statistics properly, the real figure should have been about $6B less.

    Everybody gives me a glazed look when I ask what it is about government that causes its cost to increase faster than inflation. And are we really getting more services from this extra money being spent? My guess is that we’ve got fiscal mismanagement in Big Government far worse than anything at Enron.

  • BigFire

    Meanwhile in the Greater State of California, in the past two months alone, the revenue is down by $200 million, while the spending is up by $2 additional billions. This is on top of the $35 projected shortfall the state is already facing.

    Grey Davis & the Democrat control assembly & senate managed to up the state government payroll by 40% all the while the actual population went up by 23%. And you wonder why we’re in the mess we’re in?

  • Funny, as a Los Angeles resident I’m not feeling any pain at all. In fact, if I hadn’t read the article I wouldn’t even have known about the county’s budget problems. Now that I do, my response is–what good news! I’m especially pleased by the firing of 900 Sheriff’s deputies. Given the history of the LAPD and LA County Sheriff’s Department, the fewer of them there are the happier (and safer) I am.

  • Innocent Abroad

    I am confused. No restraint on my ability to defend myself (i.e. I cna go out & buy a nuclear bomb if I want to) or my ability to buy and consume heroin, cocaine etc.

    Why the hell do you think a community with such laws would need ANY police at all?

  • Innocent Abroad

    I am confused. No restraint on my ability to defend myself (i.e. I cna go out & buy a nuclear bomb if I want to) or my ability to buy and consume heroin, cocaine etc.

    Why the hell do you think a community with such laws would need ANY police at all?

  • Doug Collins

    I can confidently predict that as the fiscal crisis grows, any services such as trash pickup, fire protection, public health measures etc, which will cause either inconvenience or real pain by their absence, will be curtailled. Meanwhile other ‘essential’ services such as art programs in low income neighborhoods will be continue as strong as ever.
    The whole point is to extort further tax increases from the public when they periodically become recalcitrant.

  • Doug is exactly right. In fact, this is a standard tactic for Sheriff Baca. Whenever he wants more money, he threatens to release prisoners from the jail–he’s done it at least three or four times before.

  • Jorge

    Here in Sydney (and all over Australia, I think) the lifeguards are all volunteers. (Hell, it’s a job which involves sitting around on the beach all day on a high chair, ogling bikini-clad babes who treat you like a hero: who wouldn’t volunteer?) Each major beach has its own “surf lifesaving club” which funds its equipment etc mostly through donations. Personally I’m quite happy to contribute some cash to the local lifesavers, since they always ask nicely (rather than begging or laying a guilt trip on you like some charities) and they provide a useful service from which I benefit. The lifesavers here run quite nicely without the need for government funding.

    I’m not suggesting so much that Los Angeles county should suddenly switch to this model as providing an example of how a service which in some parts of the world seems dependent on government funding can, in fact, run quite nicely without it in others. As far as I know, Sydney’s lifesaving clubs have been going since before any other country even had lifeguards.

  • Innocent Abroad: Please, no reductio ad absurdum. You cannot defend yourself within the context of civil society with a nuclear weapon, and as nuclear weapons invariably (rather than accidentally) kill people who are not party to a dispute, they cannot be regarded as legitimate weapons of self-defence (the same could be said for daft ideas like carrying a mace spray, but filled with smallpox germs).

    As for drug laws, are you going to tell me that they have stopped people purchasing drugs? I live in a very nice area of London and I doubt I would have to walk fopr more than 15 mins to find someone who would sell me a class A drug. Clearly they have not worked, so how can prohibition be offered up as a ‘solution’ to the problem of addictive drugs? I don’t want to live in a drug fuelled gang plagued society any more than you do, but please be prepared to think outside the box.

  • Jorge: Yes, just as in Britain the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is not only the oldest national lifeboat service in the world, it is also a 100% privately funded volunteer organisation that theories about ‘free riders’ say cannot exist… except it does. Its members are looked on as heros for the simple reason they are heros who will launch into the greatest of storms to rescue however needs rescuing, and to me they are doubly heros for giving lie to the idea that only the state can effectively carry out all emergency services.

  • >Each major beach has its own
    >”surf lifesaving club” which funds
    >its equipment etc mostly through

    Bondi of course has two clubs, Bondi and North Bondi, and which club rescues you depends on which end of the beach you are swimming on. A few decades ago, there was a falling out between two groups of lifesavers, and some went off to form their own club. (This proves that volunteer surf lifesaving organisations are in some ways just like any other organisations. My friends in the surf lifesaving movement tell me that one club is much better run than the other, and that I should always swim on one particular end of the beach for this reason). People enjoy the job for precisely the reasons Jorge gives, but the job also involves diving into dangerous seas to rescue people who are in trouble. It’s certainly right to refer to them as heros.

    Australia has lots of volunteer firefighters, too. (The bulk of the job is done by professionals except in remote areas or times of real emergency. Times of real emergency are pretty frequent, however).

  • Innocent Abroad

    To take P de H’s comments in reverse order, I voted for a “legalise drugs” indepedent candidate in 1997 – is that far enough outside the box for you?

    The point of the “reduction ad absurdum” on the self-defence issue is precisely to point up the fact that we are actually debating what counts as “self deence”. As Shaw said to the actess – “now that you have conceded the principle, it only remains to fix the price.”

    My apologies for the double post last time – I AM an innocent abroad!