When libertarians run a suburb

What would happen if libertarians had the majority in a suburban government? A suburb of Minneapolis offers a case study:

It paid $13 million in cash when it needed a new public works building, taking the money from its savings accounts and shrinking the city’s reserves by nearly one-quarter.

Pay-as-you-go wisdom or long-term financial folly? However it eventually works out, the decision is just one example of how the Crystal City Council approaches civic issues a bit differently. The reason: A majority of its seven members are Libertarians or are sympathetic to the party’s philosophy of maximum personal freedom and minimum government…

In addition to paying cash for civic improvements, Crystal has undertaken a cleanup of the municipal code to get rid of ordinances considered outdated, unenforceable or just plain silly. And it has all but eliminated the city’s human rights commission. At the same time, in a seeming departure from Libertarian principles of thrift, the city has raised property taxes and water and sewer fees…

Critics said the tax increases are a direct result of the Libertarians’ financial mismanagement: Their use of cash to pay for infrastructure has depleted reserves and left the city unable to produce the kind of investment income that for years helped hold down taxes.

Two quick thoughts:

  1. As the article notes, local government members tend to be officially non partisan even if they align with particular political beliefs. So, is it to this group’s advantage to be something different – libertarians – even in a place where people don’t really want to talk about parties? On the flip side, is it worth seeing this as a test case for libertarianism in practice if local government is supposed to be non-partisan?
  2. The article suggests the new group has a new approach or outlook but also has made some decisions that may not fit libertarian ideals. This reminds me of the the claim many big-city mayors make: local governments simply have to get things done and can’t worry as much about abstract ideology. For example, you may not want to have to take on bonds to fund necessary infrastructure but if the alternative is terrible, you may not have the option.

One final mini-thought: cleaning up local ordinances that don’t make sense or are expired plus officially getting rid of a committee that has no members requires the tag of libertarianism? Any political party might find some advantage to getting rid of pieces of government that are non-functional but asking the established parties to get rid of anything might be too much to request these days…

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