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JENKINS: In November, residents should remember trash debacle

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

Columnist's note: I'm interrupting my series on reforming college athletics to talk about a different kind of garbage.

As of July 1, Gwinnett County homeowners will no longer get to decide which company picks up their trash. The Nanny State, Gwinnett County version, has taken care of that little detail for us. Maybe next she'll tell us where to get our teeth cleaned and our hair cut.

I have to say, though, that Nanny Gwinnett has done a bad job of choosing a garbage hauler on my behalf. The one I chose all by myself a few years ago is much cheaper. Also, if I didn't pay my bill, I only risked losing my service -- not my house.

That's the problem, of course, whenever government at any level gets involved with some good or service: The cost of that good or service goes up. And by "cost," I'm talking not just about the price in dollars but also the cost in personal freedom.

Maybe the freedom to choose your own garbage hauler doesn't seem that important to you. But what about the freedom to choose your own bank? Your own telephone and Internet provider? Your own doctor? If you think those items aren't on the government's to-do list, you haven't been paying attention.

But hey, it's all for our own good, right?

That's what's happening in this case. Apparently some people didn't even have a garbage company. Others were just depositing their refuse wherever they could find, such on the private property of certain well-connected Gwinnettians. Can't have that.

Rather than going to the trouble of enforcing existing laws that make dumping illegal, Nanny Gwinnett decided it would be simpler just to punish the thousands of us who don't break the law. So she's forcing us, at the threat of losing our homes, to pay more for garbage service than we need to.

Because that's what government always does, whether we're talking about garbage pick-up, gun ownership or airline travel: It punishes the many for the crimes of the few.

I guess it's less expensive that way -- for the government, at least, as the inevitable cost increases get passed on to us. It's also an easy out for employed-for-life bureaucrats who can't be bothered to make judgment calls. (Statistically speaking, who's more likely to fly an airplane into a skyscraper -- some Saudi national or my great Aunt Marge?)

As this garbage debacle has made clear, the people running Gwinnett County may be Republicans, but they're not conservatives. Conservatives believe in less government intrusion into our lives. Forcing us to use a specific service against our will, and then adding the tab to our tax bill, constitutes a major intrusion: if I can't decide what to do with my empty Froot Loops boxes, what CAN I decide?

Honest-to-goodness conservatives have a moral obligation to oppose these people in the next election. This November, let's set them all out by the curb.

Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English and director of The Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.