Welcome to Liberrants, a blog dedicated to editorials, discussions, and studies of all things libertarian. Don't let the title mislead you; it's merely my attempt to be creative in describing myself as a "hopeful curmudgeon" who embraces the goal of the free, peaceful, economically vibrant society envisioned by America's founding fathers. Jump in! Contribute! Enjoy!

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Location: Tucson, Arizona, United States

A critically thinking curmudgeon whose goal, in addition to creatively venting about the imperfect world in which we live, is to induce critical thinking in others. The ultimate goal is to help bring about a peaceful world in which we can all live in freedom.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Value of Knowing One’s Neighbors

We held our first-ever neighborhood block party on Saturday from 3:00 till 8:00 PM. We had quite a turnout, about 40 families totaling about 140 people. I was amazed at how well things went, considering that the neighbor who set the whole thing in motion really only started coordinating things about six weeks ago and only did all the “heavy lifting” over the last ten days. Quite a feat, I’d say. I also discovered that although she’s lived just seven doors down from me for nearly two years and works for the same company I do (albeit at a different office), I had never met her until a week ago Sunday when she rang our doorbell asking if we were planning on participating in the party. Being the people we are, my wife and I weren’t about to make her do all the last-minute work herself, so I volunteered to help contact people in the neighborhood, set up games and prizes for the kids’ activities, and just generally spread the word.

Saturday turned out to be a long day for us all, especially for poor Veronica, whose mother got in a car accident the night before while on her way down from Philadelphia to visit for the party (fortunately neither the mother nor Veronica’s little god-sisters were hurt; their car, however, was totaled). But in the end it was more than worth the effort. The kids in particular all had a blast. I really do stand in awe of Veronica, an energetic young lady who did what I thought no one could do, which is take what I’ve always thought of as generally apathetic and unfriendly people who barely pay attention to one another, let alone socialize, and get them together for a really fun time. All it took was some dedication and the decision to act. She realized that “somebody else” wasn’t going to make it happen; the old axiom “if it is to be, it is up to me” was one she took to heart.

Among the activities we had (in addition to a “moon bounce” for the kids, which I couldn’t get my grandson to participate in) was a Fairfax County police officer who set up a table and answered questions from the residents about crime and safety. If you’ve read this blog lately you know that I’m not particularly happy with the way law enforcement in this area conducts itself. However, I was quite impressed by this officer’s demeanor and rapport with the community. One of the things he did that I found very helpful was distribute pamphlets and instructional guidance on how to set up a Neighborhood Watch program. I’ve been meaning to pursue this for several years and was amazed at how little it really takes other than neighbors cooperating with each other to look out for each other’s property and safety. In other words, the county seemed to be encouraging us as a community to do what everyone of libertarian bent should be doing anyway as a first line of self-defense (well, alright, maybe “second line”, the first line being looking out for the immediate safety and security of your own property and family).

As I chatted with neighbors I had never seen before, some of whom have lived in this community for almost the entire twenty years it has existed, it struck me that this was “local government” in action at the most basic level, what we libertarians preach about constantly but which I think we often neglect to put into practice. The real challenge, in my mind, will be to keep this momentum going over the next several months and years to forge a real community. It won’t be easy in a region with as transient a population as this one, but one has to start somewhere. The more we do for ourselves, the less we owe to outsiders, namely county and state government, who simply impose ever-higher taxes and regulations upon us under the guise of “protecting and serving” us, assuming that we wouldn't dream of doing it ourselves. While establishing a largely self-sufficient community may not preclude formal government control, it certainly will give government less obvious justification for imposing order on us from above.

Regardless of the direction things take, I’ll definitely keep everyone up to date on this. What better way to spread the libertarian gospel than to start with one’s next-door neighbors? I can hardly wait for the next community event!

(By the way, I emailed Veronica at work today just to see how she survived the rest of the weekend, having gone home at 10:00Pm Saturday after two hours sleep in the previous 24 hours. She didn't answer me, so I'm assuming --hoping-- the poor thing took the day off to recover from the weekend).