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Saving Us From Snowzilla

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Every year for the past three years a massive snowman has risen from Billy Power's yard in Anchorage, Alaska. Starting out at nearly 16 feet tall his first year, the snowman has grown larger each year reaching a whopping estimated 25 feet this year. As might be expected, the snowman, dubbed "Snowzilla," has annually drawn large crowds of admirers to the east Anchorage neighborhood he calls home. But this year the city government of Anchorage has chosen to bravely step forward to protect their fair city from Snowzilla.

The city tacked a cease-and-desist order on Billy Power's front door deeming Snowzilla a nuisance and a hazard to the neighborhood. And yet somehow – mysteriously – Snowzilla still arose this year bigger and better than ever. Powers takes no personal credit for the latest incarnation of Snowzilla; when asked how the giant snowman got there, he replied, "Magic." So how long will it be before the SWAT team is mobilized to deal with such an affront to public safety?

It's not a facetious question. Implicit in every law, ordinance, statute, and code is a mechanism for enforcement which, taken to its logical end, allows the state or municipality to use increasing amounts of coercion up to and including lethal force, if necessary, against the non-compliant. This is worth remembering when government at any level seeks to "protect" us with official actions from "monsters" that seem to exist primarily in the minds of busybodies who are eager to use their power to control, intimidate or inconvenience citizens who dare think outside the box. Safety is fast becoming an Orwellian buzzword for justifying increased government control at all levels.

It doesn't appear that any official move is afoot to address the nuisance of those appreciative spectators caused by Anchorage homeowners who decorate their homes so beautifully with Christmas lights. So why single out Powers? Part of the answer may lie in the fact that Powers has been a target of city code enforcers for some time now over what the city calls "land use violations" involving his business which have earned him nearly $100,000 in fines. In spite of his friction with city hall, Powers has managed to keep his sense of humor intact as the city considers its next move.

But how far can a man be pushed? The city of Kirkwood, Missouri, found out the hard way about a year ago when they annexed an unincorporated area and imposed their codes on a business owner named Charles Lee Thornton, hitting him with tens of thousands of dollars in fines for doing things exactly the same as he had legally done for the previous 20 years. They threw him out of city council meetings; they beat his lawsuit in court and it finally ended when he walked into city hall and killed 6 people including the mayor. There is no justification for Charles Thornton's murderous rampage – he acted like a government, after all – but the $64,000 question remains: Were the city's actions really necessary to protect rights and serve justice?

The truth is that many of the monsters from which government claims to be protecting us are those of its own creation.

December 27, 2008