Most folks around here don’t want the government telling them what to do, especially when it comes down to how many dogs they can own.
Or how loud they can play their music, or when they can burn leaves. Of course, they sure don’t want the government telling them where they can fire their guns.
Sounds downright un-American.
But Larry Hargett is trying to do all that and more with Dorchester County’s first livability ordinance. And what do you think the county councilman gets for his trouble?
Yeah, people call him a Nanny Stater.
Now, Hargett is far from a Big Government guy — he’s a conservative Republican in a county full of them. But he realizes something that a lot of other people don’t, or choose to ignore.
And that is, your rights end when they intrude on someone else’s.
Barking at the moon
Hargett admits that he is facing an uphill battle.
Many of his colleagues on county council have strong Libertarian leanings. And on the surface, it does sound crazy. What right does the government have to tell you how many dogs you can keep?
Not much, most people would say.
But then, most people probably don’t live next to a guy with eight or nine dogs that bark and carry on at all hours of the night. Dogs are notoriously bad at telling time.
Then there’s the guy who drags his stereo speakers outside early in the morning so he can listen to his music while he works on his cars. Nobody should be forced to listen to Ted Nugent at 8 a.m.
Unless it’s “Stranglehold.”
Or how about the guy living in a zero-lot-line neighborhood taking target practice with his 9mm.
These sorts of things are what most people would call nuisances. But the people they complain about would probably tell you they have a right to do whatever they want on their own property.
Yes, Hargett says, that’s right — until it hurts someone else.
“I don’t think they think about how the Bible says to ‘do unto others.’ But when you start infringing on their rights, you hear about it,” Hargett says. “In many cases, the minority is the most vocal and they get their way because the majority is silent.”
Silence: Good or bad?
Dorchester County Council Chairman Bill Hearn is not a fan of foisting a lot of new laws on people.
He says the livability ordinance just collects a lot of little issues, ties them together and gives regular citizens the opportunity to judge their neighbors.
Hearn says people in municipalities are protected, and you can’t put a law on the suburban parts of the county, as Hargett wants to do. He says if you have a big enough nuisance, code enforcement can handle it. But generally, people rely on everyone else to be good neighbors.
Most council members probably think more like Hearn. But Hargett is not going to give up, and he’s not real worried about the people who call him Mr. Nanny State.
He’s been elected to County Council four times, most often carrying 70 percent of the vote or better.
Maybe that’s because he represents the silent majority.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org