The Watchdogs: Compelling Accountability from Public Servants


Brian Shiner

We are fast approaching the state of ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.

Ayn Rand


While the statement above may most aptly be applied to the Federal Government today, county government is, nevertheless, “government,” and as such “holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims,” Rand, once more. Although we may tend to characterize the county-level bureaucracy in terms of the many services it provides, refuse to pay the requisite property taxes to it and its “monopoly on physical force” aspect will manifest swiftly, as one’s very home or land is confiscated (some would argue, “stolen”) by that seemingly benevolent force.


The attitude of people has changed from being more considerate and helpful of one another into more of a me-first society


Given a Luzerne County 2013 General Budget of some $122 million and a composition of no fewer than 16 Divisions and 77 Departments, one would be hard-pressed to require any further grounds for active citizen oversight of the public servants entrusted with the stewardship of such a massive and complex undertaking, to say nothing of the hazards introduced by the inherently coercive nature of government, itself. Enter Kingston resident and former retail manager Brian Shiner and cohorts. Brian sat down with the Independent Gazette in late February for a wide-ranging and relaxed conversation.


John DiLiberto: “How has the country changed during your lifetime? And [how has] the local area [changed], too?”

Brian Shiner: “The attitude of people has changed from being more considerate and helpful of one another into more of a me-first society, and very consumed with everyone’s own family unit and not as caring as they used to be for their neighbors and the other people around. That bothers me.”

A brief discussion of the US Dollar and our fraudulent, debt-based, inflationary monetary system leads to Brian’s comments concerning the Luzerne County debt: “Our own county, to be, what, $436 million in debt, just for one county. And it’s our fault, you can’t really blame the Commissioners over the past decades that allowed [the county] to accumulate this because the people allowed it. And you talk to people and they say, ‘Well, we go to the polls and vote. It’s a representative form of government, [so] our job is done then.’ It’s not done then, because somebody has to keep an eye [out] and pay attention to what’s going on from election to election, and a lot of people don’t feel that they have a responsibility in the meantime, and they really do. I was one of those people, too. I kind of felt the same way, [that] our job is to go and elect whomever and see how they do, and then either vote them in again or vote someone else in. But, I realized that it’s far more involved than that.”

John: “Well, I’ve been impressed with the county critics, like yourself. I was not engaged [in politics prior to early 2009], which I kind of regret. I think a lot of us felt that these elected officials – public servants – would just do the right thing without a whole lot of oversight, and that’s proven to be a naive proposition. So, when did you become a government critic, if I could term you that?”

Brian: “Pretty much 2007 – 2008. I’ve always voted, but I started to become more engaged those years and then into the [county-wide] reassessment, and then stayed with it.”

John: “Was there a particular trigger or set of triggers to that [involvement]?”

Brian: “The fact that they wouldn’t listen, and the reassessment was not being done properly. They just didn’t want to listen to the fact that it was messed up, and they wouldn’t consider looking at the figures that were being presented and realizing that it was all skewed and that it had to be redone, and done right. They looked at the group of people that were supposedly against the reassessment as being against it, when they weren’t. They were just against the way it was being done. And they just didn’t want to listen [to] hundreds of people trying to tell them, and their answer was, basically, ‘We don’t care. We’re going to do what we want to do, the way we want to do it.’ And at that point I thought, ‘No. No, you have to listen to the people.’ ”

John: “I think it’s that same attitude that seems to be prevailing at every level of government, whether it be, you know, it’s petty tyranny, whether it be the meter maid or right on to the President – it’s a similar type of attitude, an authoritarian attitude, I would term it, often, and a disregard for the wishes of those that they’re supposedly representing, you know, purportedly.”

Brian: “Well, somewhere along the line I think I remember reading that our government was supposed to be of the people, for the people and by the people. I’m not sure where I read that, but I’m sure I read it someplace.”

Of course, Brian’s reference was to the Gettysburg Address, but we shared a wry laugh over the disparity between that well-known phrase and the actual practice. Our conversation continues in the next issue.

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