Last week as our family traveled in my old van from Louisiana to Oklahoma on vacation, we broke down. Several times. This isn’t the first time I’ve been stranded on the side of the road; back in the “pre-cell phone” days I frequently hoofed it to the next farm house when my jalopy would spring a leak or throw a rod. Once, my wife and I broke down on our way home from Kansas City for Christmas. It was scary. The sun was going down, the temps were plummeting, we were in the middle of nowhere, and we began walking on the highway. And, oh yea, she was 6 months pregnant at the time. Amazingly, a man who was listening to a sermon on his car’s cassette player (that’s how long ago it was), stopped and gave us a ride to the next truck stop. He said he never did things like that; but felt compelled this one time. He was afraid I was going to kill him. I feared the same from him but was cold enough and desperate enough to take the chance. God provided our help and we called family to come pick us up. This time was similar in some ways, yet also different.
This time it was the heat of the summer in south Texas. We overheated and had to pull off where I had a mechanic check it out. A new thermostat didn’t fix it. So the water pump and radiator were added. Fixed it!…..for about 100 miles then it overheated again, even worse than before. Had to have it towed to a dealership where a mechanic offered a massive quote to fix it, or one of his salesman would be glad to take the van off my hands for free and set me up with a new one (that I can’t afford). I passed on that “honey of a deal.” While stranded, I relied on a very nice school teacher who worked at the school where I broke down, to take my wife and kids to the next town to find a hotel. I relied on my mother-in-law to drive down from Oklahoma with a rental van to get us home; after the only local rental place was “out of vehicles for the next week.” (How do they stay in business?) I paid a tow truck driver to take me and my van to the same town. I relied on the nice lady, and the driver, and two mechanics and have been offered services from a salesman or two. We paid for a hotel room and eventually made it to our destination the next day. I had to rely on a lot of people. Not once was I ever required to rely upon the government.
I believe there is a moral to my tale of woe. When catastrophe strikes, be it national or personal, the near universal knee-jerk reaction is to look to government for all the solutions. If I had sat by the road waiting for a government “fix” I would probably still be waiting. Good citizens helped. Savvy business men offered services for which I gladly paid. And salesman offered services which I kindly declined. For now. I will tow my van home next week and then figure out what I will do. This is how a “civilization” is supposed to work. This, in a nutshell, is an example of free market capitalism at work. It’s no one’s fault that I broke down. These things just happen. I’m meticulous about checking my fluids and air pressure. Nevertheless machines sometimes break. The solution has nil to do with the government. It’s my job to manage and solve my crisis by using whatever resources ( including people) God might send my way. Government could help with crises but they typically don’t. They usually add to the pain and make matters worse. For example, if I buy a new car in Louisiana I will be required to pay the sales tax of 9 percent (plus other fees for tag, registration, and insurance). If I buy the car in another state I’ll be required pay taxes in that state, plus Louisiana. The only factor the government plays into my trial is to greatly exacerbate the financial woes of an already unexpectedly strained wallet. Such is life in these United States. Citizens helping each other. Some getting paid, some not. A stranded motorist figuring out the best solution to his problem. And the government sitting back, licking their chops, and waiting for a slice of the financial pie that they don’t deserve. Maybe I’ll just buy a horse and a chuck wagon instead. Oh bye the way, is there a tax on that?