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05/15/2007 Archived Entry: "Free-market solution: K9 corps at historic cemetery"

NOW HERE'S AN ELEGANT LITTLE SOLUTION that shows exactly how life in a truly cooperative (rather than coercive and bureaucratic) society could work.

If you're an urban dog person (which I have been in my past), you know what hell it is to try to find a good place to walk your dog off-leash. You sneak into public parks or school grounds at the crack of dawn, hoping to play a little fetch and let Fido poop (and you scoop!) before the world awakens. But you still sometimes get caught. Or you run into fearful and/or hostile visitors, who can rightly tell you you're breaking the law, merely being there. Even when you bother nobody, you're acutely aware that you're a criminal.

I was once stopped -- at 7:00, in the rain, in a lonely forested area of one of the nation's huge municipal parks (like Golden Gate or Central Park), by two -- count 'em, 2 -- cops in two -- count 'em, 2 patrol cars for the crime of having my dog off-leash at my side. (And this in a city that wouldn't even dust for fingerprints when my car was recovered totalled after being stolen by gang-bangers.)

Sure, now there are a few dog parks. But a decent-sized city may have only one. Or none.

So think about this. In Washington, DC, 600 local residents pay annual dues to the historic Congressional Cemetary -- which bills itself as a private and privately funded cemetary, despite being polluted by the bones of dozens of politicians. The agreement gives the live humans a right to walk their dogs among the gravestones and on paths strewn with cherry blossoms.

But the good isn't only for the dog people. According to one of the human members of this "K9 Corps" of Cemetery Dogs:

10 years ago, before the K9 Corps came into being, the old cemetery was a rundown blight ... vandalized grave markers and vaults, waist-high weeds, trash, prostitutes and drug dealers. Today our dues pay for a groundskeeper, garbage removal and grass-cutting.

So everybody wins. Now imagine if arrangements like this could be made within many more parts of city neighborhoods. What if the owner of a building site, not yet ready for construction, fenced his lot and turned it into a dog playground? The dogs and dog walkers help protect him against garbage dumping and the predations of winos. What if churches allowed their own cemeteries to be dog-safe parks, in the same sort of exchange for upkeep the Congressional Cemetery arranged? Private school playgrounds (on weekends and evenings)? Again, the dog walkers help serve as guards and provide money for upkeep.

As you may know, I'm not usually big on the Utopian "what ifs." But this is so small and so easy -- a perfect example of the sort of opportunity for mutual benefit we would all be motivated to create in Not-Quite-Anarchotopia. And that's why Anarchotopia looks so appealing, even though it would never be paradise. Multiply agreements like this by hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, and you discover some pretty creative solutions for dealing beneficially with each other in a society.

But with rare exceptions like that one in Washington ... Noooooo. Zoning limits what you can do with your own properties. Leash laws can't be suspended even if you have a safely large space. The specter of 1950s-era city planning means the open spaces are too often rigidly set apart from work and living spaces. So something as sensible as K9 Corps will remain the exception, rather than the rule. Ah, but in Libertopia ...

Posted by Claire @ 12:20 PM CST

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