In Minnesota, Mike Haege watched a couple of weeks ago as a tornado tore through the Minneapolis neighborhood where his sister lives. He knows the neighborhood and wanted to help. Since Haege owns a tree trimming and removal business, he was the perfect candidate to volunteer. He’s an expert at the services that were most immediately required and he had the right equipment to do the work.
The day after the storm, he drove the 40 miles or so with his equipment to volunteer to work. He registered with the appropriate agency to volunteer and then headed out with a representative from the agency to start work.
Let’s mention that companies that do paid services of this type have to be licensed by the cities in which they work. Haege knows that and is licensed in the cities where he normally works, but he doesn’t work in Minneapolis, so he doesn’t have a license from the city. I’m sure you can see where this is going.
After he had been working for awhile — for free — a city inspector showed up and told him that he had to leave immediately, because he didn’t have a license to be working in the city. Other volunteers weren’t being hassled for licenses, of course, but he was a tree trimmer with all the appropriate equipment. So he was singled out. He explained that he wasn’t doing paid work, but rather was there as a volunteer. He showed the inspector the paperwork from the volunteer agency. The rep from the agency showed her the paperwork. The homeowners who were getting free work told her he was volunteering. The inspector didn’t care. She wanted him out of her city.
City police got involved as he was obeying the inspectors order to leave, but residents flagged him down to beg for help with a tree. When he started helping, police threatened to throw him into jail, but he was finally allowed to leave two hours later. Now, Haege has received a $275 fine for daring to do free work for desperate people. It’s very clear that this government cares about its rules, not about helping people. Read the whole sordid story for yourself, because I’m not going into most of the details.
We’re frequently told that business people are evil — or at least suspect — because they’re just in business to make money, as though making a profit is wrong. But when a businessman tries to help desperate people, the state gets in the way and stops the help. It’s the coercive state that’s evil, not the business person who’s trying to make an honest living. And heaven forbid he try to do a bit of free work for someone.