A Declaration

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for small-town residents to clean out their basements, garages, and barns, many truckloads of scrap metal are taken to the Transfer Station. Endowed by their creator with an insatiable desire to get good stuff free, other residents pick through the sprawling metal pile for things they think they could use. As is often the case, town authorities feel compelled to prohibit this activity on the grounds that it’s unsafe and deprives the town of much-needed revenue from the sale of scrap metal.

With all due respect for the powers that be, we hold these truths to be self-evident:

  • Responsible adults can decide for themselves what’s dangerous and what’s not.
  • Beauty is in the eye of the rusty tool collector.
  • The steps to the glass containers in winter are more hazardous than the metal pile.
  • A sign prohibiting metal-picking won’t last 10 minutes.
  • Enforcing the ban might require a well-regulated militia.
  • Provoking a disgruntled citizenry with ill-conceived regulations is bad policy.

The metal pile might well be the most popular place at Harvard’s increasingly regimented Transfer Station. Unwittingly, the Select Board may have stumbled on the one usurpation that free citizens will not abide: abolition of the right to salvage other people’s discarded objects of all kinds. If this leads to a revolt, the Founding Fathers would be proud.

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