Yesterday, I returned from a 3-week vacation (with some success at also doing some writing) at my summer cottage in Minaki, Ontario. The last full day I was there, I was visiting on a neighbor’s (Canadian translation: neighbour’s) dock to say good-bye. We had both noticed earlier that day a stray buoy that had drifted into some relatively open water. I’ve been going there since 1951 and my neighbor has been doing so since about 2006 and we both knew that it didn’t belong there. If there was any doubt, the angle of the buoy confirmed our belief: it was tilted about 30 degrees from horizontal and the end of the buoy was ragged. If a boat were to run into it at night–and yes, some people around there do operate their boats at night–the buoy could do a lot of damage and even cause a fatality. I expressed that thought to my neighbor, Don Fullerton, and he agreed.

About 15 minutes later, he said, “Dave (almost everyone at Minaki calls me Dave), come with me.” We got in his fishing boat and went out to the buoy. I reached over to pull it and was pleased that it was made of plastic and wasn’t as heavy as I expected. At the end was a long chain whose end, we figured, must have caught on a rock below. We pulled it and it came loose. So we pulled the buoy into his boat. It was filled with foul-smelling debris. We took it back to his dock.

Why do I tell this story on EconLog? Because so often when I hear people argue for government intervention in economic activity, they say, “Without government doing this, who would ____?” There are few government officials around. Employees of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources are typically out enforcing fishing regulations. The one member of the Ontario Provincial Police is busy, I assume, with other matters. Maybe he would have got to it, but when I was out on my jet ski earlier that day, I saw the buoy and 4 hours later, it was still there.

So we did it. Small piece of evidence ? Yes. But an illustrative one nevertheless.