Discussion List—December 1, 2011
I originally wrote this during the heat of debate over the King County CAO amendments. It is still applicable as the rest of the state bears the brunt of their own CAOs and Shoreline Master Plans. There are two broad principals of law in the United States under which government may take or restrict the use of private property. Government may take private property for public benefit but must, in turn, compensate the owner of the property for its value. Government may also take or restrict the use of property via its police powers to regulate nuisances. Just as a property owner possesses rights to use his property, he also holds rights to prevent others from using their land in a manner that harms him or his property.
Anyone who has ever taken a multiple-choice exam has experience with distractors. Every question has one or more answers that look good, appear to be logical and just feel right. But they are wrong. Students that don’t really understand the question will choose them every time. Only those with in-depth knowledge of the subject can resist them and choose the correct answer. The teacher is thus able to minimize the chance that students will guess the correct answer. Politicians have traditionally been the grand masters of using distractors. They say one thing but do another while we are distracted by their rhetoric. Many people erroneously attribute the Law of Unintended Consequences to laws that really work just as intended but were promoted using good distractors thus leading people to think the distractor was actually signed into law.
As you listen to your favorite practitioner of the Great Green Lie extol the virtues of ever larger buffers on your 5 or 10 or 15 acres, please keep the following photos in mind. The buffer on the stream in unincorporated King County is 300 feet from the edge of the wetland that gets bigger every year.
King County’s Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) has had a long-standing marketing program known unofficially as “1-800 Turn in Your Neighbor.” It has been a very effective way to bring in the funds necessary to make payroll each month, since DDES must finance its operations through fees and fines rather than tax dollars. They also periodically run a marketing program designed to get folks to turn in themselves. It is called “Amnesty.” A quick look at the law.com dictionary shows the following definition:
Many land use issues boil down to the question of who should make the decision as to the most appropriate use for any given property. Private property rights advocates will usually choose the owner of the property. They believe that the person who owns the property will recognize that their best interest lies in the wise use and conservation of the resources of the property. Property rights advocates recognize that there is a small fraction of property owners who will take a shortsighted approach, pillage the resources and then move on. Humans tend to project their actions onto others. They assume that others will see things similarly to themselves and consequently behave much as they themselves would. Because most property rights advocates manage their properties well, they assume that most other folks will also manage their property wisely.
What is it that makes a free country? Is it becuase the country is corruption-free. Nyet. Is it because the free country has taxation below a certain level? Nine. What distinguishes a free country is the right and use of private property. Socialism / Communism says the government owns everything. Facism says it is prvately owned but government controlled. Freedom is defined by the right of a private citizen to own and control his private property. In this country we are moving rapidly from that position to one of "freedom by permit only." This allows government to keep the fascade of freedom. "Of course you own it. Of course you may direct its use -- as long as you get a permit (our permission) to do so." One of the main functions of a legitimate government is to provide protection from others infringing on my rights.