A Time for Choosing

It's been almost 50 years, so maybe we need some reminding.

Ronald Reagan, 1964:


I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this.
It's time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, "We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government."
This idea? that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream-the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits."
The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.
Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, "What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power." But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.
Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we're always "against," never "for" anything.
We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. However, we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments....
We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.
We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward I restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him.... But we can not have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure....
Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country the tax collector's share is 37 cents of -very dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.
Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor's fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.
If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what's at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.
They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals." And he said, "There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

Home Sweet Home

 Home Rule Should Mean Home Rule

While having coffee with my friend Peregrina at the Dunkin Donuts in Dryden, we began discussing “home rule.”  As many Dryden residents know, the Town has invoked “home rule” as the basis for its recent ban on hydraulic fracturing, a claim that is still under review in the courts.
The discussion soon turned to what is the appropriate level of government or geographical grouping to exercise “home rule.”  Why would the best level be the Town or the County?  Then we realized that town and county boundaries are fairly arbitrary, set by geographical accident or the state legislature a long time ago.  As we learned with redistricting, the grouping of people can be changed and which group people are placed in will have a lot to do with how “home rule” really works.  People tend to favor “home rule” when their party rules, sometimes not realizing that power can shift and “home rule” can become very unattractive to them when it does. Take for example people who enjoyed being represented by very liberal Maurice Hinchey who now find themselves in a district with an incumbent Republican Congressman, Tom Reed, which has a thirty thousand registration advantage for Republicans.
Then it occurred to us that “home rule” should best be vested in what it says, the home.  That is, the individual homeowner, each allowed “home rule” by making her or his own choice.  But, as Peregrina pointed out, with the current ban, “home rule” is moved to the entire town level, as exercised by some elected officials, so is not “home rule” at all, but rather “rule over the homes.”
If the principle being served with “home rule” is to bring the decisions to the lowest and best possible level, why not the homeowner level?  What is sacred about the town level?  If it is not the home, could this not be the County, the region, or even the entire state?  If the level is to be the “best level,” why isn’t it the one with the best expertise and the time and money to analyze the problem?  If individual freedom is the goal, then the individual homeowner would seem the best level.  But, the town would seem to be neither the lowest or best level.
Before we broke up our coffee meeting, we decided that we too favor “home rule,” but not “home rule” for government, rather “home rule” for individuals, making decisions for themselves.  That is true “home rule.”

Dryden: It's spelled H-U-B-R-I-S

We can argue endlessly about what effect low voter turnout rates have on the concept of "majority rule"—is the majority even really a majority the way most people understand the term?—but there's no doubt that one of the driving forces behind the construction of the US Constitution was protecting the rights of the minority from the "tyranny of the 51%".

And the founders viewed the protection of property rights as integral to protecting against tyranny—John Adams wrote, "Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist."

But as time has passed and people have forgotten or just never learned about why we fought a war of independence and composed the Constitution, and as the politics of envy has come to dominate politics in the US, property rights have been under attack.

Dryden is just the rest of the country writ small.  There's a story to tell here, a cautionary tale.

First, some background...

About a dozen years ago, 58 sites within the Town of Dryden, encompassing over 10,000 acres or a little less than 17% of the town, were designated Unique Natural Areas (UNAs).  These were "sites with outstanding environmental qualities, as defined by the Tompkins County Environmental Management Council, that are deserving of special attention for preservation and protection." The original county-wide inventory of UNA sites started out as a master's thesis at Cornell in 1976 and was added to over the years until it became an official county and town designation around 2000. Affected landowners were contacted by the town and the sites visited to make sure that landowners were on board with the process of UNA designation.

Over 30 years ago (about the same time Earth Day was invented and those UNAs were being inventoried for a Cornell master's thesis), NYS DEC created a designation called a Critical Environmental Area or CEA:

To be designated as a CEA, an area must have an exceptional or unique character with respect to one or more of the following:

a benefit or threat to human health;
a natural setting (e.g., fish and wildlife habitat, forest and vegetation, open space and areas of important aesthetic or scenic quality);
agricultural, social, cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational, or educational values; or
an inherent ecological, geological or hydrological sensitivity to change that may be adversely affected by any change.

Pretty vague…almost anything could be designated a CEA.


Following designation, the potential impact of any Type I or Unlisted Action on the environmental characteristics of the CEA is a relevant area of environmental concern and must be evaluated in the determination of significance prepared pursuant to Section 617.7 of SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review).


Type I actions meet or exceed thresholds listed in the statewide or agency SEQR regulations. These are likely to require preparation of an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement). Some examples:

nonresidential projects physically altering 10 or more acres of land
zoning changes affecting 25 or more acres

Type I actions do not always require an EIS.


Unlisted actions do not meet the Type I thresholds but some may still require an EIS. Some examples:

nonresidential projects physically altering less than 10 acres of land
adoption of regulations, ordinances, local laws and resolutions that may affect the environment

Despite the crunchy granola origins of all this back in the 70s and early 80s, when you might have thought that everyone in the state would have been jumping on the CEA bandwagon, CEA designations are actually fairly rare…until Dryden.  

There are 62 counties in NYS; only 28 of those counties have CEAs within their boundaries. Half of those 28 counties, including Tompkins County, have only one CEA currently designated. The big winner (if you can call it that) in the CEA contest is Suffolk County on Long Island with 46, next are Dutchess and Westchester with 34 apiece. The remaining counties have between one and eight CEAs.

The Town of Dryden wants to designate 35 CEAs within town limits (there is only one CEA currently designated in the rest of the county, in the Town of Ithaca), which would encompass about 62% of the surface area of the town. CEA boundaries were presented as being carefully thought out and having some demonstrable reason for being drawn where they were. 

Dryden Town Council, an elected board consisting of the town supervisor and 4 councilpersons, has a few unelected, unpaid advisory boards to assist them, including a Conservation Board and a Planning Board—that's in addition to a paid town Planning Department consisting of a planning director and five additional staff members…this in a 95-square-mile town with a population of 14,400, about 1/4 of whom are children.

Because of the agricultural nature of the town, when the town comprehensive plan was being adopted in 2005, it was recommended that one of the advisory boards be an agriculture board.  It has yet to exist, although at a March 2012 town council meeting, names and résumés of members of the ag community willing to serve on such a board were presented to the council.  It was suggested that the new ag board be charged with reviewing CEAs and that nothing final happen on CEAs until the ag board had reviewed them.

So where are we right now?

As understanding spread of what owning property (and I now use that phrase advisedly) within a CEA might entail—SEQRs, EISs, special use permit applications—so did pushback.  After public resistance took various forms including attendance and speaking at town council meetings, the whole CEA document was sent back from the town council to the conservation board (CB) for more work. Unlike UNA designations years ago, CEA boundaries had been drawn up without consultation with the affected landowners; it now sounded as though the CB would be reviewing the CEAs a few at a time, but this time in consultation with the landowners involved, on a CEA-by-CEA basis.

Ummm…not so much.

What has become apparent in correspondence between the planning department and the CB is this:
  • There is no intention of changing the number of CEAs or the amount of acreage in the town that will be designated as CEA property. The idea is simply to strengthen the existing CEA document against well-founded attacks from those with the audacity to question "authority."
  • Changes might be made to some CEAs but the changes would be superficial rather than substantive…just enough to hopefully hoodwink the hoi polloi.
  • Weekly meetings of the CB will occur with CEAs being "reviewed" in clumps of 5, so as to turn over each batch to the town council for rubber-stamping and sending on to DEC before the seating of any agricultural advisory board could take place.
  • In fact, there never was any intention of letting landowners have a say in the completion of this process, a process now intended to be finished within two months.
  • Why the increased sense of urgency on the part of the CB and the town council? A member of the CB said at their March meeting that they could not allow the DEC to issue its final findings on permitting drilling in NYS—thereby possibly thwarting the town's plans—before the Dryden CEA designation process was done.
  • CEA boundary designations are in fact arbitrary and based on what "feels good" to the board rather than based on a process that is well-defined and reproducible from proposed CEA to proposed CEA.
  • In the planner's opinion, all lands bordering a CEA will be considered an automatic buffer zone. Some townspeople had said that they thought the entire town should be designated a CEA. Sounds as though this is a step in that direction.
  • Rather than sitting down with affected landowners to discuss the designation of their property as a CEA, the town will "attempt" to send landowners a notice of a relevant CB meeting or a public hearing.
Even DEC in a sort of bizarre way recognized that the very designation they created was in fact a problem:
14. Can reviews of actions involving CEAs be managed to avoid creating undue hardships?
…A community or agency can help reduce hardships that may be associated with the existence of a CEA if they critically evaluate the size and boundaries of the CEA when it is being drafted.

This isn't about protecting the environment.  It's not about pine trees and salamanders—it's about control.

Renters may find that their landlords are unable to make changes to their property that would in fact benefit them, the tenants. Farmers end up being sharecroppers who have to ask permission of "massa" in order to do perfectly reasonable things that would not have required town involvement before.

Not only have subsurface rights been stolen by a drilling ban, now surface rights are being taken as well.

But—you still have the right to pay taxes.

If you don't think all this is a problem, go read up on "unlisted actions" and "SEQRs" and the like.  The town will say that this is a tempest in a teapot—that if your property is in a CEA and you want to make changes to it, all the CEA designation will do is trigger a SEQR…an invitation, if you will, to DEC to take a closer look.  No big deal…nothing to see here, move along…pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  


Think of the paperwork, the money, the crazymaking interminable reviews that will be necessary that hadn't been necessary before.  And all so that you can do perfectly reasonable things—maybe, if you're given permission—on what you thought was property that you owned.  

Silly you.  

John Adams also wrote, "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If `Thou shalt not covet' and `Thou shalt not steal' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free."

The arrogance of these people is just stunning.


Going with the Flo

Like Flo in those car insurance commercials? No? You're not alone. Great post at South of 5 and 20:

Progressive Insurance is owned by billionaire insurance heir Peter Lewis, sugar daddy to many radical leftist causes, primarily Obama's presidential campaign.  So we should not be surprised that the saccharine Flo wants you to install a big-brother "Snapshot" device that connects your car directly to Progressive's headquarters.  The pitch is that you'll get a discount on your insurance rate.  The unstated catch is that Progressive will collect a record of when and where you drive and how fast you drove to get there.  Running a little late for that gun club meeting?  Flo knows.

And EDRs (Event Data Recorders) will be mandatory in 2015.

Read more about the brave new world we have to look forward to. Sounds peachy, doesn't it?

They don't call it Progressive Insurance for nothing.

Straight from the horse's...patootie

Via The Lonely Conservative:

A new fight has developed in the American West over water, where strategies to use the liquid gold routinely are litigated and challenged. But in one case, according to a legal team, the result literally could kill the historic town of Tombstone, Ariz.

The Goldwater Institute today told WND it has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction that would allow town officials to go into the Huachuca Mountains to repair the collection system – pools, pipes and related equipment – that provide the town with much-needed water in the desert climate. 

The federal government has said no....
... instead of allowing repairs as has happened in the past, “federal bureaucrats are refusing to allow Tombstone to unearth its springs and restore its waterlines unless [city officials] jump through a lengthy permitting process that will require the city to use horses and hand tools to remove boulders the size of Volkswagens”...
Got that?  Horses and hand tools.  The feds must have consulted with the Town of Dryden and established a CEA...
[Nick Dranias, head of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater institute] said there is evidence that the Forest Service under Barack Obama’s leadership is adopting a comprehensive plan “to clear federal lands of any private or non-federal uses.”
Ranchers in the West, according to Dranias, have been told to give up their various access and water rights, ski resorts have faced problems with access to federal lands and Indian tribes have been dealt the same blow...
Some folks want to return to the mid-nineteenth century, the error era of their idol—you know, this guy:
We really have got to get them (all of them, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus) out of office this fall.

David v. Goliath and the tyranny of the majority

From Andy Leahy at NYShaleGasNow, a great update to—no, a very informative expansion on—the Chump Change post below. Read and learn:

...NYC hasn't purchased all, or even most, of this misleadingly green-shaded land — either outright in fee, or by easement against development.  It's true NYC owns rights to all the land that it long ago flooded, or built upon, to create its water system.  And it's true the city Water Department has made some additional purchases since.  But not much of what lies upstream.  In fact, former DEC Commissioner Alexander "Pete" Grannis used to give speeches in which he pointedly noted that some 70 percent of this upstream land remains privately owned...

...In these drinking water watershed situations (On this phrasing, here's a reminder to Earth Science-impaired media representatives:  All land lays in a watershed), the state's drill/no-drill regulatory distinctions have been unsatisfactorily explained as being not so much about the realistic risk of surface spills, or the unrealistic risk of uncontrolled returns from depth, of spent or unspent frack water.  Instead, it's been explained as being more about the risk of much less spectacular sediment runoff from drillsite and access road construction.  Sediment.  Or, more to the point, it's really more about the regulatory risk that the federal EPA will view such surface disturbances as a reason to strip NYC and Syracuse of their money-saving filtration waivers — regardless of whether there's much actually foreseeable impact from drilling, and regardless of whether there are any public health benefits to be gained from filtering the water supplies already...

...Leaving aside the highly questionable risk-assessment validity of these ever-expanding no-drill takings, as put forth by NYC, a question of fairness remains:  Should the many urban, water-drinking, peaceful-of-mind beneficiaries of these regulatory "protections" compensate the many fewer private landowners for their lost economic opportunities?  

Or is it okay for the majority to economically oppress the minority, just because it's politically stronger?  Going all the way back to the days of King George, and to the drafting of the American Bill of Rights, isn't the system of free, private ownership of land intended to set limits upon this kind of oppression?  And should we be careful what we wish for, when we conspire in silence to excuse such blatant exceptions?

Delaware County's resolution says, in all fairness, reparations must be made — and this document is the latest salvo in an Upstate-Downstate dispute which long pre-dates the much younger Shale Gas Debates...

There's much more—definitely read the whole thing.  Thanks, Andy.

Taking a constitutional

Judging from e-mails going by the past few days, several people in the area are working out by participating in Hillsdale College's online Constitution 101 course. The Constitution never goes out of style but the course is particularly timely; Hillsdale President Larry Arnn points out that we as a nation really are at a fork in the road...we're going to have to choose between a constitutional model of government (limited, representative, with separation of powers and checks and balances) and what Arnn calls a bureaucratic model (in which agencies run by "experts" combine all three branches of government and operate without oversight).  Calling the latter model "bureaucratic," though, sounds almost innocuous. It's really much more insidious than that.

But some people understood Obamacare as a a chilling manifestation of Arnn's bureaucratic model even before there was an Obamacare.  We were warned (via New Zeal):

Arnn also points out that the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are inextricably linked, an idea that the often-maligned (by progressives, anyway) Calvin Coolidge understood:

...If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people...

You can still register for "Constitution 101" at Hillsdale.  It's free.


"Regulatory impacts of the magnitude likely under EPA’s agenda—compliance costs in the billions, loss of coal-fired electric generation threatening the sufficiency of the nation’s bulk power supply and job loss in the hundreds of thousands—are ultimately policy choices, certainly not purely scientific decisions."

If you think we're heavily regulated now, you ain't seen nothin' yet.  Click on the image to go to the document in its entirety (h/t Jim):

Hartnett White notes that

...The current EPA is misusing the Clean Air Act (CAA)—enacted to protect human health—to force an anti-fossil fuel energy policy repeatedly rejected by Congress. Under cover of the broad law-like authority delegated to EPA in the CAA, the EPA increasingly acts like a fourth branch of government—one unaccountable to the three constitutional branches...

Really.  Like this:

The Hidden Cost of Fuel Economy Regulations: Constitutional Vitiation

Posted: 14 Feb 2012 07:36 AM PST

Post image for The Hidden Cost of Fuel Economy Regulations: Constitutional Vitiation

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority project that their proposed Model Year (MY) 2017 and later light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel economy standards will engender net benefits ranging from $262 billion (assuming a 7% discount rate) to $358 billion (assuming a 3% discount rate). These projections are based on assumptions regarding vehicle cost, fuel prices, and consumer acceptance that may or may not be borne out by events. Skepticism is justified. If the proposed standards are as beneficial to consumers and automakers as the agencies contend, why wouldn‘t consumers demand and profit-seeking manufacturers produce vehicles built to the same or similar standards without regulatory compulsion? Fuel economy regulation assumes that auto buyers do not want to avoid pain at the pump and automakers do not want to get rich. Experts will likely debate for years the net benefits of the rule as data become available regarding vehicle costs and sales and auto industry profits and employment. In a comment letter on the regulation I sent yesterday to the agencies, I examine a cost most experts have not addressed: the damage the Obama Administration‘s fuel economy agenda does to our constitutional system of separated powers and democratic accountability. Read the letter here.

Lastly, Cicero's been on perma-hold again:

Visions of the Energy Future – 2012 to 2016

“You have reached the EPA’s Office of Fuel Allocation.  This number is for people who are still on the grid and whose homes are without adequate heat due to fossil fuel rationing.  Your government is committed to protecting our planet.  Your comfort should not be and is not our priority.

Please have your social security number, undesirable energy guzzling citizen identification number, birth certificate number, and your attorneys’ names, addresses, and secret passwords available.  Your call will be taken by our next available agent.  To get you the best service, our center takes calls from 10 AM to 3 PM, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Your approximate wait time to speak to an agent is 6 hours.

Please stay on the line.  Your call is unimportant to us.  If you are not on the line when the agent responds, you will go to the bottom of the queue.  If your call is still pending when the center closes, please call again our next business day.

If this is an emergency or if you are in imminent danger of freezing, press 1 and we will connect you to a cryogenics technician who can explain the freezing process to you.  If this is urgent, press 2, and enjoy our books on tape while you continue to cool down.  Today’s book is “How Obama Saved our Planet.”  If your issue is not time sensitive, press 3, turn on Skype, and enjoy a presentation of Gasland before being advised to call back later.  If you are a registered Republican, press 4, to be disconnected.

If you are a registered Democrat who is a Congressman, Senator, ex-President, or Cabinet Level or above, press 5 for VIP energy services.  The approximate wait time on that line is two seconds.  To press 5 allegedly in error or if you are not eligible is a federal felony, punishable by death.  In our experience, since all such officials are exempt from the Energy Control Act, no such official has ever been in danger of freezing to death.

Thank you for calling the EPA.  If you wish to know your energy allocation, press zero, the same number as your allocation.  Enjoy your brisk, cool days in twenty first century America."

—Cicero Romanus

Protect Me Not

More wisdom from the old dear....


“If allies are strong with power to protect me,
might they not protect me out of all I own.”  
The King of Siam, in The King and I
Having lived 88 years in the Town of Dryden and in Tompkins County, I’ve never before seen such an activist county and town board as we have now, nor do I ever want to.  My father, of sainted memory, taught me to stand on my own two feet and to make decisions for myself.  He was a very early male supporter of women’s rights and he taught me to cherish and love freedom.  I see it eroding around me.  Will our children live in freedom?  Will they have any personal or property rights against the state?  I doubt it.
A group of enviro-activists have decided that the residents of the Town of Dryden are in need of “protection” against big “evil” corporations and the development of our natural energy resources.  For most of my lifetime, without zoning beyond ensuring septic systems and wells are adequate, the character of our town has been preserved.  No need for lots of paid government workers.  Our town has historically changed only slowly.
I do not wish to be “protected,” I wish to be free.  I want to be left alone to make my own decisions as I have for the last six decades, including making my own choices about whether to lease my land.  The enviro-activists want to protect themselves against their fears and insecurities.  They see poisoners everywhere. What I see is a group of selfish people, hating change, who want to use fuel but don’t want to have anything to do with its production in their own backyards, yet who are perfectly willing to limit my freedom while protecting themselves and taking counsel of their own fears.  They have lied and bullied many people into believing they are right.  Fear is easily created and a strong motivator.
Several times in my lifetime I’ve seen Americans go off to war to defend our homeland and protect our rights to make our own choices and to live in freedom.  But, we are not free when power flows from the individual to government.  In a way, we are being reduced from being adults capable of making our own decisions to being children again, this time with local government playing the role of parent and making decisions for us.  Well, know this, Dryden town board, I’m a grown up and so are most of the residents of Dryden.  What we need is government off our backs, not taking our rights and choices away from us.
Dryden has come for our property rights.  The town board is proposing that two-thirds of our town be declared “critical” environmental areas.  What will be next?  Will they then tell us what color to paint our houses or how short our lawns must be kept?
I once felt that the acreage I inherited and have paid taxes on for decades belonged to me.  I no longer feel like a landowner in Dryden, but rather like a tenant.  I pay my taxes and in return, the town graciously allows me certain uses of my land for a year at a time.  But, bit by bit, ownership has become only “permitted use” as government moves toward controlling our community.  Worse, our local governments, town and county, have been essentially taken over by an activist majority meddling in national and even international issues well beyond their ken.  To counter hubris, like ancient Romans granted a triumph, they need someone to walk with them and whisper in their ear, “Remember, you are only one person, a local official with limited power.”
What disturbs me the most is that I’m seeing little outrage as the town chips away at our freedoms and choices.  If those who are happy with the content of today’s encroachments do not speak up against this erosion, who will speak for them when government comes to take what is dear to them?  It will be too late. If those who are unhappy remain silent, will they not deserve their fate?
Jefferson said that the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots.  If we forget that and fail to defend our personal, individual, and property rights, what will be left of our great American experiment?

February, 2012

Liberty or tyranny?

I've raised that question before in previous posts.

When you hear the term "home rule" is this what comes to mind?

The reality is quite different.  From contributor Henry Kramer:  

Home Rule is Undemocratic
“Home Rule.”  Sound good and close to the people?  But local governments, the beneficiaries of “home rule,” do not conform to basic American constitutional principles.
At all levels of a representative republic, representatives are elected, represent an appropriate majority, and are equally “legitimate.” But majorities vary at different levels and a local majority may be a state minority.  Local majorities often seek “home rule” simply because they cannot prevail otherwise.
Local governments lack the separation of powers and checks and balances that our founders wrote into our constitution to prevent abuse of power.  Local governments enjoy both executive and legislative power.  Once a local activist majority forms, there is no separation of powers to check and balance it, no diffusion of power from a two-house legislature or executive veto.  Certainly not the minority protection provided by U.S. Senate rules, including the super majority to limit debate.
Without checks and balances, activists who capture local governments can create a tyrannical power, including claiming a right to override state and federal law.  Faced with activist local governments that exceed their powers, our only recourses are litigation or relocation.  Neither pulling up roots nor justice comes free. Without the resources to litigate, rights end up trampled with impunity.
Activist local governments often lack expertise regarding subject matter on which they legislate. Ignorance in complex and highly technical areas is no sound basis for legislation.  Traditionally, local governments concerned themselves with purely local concerns and accepted their role as sub-divisions of state government, entirely subject to state supervision.  Reasonable zoning was acceptable but local action on state, national, and international matters, and rejection of state preemption, was not acceptable.  
Imagine trying to control the nation’s air traffic or airwaves at local level.  The U.S. constitutes a single national market.  Although states are sometimes granted concurrent jurisdiction to act on their concerns, the Supreme Court has protected national markets from local regulation.  “Home rule” simply does not work in economic matters.
Local interests are, by definition, local.  We elect state and federal officials to deal with matters whose scope exceeds traditional local issues such as roads and local public safety.
Today, local “progressives” shun progress and try to “preserve and protect” against growth and change. Local governments with “home rule” can be very undemocratic, allowing a group possessing a mere local majority to impose extreme values, rendering minorities powerless as they are stripped of rights and freedoms.
Americans are mobile and our country is wide and varied.  As Americans, we must remember to keep a national perspective.  Local “home rule” can undercut state, national, and international policies. Should local governments be able to use “home rule” to undermine goals important to the country as a whole?  That way leads to patchwork quilt regulation and chaos.
Lord Acton wrote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Local governments that ignore self-restraint on the limits of power are corrupt, undemocratic, and outside U.S. constitutional principles.


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