Recently, I tuned my television to the local public access channel in order to view the live feed of my local Anne Arundel County Council proceedings and was taken aback by comments made by an elected official purporting to uphold the public trust. Unfortunately, these comments were indicative of a growing trend amongst our new political aristocracy. That growing trend involves ensuring your seat at the policy making table, although the policy being debated is not just malicious but antithetical to our very foundational beliefs.
A salient example of this trend, in my home state of Maryland, is the ongoing debate occurring within the counties as to whether to submit county-wide planning maps in accordance with the recently passed Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012. Without delving into the finer points of the legislation, it orders the counties to submit land use maps which will restrict the development options of the rightful land owners under the guise of the always nebulous term “sustainability.”
In the classic Hobson’s choice, Maryland’s counties are told that if they “choose” to refrain from submitting a map, or submit a map that the state does not approve of, then the state will penalize them by not allowing residential development outside of currently sewered areas. The counties now must determine whether to submit a map and cede to the state enormous swaths of hard-to-reclaim liberty, or to refuse to submit a map, and have state planners force one upon them also ceding liberty and violating any semblance of subsidiary.
The left has expertly crafted the use of the language to suit their ideological needs with flowery sounding terms such as “sustainability” and its use in this piece of legislation is no coincidence. Legislation of this type is part of an agenda, on behalf of the believers in big government solutions to small-community problems, to disarm communities and their residents of the ability to manage their own households and communities in favor of ceding this authority to a class of pseudo-intellectual politicos who, according to their thinking, understand how to utilize and care for your land better than you do. This rather dangerous proposition opens a Pandora’s Box of government-caused inequity, enforced under the penalty of law, and enacted under the guise of environmental “management” and “sustainability”.
Enforcing legislation such as this is only possible by treating different groups of people, such as the landowners and farmers who will have their land values destroyed with the snap of a legislative finger, differently from other group of people, such as real estate investors invested in city-centric development projects, who will see the values of their projects increase if growth is forced into congested cities.
If you believe, as I do, that the Constitution is a document of negative liberties, dictating how the government cannot indiscriminately legislate away your liberties, then you cannot believe this legislation is in keeping with the Constitutional principles our elected officials swore to uphold and protect.
In addition to the multitude of problems this legislation legally creates, it also creates a conflict in logic. If the government officials who dreamed up this legislation believe that land owners and farmers will destroy their land and the surrounding environment if allowed to manage it, then why should we believe that a class of bureaucrats, some of which have never stepped foot on a farm in their lives, would not magnify the errors by making decisions which benefit them or an interest group supporting them? As the late Milton Friedman once stated with respect to government officials, “Where are these angels you speak of?”
Taking a larger macro-view, this disturbing philosophy also conveniently leaves out the clear historical evidence of abysmal failure of big government to manage the environment. The most damaging and longest-lasting environmental disasters in human history all have one thing in common: big government planners. Chernobyl, the Aral Sea, and the Three Gorges Dam are but a few of the legions of environmental disasters resulting from government “planners” and their perverse agendas.
You may write this off as a leap too far but when the trend line for ceding personal economic, healthcare, public-safety, educational and now private property liberties all trend in the direction of you losing and government gaining, I think you’ll better understand my concerns. After all, liberty is a zero-sum game; it cannot belong to you and your government at the same time.
(Dan Bongino is a former Secret Service agent and current entrepreneur who ran for US Senate from Maryland in 2012)