Friday, October 17, 2008

Who Needs Freedom?

If you read the Baltimore Sun on a regular basis, you read a lot of editorials which are trite, juvenile, unenlightened, and asinine. But not many of those columns were as disturbing as the one in this morning's paper penned by Roy Gothie of the Maryland State Highway Administration. While Gothie makes valid points about the need to protect the health of the Bay, what he writes is a frightening vision into an O'Malleyian dystopia.

In Gothie's world, people only have property rights at the whim and call of the state:

The modern concept of property rights substantially contributes to the Chesapeake Bay's continued decline. At this point, tinkering around the edges of the issue with minor changes to laws and regulations will no longer be enough to save the bay. Only a societal decision to redefine an individual's rights regarding property can restore the bay and other critical ecosystems.

Developers, industrialists, homeowners and farmers have long assumed that the core bundle of rights attached to a piece of property exists to benefit the property owners. This is not exactly the case. Property rights are creations of the state, designed to ensure a stable, civil society and a functioning economy. Thus, any property rights a land owner possesses exist mainly to serve the greater public good.
Read that again.
Thus, any property rights a land owner possesses exist mainly to serve the greater public good.
In the warped mind of this state bureaucrat, your property rights are valid only so long as what you do with the land conforms to what the state decides is in the state's best interest. If this guy had his way, you would not be able to do anything on your property, property that you have purchased, property that you rightfully have paid for, unless the state allows you to do it in the name of the state and the name of the citizenry.

Rarely, if ever, has the Baltimore Sun ever printed such a direct and vicious assault on the American way of life than it has with this column. I am extremely disturbed by the fact that an individual who has such an anti-American, anti-freedom view of private property rights is, in fact, employed by the state as a planner. What decisions are being made by the State Highway Administration that deal with your property rights and the property rights of your neighbors? In what ways does Roy Gothie believe that the state can put your land to better use than you can? Perhaps it's time for a full and comprehensive investigation into SHA's land use activities.

Private property rights are a basic human right, one that has been a part of civilized societies for thousands of years. Unfortunately, sometimes you get delusional folks such as Roy Gothie who believe that humans can't handle our basic human rights. I think maybe the state of Maryland should ship him back to Michigan, whence he came. We can certainly use our state resources better than employing people with such radical views...



Wind River said...

This is from the Onion right?

Wind River said...

"To restore the bay, we must consider land use in a new way that reflects current cultural values"

Whos "current cultural values"????

Wind River said...

"Property rights are creations of the state,"

Since when Roy?

Native Son said...

AS long as I got me a gun no buddy gonna touch my private property.

Daniel said...

Last I looked, the only names on my deed are mine - and the bank's.

And when the mortgage is paid off, the deed will only have my name.

No one elses.

Pity the fool who tries to take it from me "for the greater good."

Anonymous said...

maryland is going to be, soon, the worst place for any individual, business, or even animal to reside in with this sort of beliefs..i am looking to head out in 09, that will be my contribution to you o malley..gone in 09

Anonymous said...

Oh Geez,

Wannabe tough guys.

Rodney Jones said...

when what one does on one's private property affects people outside of that property in a way detrimental to the community, the state has a duty and a right to serve the greater good ( quiet enjoyment, health of the bay, safety concerns)

I guess the problem here is a failure to agree on the concept of greater good.

Bruce Godfrey said...

Property rights are creatures of law, which is itself a creature of the state. Nothing un-American about that. Nothing un-American about reasonable zoning or environmental laws either to prevent the infliction of irreversible damage onto a core common public asset.

You don't have to be an extremist like Paul Foer to consider environmental regulations reasonable. I for one don't want to see the aquacultural/watermen way of life destroyed, at least not if it can be prevented reasonably. Unfortunately, that means inconveniences for everyone else, myself included. I don't want to pay more to flush the toilet or more in rent, but as a grown-up I get that I am not an island and am not alone on an island.

In my experience, conservatives and libertarians deal poorly with the concept of externalities, which are more the exception than the rule in real life. Conservatives and libertarians deal well with simple transactions, like Bill selling a used book to Mike for $5.00. It's when you start dealing with most of real life, such as most land-use issues in a mostly suburban and urban society, environmental toxins with downstream disasters, the positive and negative externalities of agglomerative economies of scale, etc., that conservatives and libertarians and Chicago school advocates start looking like Mr. Magoo and sounding like Elmer Fudd. That's why I am a liberal now, rather than a Libertarian Party of Maryland officer and activist as I was for a number of years.

Anonymous said...

and bruce, the liberals are helping the bay and the state of maryland how??

Daniel said...

Again with the cartoon characters.

Too much tv time there, Bruce??

bruce.godfrey said...

Anonymous, a major environmental concern of some liberals is nitrogen run-off from residential and agricultural development that pollutes the Bay, specifically fostering algae growth that affects the health of the Bay as an eco-system. Essentially, cow-dung into the rivers into the bay hurts the fish and shellfish foodchains.

Environmentalists want increasing regulations restricting growth. Growth tears up land that can otherwise act as a sieve for some of the nutrients, and more people means more runoff in gross volume.

Limiting growth of various types mitigates the damage to the Bay. The question is how much are we willing to restrain freedom (i.e. you own it, you should generally be able to do what you want with it, turn it into a 1,000-head cattle farm if you want) to protect the Bay? I think some regulation is reasonable. So do most liberals. It is a question of prudence and balancing. Raising the question does not make one anti-American, no matter what conservatives hallucinate (though they seem prone to the "anti-American" vs. "real American" trope towards, well, people like me of late.)

bruce.godfrey said...

Daniel, that's cute. I watch what my children watch. You got kids?

Daniel said...

I have 9 grandkids.


I'm just pointing out your allegory doesn't make the seriousness of thee argument.

Marvin the Martian said...

I make my children watch PBS and CNBC and MSNBC. Then we all watch Fox and have a laugh.

Mark Newgent said...

Bruce the concept of property rights are enshrined in our law because the founder understood them to be a bulwark against government depredations.

What this fool Gothie is proposing is a fundamental reorganization in the relationship of the individual and the state. His laundry list of enviro policy prescriptions makes government the arbiter of winner and losers. I've clearly explained the dangers of carbon taxes and cap and trade schemes.

No one is arguing against sensible environmental legislation. However, environmentalists seek regulations i.e., power, beyond any sensible reforms.

Judge Knot said... :

Partial Takings

It is often the case that a landowner is not completely deprived of his property, but instead suffers a restriction or impairment of his or her right to use it. For example (and as is frequently the case), a government may need to run a utility through private property, or need to alter a shoreline such that the property is no longer on the waterfront. The property may need to be flooded to create a dam, or a building on the property may need to be relocated to make access to another point. In such cases, a partial taking may be effected, and the landowner is entitled to proportional compensation."