On Marco Island: Independent Reporting, Documenting Government Abuses, Exposing the Syndicate, Historical Records of Crimes Against the Environment

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sustainable development': Freedom's foe

By Henry Lamb

Add the word "sustainable" to almost any project, and immediately the project becomes politically correct and therefore acceptable. The surge of "sustainability" or "sustainable development" in recent years is phenomenal. Americans have been awed by the sales pitch and have bought into the idea of "sustainable development" – without looking under the hood to examine the engine. Nor have Americans realized that "sustainable development" is a self-directing vehicle that is transforming a once-free society into "sustainable communities" where nearly every human activity requires the permission of government.

The principle of private property rights is an early victim. Private property rights cannot exist in a sustainable community. In a sustainable community, a property owner's rights are limited to whatever government decides is appropriate.

Freedom rests upon the principle of private property ownership. Ownership of property is the right to use the property and to exclude others from it. When the right to use one's property is restricted or diminished by government, so then is the owner's freedom diminished.

The concept of private property is incompatible with the concept of sustainable development. Sustainable development is, by definition, a function of government that uses the force of law to balance resource use (the environment) with economic development to achieve social equity.

Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution require government to balance resource use or economic development to achieve social equity. This idea arises from a socialist philosophy that dominates the United Nations, which spawned the concept of sustainable development. As early as 1976, the U.S. government signed a U.N. document that declared:

Land … cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice;

A-1. Redistribute population in accord with available resources;

D-1. Government must control the use of land to achieve equitable distribution of resources;

D-2. Control land use through zoning and land-use planning;

D-3. Excessive profits from land use must be recaptured by government;

D-4. Public ownership of land should be used to exercise urban and rural land reform;

D-5. Owner rights should be separated from development rights, which should be held by a public authority.

This document was signed on behalf of the U.S. by Carla A. Hills, then secretary of housing and urban development, and William K. Reilly, then head of the Conservation Fund, who later became the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

These land-use control ideas found their way into the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, "Our Common Future," which first defined the term "sustainable development." The meaning of sustainable development here defined was codified in another U.N. document called "Agenda 21," which was signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. This document recommended that every nation create a national sustainable development initiative.

President Clinton eagerly followed this recommendation with the creation – by Executive Order – of the President's Council on Sustainable Development. This group of Cabinet-level appointees and heads of major environmental organizations quickly translated "Agenda 21" into "Sustainable America: A New Consensus." This document "Americanized" "Agenda 21" and set forth hundreds of policy recommendations to bring the nation into compliance with what the international community defined as "sustainable." Most of these policies have been implemented administratively. In fact, Congress has never debated, nor approved, either of these documents.

In communities across the nation, individuals are discovering that their property rights have evaporated. Government now routinely dictates such things as how tall grass may be allowed to grow, what color houses may be painted, where they may – and may not – be located, and what kind of landscape vegetation may be planted. And this is just the beginning of sustainable development.

The more people learn about sustainable development, the more they realize that it is a tidal wave washing away their freedom.


  • While I agree with Mr. Lamb that governments should not unduly restrict an individual's right to use his/her property as they deem fit, a balance must be struck between one individual's right to use their property and their neighbor's right to protect their property. By focusing his argument on the "sustainable use" issue, Mr. Lamb avoids addressing the problems that arise when there are no rules in place to protect one neighbor against the actions of another.

    For example, in the North Carolina hills where I have moved (thanks be to God!), the people are fiercely independent and zoning is notable by its absence. As a result, one drives along a road and sees a beaten up, dilapidated mobile home next to a very nice house. Fine for the guy with the cheap digs, but what happened to the value of his neighbor's property when they hauled the tin can in? Unless you can afford to buy 20+ acres, situate your house in the center ... with all the inconvenience that applies, i.e., a half-mile long driveway, total absence of nearby help when needed, etc. ... you have no protection at all. The solution either is governmental zoning or homeowner-association restrictions. Either way, you give up some rights to gain protection. One can make an argument that homeowner associations, being closer to the people, are less obnoxious than governmental control (and we certainly don’t want UN interference!) but I'm afraid some form of restriction on individual rights is a concomitant of a mature society.

    Ed Foster

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, May 11, 2008 12:18:00 PM  

  • Mr. Foster's comment is well taken but now we come to the sticky question of who is to make the determination as to what is acceptable for the community. Supposing the individual (or group) who decides, determines that the "dilapidated home next to a very nice house" is the way to go. What then, you in the "very nice house", is your protection? You see whenever you allow freedom to be infringed upon, except in defense of life or liberty, then you are giving up all pretense of freedom. Humphrey

    By Anonymous Humphrey Sarlo, at Sunday, May 11, 2008 12:57:00 PM  

  • Clearly, the dreams of the founders as documented in the original documents of this great country have been transmogrified into a labyrinth of rules. Their worst fears have been realized.

    Even the federalist, Adams, Madison and Jay most conspicuously, those who favored some semblance of a strong central government (ergo, federalism) only wanted the control for those super tasks that were best left to a central government, such as national defense, regulation of interstate commerce, currency, etc… Jefferson was so afraid of any governmental control that he had his issues with the federalist (Adams most notably), risking those benefits of the central strong federal government because of what they could become. Regrettably, Jefferson was correct.

    What those that seek government to resolve all issues often overlook is the freedom to vote with your money.

    Ed’s example is a good one, though I agree with Humphrey. Imagine if that beautiful place in North Carolina was now infested by the same cabal that runs Marco? But instead of wanting rich things for rich people so Marco can be the next Vegas, they outlawed through code all houses, and deemed that only white-trash trailers be allowed?

    The best solution is no government intervention. Will that mean that there will be ghettos? Of course. But assuredly there will be middle class enclaves and rich enclaves as people locate based on what they can afford and how demand runs prices up out of reach of those that you don’t want to live next to (as they say on Marco, “those people”).

    In Miami there is super rich section called Coconut Grove – the most expensive houses per square foot anywhere in the South East (and in the east coast with the exception of New York City). But right across the street to a row of $18m homes is a ghetto replete with crack houses and pimps. Why do the super rich live there? Because Coconut Grove has the best restaurants and bars and theaters and much more within walking distance – things that the ghetto dwellers and pimps and crack junkies can’t reach. Imagine now if the government a la the Marco syndicate stepped in! In a short course the restaurants would be replaced with the shit-serving tourist traps we have on Marco, the flippers (real estate agents) and the nincompoops in the code enforcement board would collapse the real estate economy in the blink of an eye as sure as there is still asbestos in the park.

    When governments dictate, we get the worst.

    Don’t like the trailer next door? Move or buy it, then build on it. Free market enterprise – the antidote to AmeriKapitalism and dictatorial democracy.

    Speaking of eminent domain – crushing my septic tank lid without recompense violates that law. But who cares.

    By Anonymous Dr. Mario Sanchez, at Sunday, May 11, 2008 2:38:00 PM  

  • Very interesting! Takes me back to my youth when I was accused of being to the right of Hitler and to the left of Stalin.

    What I see in the above two postings is nothing more nor less than a call for anarchy. There always have been those who find any law and any government so oppressive that they prefer no government at all to accepting any restriction on their freedom. In other words, their freedom to act as they choose in every situation is more important to them than any protection that might be afforded by law.

    To say that I must buy my neighbor's property and build on it to preserve the value of my own is, in itself, an imposition on my freedom. Why should I be obliged to choose between buying my neighbor's property and preserving the value of mine? Is this not a restriction on my freedom in and of itself?

    We have laws that impose speed limits on public highways; we have laws against robbery; we have laws against murder and mayhem. Should we abandon them in the name of freedom? That is what anarchy requires. Do the above two authors suggest we abandon all our laws? If not, where would they draw the line?

    A line always must be drawn between the public weal and individual rights. The trick is to select people for government who are capable of balancing the individual's freedom with his/her right to protection against his/her neighbor. That's what "good government" is all about. Unfotunately, Marco has not learned to make that choice in an intelligent way ... but there's always hope.

    In our case, we chose to invest in a restricted-deed community where we accept limits on our freedom to do as we wish with our property. These restrictions are imposed by a majority vote of the property owners in the community and I could tell you chapter and verse about how well it works when the right people are elected to the board of directors.

    Ed Foster

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, May 11, 2008 8:27:00 PM  

  • This is not a call to anarchy. However, regulating that which we can do by choice is Marxism – which is worse than anarchy.

    You have a choice where to live, you do not have a choice who lives next to you. Hence if you do not like he who lives next to you for whatever reason, you have choices: leave, talk to him if you can affect change (unless you don’t like him because he is of a different race), buy him out, and a few other options non governmentally based. Basically you have a choice.

    So in essence, what you advocate is having the heavy hand of government control those who live next to you.

    Comparing having a poor person put a trailer in a lot next to a rich person that put up a mansion, to advocating no speed limits is inanity (by the way, Montana has done away with speed limits on many of its roads). Let’s stay on the neighbor with the trailer: if that neighbor starts conducting nuclear enrichment and dumping the waste in the creek that traverses both your lots while burying the asbestos he used to shield the centrifuges, then all of that should be illegal (except on the Marco Island of Moss/Joel et al). Why? Because it harms the environment and the people in that community. However, if that neighbor paints his trailer puke yellow, has ten cars on blocks, and allows his grass grow tall and ugly, all of this should not be illegal. Why? Because it harms NO ONE and it DOES NOT HARM THE ENVIRONMENT.

    That is where the line is drawn – or should be. The problem with how our liberties have been eroded is exactly how this issue of restriction is misused. Consider …a majority vote in a city council that then passes an ordinance that makes long grass and puke yellow trailers and fixing cars illegal in your front lawn illegal … OK, fair enough. Then what about if a city council gets elected that makes illegal the exact looks and specifications of YOUR house and yard? Then what Ed?

    What has happened (running the risk of repeating myself) is that when something happens that MAY affect our MONEY (i.e., real estate, etc), we look to the government to protect us. Exactly where is that in the constitution? Clearly enumerated therein is the right to life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness. Note the word PURSUIT – note that the framers did not say GUARANTEED. (that in a sense is happening again on syndicate island – the aristocracy is arguing how who when how much how long people can rent houses – all because SOME houses have been OCCASIONALLY rented to a FEW people that make noises that the NEIGHBORS don’t like. Here is one for you Ed, my “neighbor” two doors down complained a couple of years ago that my daughter was singing in the pool at 2pm. Imagine if that neighbor was the majority and an ordinance was passed? Don’t think it can happen? If you think not, you haven’t been living in American very long.)

    I strongly suggest that you watch the series “Freedom to Choose” by Dr. Milton Friedman. He advocates exactly what I am saying, naturally better presented and clearer.

    If not, read Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” – though mostly on economics (exemplarily proving the Kensyan economics is a sham) – the tome also supports this argument via the power of the “invisible hand” – as I noted, vote with your ability to affect the market, as opposed to demanding that government intervene on everything and anything lest one day it intervene to your detriment.

    Take if from me, you don’t want that, for one day it will come to America a government that derides people of comfort, makes what you do and have done illegal, and then you’ll be screaming why is the government making laws against people with nice houses and pristine lawns as you flee for your life and wind up living in that puke yellow trailer – in another country.

    By Anonymous dr. mario sanchez, at Sunday, May 11, 2008 9:41:00 PM  

  • Mario,

    Do not confuse the U.S. Constitution with Divine Revelation. If it were, it would be all inclusive and never need to be "amended." It required 10 "amendments" (the "Bill of Rights") immediately after it was adopted. The citizenry have added over a dozen more since.

    Furthermore, the constitution requires "intepretation" for which we have a Supreme Court. Subsequent Supreme Courts have been known to reverse the decisions of earlier Supreme Courts, slavery being a notable example. My point is that, if a group of citizens, whether they be a homeowner's association or a local government, wish to impose regulations upon themselves that are not specifically forbidden by the constitution, the constitution does not prohibit them from doing so. You may be opposed to the new regulation, but if the majority vote for it, it becomes law whether you like it or not and to deny the authority of that law is anarchistic. If you strongly oppose the new regulation, you can move out. I found that necessary. It cost me greatly both monetarily and emotionally but the alternative was more unpalatable.

    We hope that our representatives (we live in a republic, not a democracy) will show good judgment in making laws, but we have no guarantee that they will ... Marco Island being a prime example of system failure ... but that is our form of government. Perfect it is not, but it is the best we have. Republics work only if its citizens are educated, knowledgeable of the issues, and take their responsibility to think before they vote seriously. In my opinion, Marco's citizens have failed on all accounts. You would lay the blame on "the syndicate," and you are correct but I submit that it was the people of Marco Island who agreed to be led by the nose by "the syndicate" and they bear the ultimate responsibility.

    When the republic was formed, the Federalists were very concerned about mob rule; only propertied white male individuals who were sufficiently affluent to pay a poll tax were enfranchised. Those regulations have been set aside and now it is illegal in some states to demand simple proof that the individual is who he/she says they are before they are allowed to vote. You can't get a library card without identification but you can vote. This is insane. The system can't work for long under those circumstances.

    Ed Foster

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, May 12, 2008 2:25:00 PM  

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