When my Great Uncle Ed Dalby installed the first waterwheel in the South Puget Sound near Union, WA in 1922, he did not get a permit. He was just an innovative guy, and he wanted to have electric lights in his home and a few cabins on his property. He also believed in recycling (long before it was a fad). He acquired the used counterbalance flywheel from the Yesler Cable Car in Seattle, and along with other scrapped material was able to produce power for the family homestead until well past World War II. This waterwheel is a famous landmark today, officially listed, and unofficially photographed, painted, and admired by both locals and tourists 90 years after it was built. In today’s world, Ed Dalby would be arrested, fined, sued, and probably end up in endless litigation for building this landmark. With modern zoning, shoreline master plans, comp plans, visioning plans, consensus goals, critical area ordinances, planning departments, and the Environmental Industrial Complex in full force, it is ludicrious to believe that a modern landmark like this could ever be built by an individual again.
A more famous example would be Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water home masterpiece built in 1935 in Pennsylvania. Forget about the stream buffer for this house – the water runs through it. Of course, Frank Lloyd Wright believed that homes should be designed individually to fit the landscape and compliment nature by design. That “organic architecture” belief is anathema to the modern planner and those who profit from wearing the “environmentalist” label today. The modern planner and enviro believes that man is a disease to be removed from nature and installed in buffered, crowded, concentrated, surveilled, mass-transit walkable utopias somewhere. As a result of this late 20th Century trend in central planning schemes, and more modern mutations – our world becomes ever more limited and stifled by the Planning Class and Those Who Know Better.
It isn’t just about whether you can build your home or do something unique on your property. This overregulation, control obsession permeates every aspect of our human condition. Everything I want to do is illegal. An essay with this title became a book written by one organic farmer trying to farm in a way he believes is healthier and better for humans and the environment. However, government bureaucracy, central planners, and Those Who Know Better can’t allow this (or won’t until you pay them their cut). And so the effort to stifle creativity, ingenuity, individual thought, and pretty much anything not in perfect synch with the Collective Central Comprehensive Plan becomes the modern battle for our human rights. Many people have written about how to stifle ingenuity, some write lists, and some discuss our education system. I would suggest you can also go visit your local planning department or read your local comp plan or perhaps read the most recent version of your 611 page Critical Area Ordinance. These are the places where dreams go to die, and the Dream Destroyers just keep writing.
Some dreams may appear small to outsiders, but for each individual they are important. I am reminded of the low-income, young single mom I met in Rochester who had aspired to run a daycare facility at her starter home on 5acres. By law, she needed to build a Big Toy in the back yard with all the safety requirements. She was excited to do this. However, she also found out she was required to pay for a pocket gopher study which required her to hire an expensive pocket gopher consultant for $2800. Since she had already been fined $500 for moving too much dirt around her property (disturbing pocket gopher habitat was the excuse), her dream died right there. Living on the edge already, and seeing no hope of holding onto the home, she walked away. Foreclosure soon followed. She moved back in with her parents. Her dream died – thanks in part to Thurston County, Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department, and the army of useful idiots who profit from and create these rules. Stories like this are all too common.
Of course, the people who invent and enforce these rules while destroying other people’s dreams believe they are doing the right thing. They are just following orders, the law or the rules they helped write. Some claim to be doing God’s work. They also rarely believe the rules apply to themselves. Take a look at the homes and properties owned by many of your local politicians and leading faux-“environmentalists.” You’ll find that a sizeable percentage of them own properties and homes that certainly don’t conform to the ordinances and rules they expect everyone else to follow. Anyone who has ever attended a fundraiser at Senator Karen Fraser’s (Democrat – 22nd District) waterfront home in Thurston County knows this. Not much of a buffer setback from the salt water for her. You can also see the Ruckleshaus (former head of the EPA) house/mega-cabin outside Friday Harbor as an example of a house you and I could never build today. These good environmentalists are certainly not alone. “Rules for thee, but not for me,” has just become the understood way things are done. Here is another story about a San Juan County Commissioner candidate hypocrite.
Some of these people even blatantly violate the very rules they fought to impose on their neighbors, and when caught just claim that the rules shouldn’t apply to them, or perhaps they are the “exception.” Read this story about a board member of “Friends of the San Juans" we discussed last year. Here is another one from Island County where a sitting mayor and paid planner ignores the very rules he imposes on others. The hypocrisy is endless, but merely a distraction from the main problem. This acceleration of regulatory rules, bureaucracy, and a twisted belief that Those Who Know Better Than You is taking us down a very nasty and unsustainable path as a society.
It is not sustainable in a healthy society to stifle a citizenry with exponentially growing ordinances, rules, laws, fines, taxes, fees, litigation, and pointless obstacles to activities that should be allowed in a normal, healthy, modern society. Man is part of the environment and it is not rational to exclude man from nature and expect good to come from the attempt. It is also not in the nature of Americans to be herd animals and to have our creativity, our dreams, our hopes, our ingenuity, our individuality, our future, and our freedoms stifled in the way we have allowed our modern Leviathian of a bureaucratic state to become. People talk a lot about the “fiscal cliff,” but there is also a bureaucratic wall which is getting taller, grander, and more expansively elaborate by the day. Unfortunately for us little people, we get to both beat our head against this wall and fall off the cliff.
I refuse to believe that it is hopeless or impossible to fix. However, those of us who would prefer to use our ingenuity and creativity doing something else – we will need to focus our efforts on tearing down this bureaucratic wall first. Nobody else is going to do it for us. Our generation must do it not just for ourselves and our communities, but so that our children can have a better future where they will not be suffocated before they have a chance to dream. In the same way that this must start with you and I, it also must start local.
Think globally and act locally. This is a common slogan used by the faux-“environmentalist,” but we need to think the same way about our freedom. I believe in protecting, maintaining, and restoring our freedoms globally, and I’m willing to act locally to do so. Start paying attention to the actions being taken by your local government. Shake off the apathy, turn off the television, and get involved. Read your local rules, understand the realities in your community, and become actively engaged where you live. This is the first step we all must take for our freedom, and you will find achievable ways to start tearing down these walls and reverse the process.
When I visited my Uncle Ed Dalby’s grave last week at the Pioneer Cemetery in Union, I saw no visible evidence that he was rolling over in his grave at the modern state of affairs in our society. Perhaps this is because his ingenuity and creativity are still being admired, painted, and photographed. The waterwheel is still a local attraction and landmark nearly a century after he built them. Nothing the bureaucrats and enviro class are doing to stifle our generation will be documented by tourists or remembered fondly 100 years from now by anyone.