Showing posts from September, 2021

Political Column - Between Tyranny and Anarchy

Life and liberty are precious and precarious things. Easy to lose their balance and topple, this way or that. We expect government to protect these things, life and liberty, but quite often it does the opposite. And that's allowed, because taking action is inconvenient. If these injustices continue to grow then there does come a point where more and more people are willing to take greater and greater action. Taken to the extreme this results in the toppling of the government. For instance, in England in the mid-1600s King Charles I fought the forces of parliament and ended up losing his head. The anarchy and civil wars were a steep price to be paid to correct the wrongs of his rule, but they were paid in full. You might think that what would naturally follow would be greater religious freedom and toleration, and a greater emphasis on individual rights and the power of representation through the parliament. You would be wrong. What followed was Oliver Cromwell and a greater tyranny.

Political Column - How Power Corrupts

I have spent many hours over the last couple of decades contemplating Lord Acton's observation in a letter to a bishop that, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I have read, studied, and observed the idea. Combining that with holding office gives me an interesting perspective to answer the complex question of, "How?" Government is a mass negotiation through indirect means to incompatible ends. There are times when the government is synonymous with a person. When that occurs, it's easier to see that corruption in the government comes from a corruption of the person. In a more complex society, such as ours, that same truth is harder to see. The most obvious problem leading to corruption in power is self-selection bias. Those that want power are not the people you want to have power. And those you want to have power, don't want it, and don't try to get it. Thus, the game is usually lost before it is played. Often there is no

Political Column - The Right to Garden

Everyone wants to make progress. To actually do that there are important questions to ask, the two most important being "Progress toward what?" and "How?" Studying reformations of the past, how they worked, and when they didn't, helps to inform us on what may or may not work in the future. The first modern city-wide zoning ordinance was enacted in 1916 by New York City. The idea spread and in 1926 there was a Supreme Court case between the Village of Euclid and Ambler Realty Company. It was determined that such zoning ordinances are legal. This innovation grew out of similar ideas that have been enacted in cities throughout the world for thousands of years. And once the idea took hold, it grew. Part of the reason it grew is because as technology progresses there are growing pains that society goes through. Every industrial revolution brings a set of problems like overcrowding in highly polluted and unsanitary cities. But a solution always brings its own problems

Political Column - Procedure and Substance

I have received suggestions from both residents in Dalton Township, and from state level organizations, tending toward having ordinances that are vague and subjective. I can understand the tendency in that direction. Working out laws that will be able to apply across a wide range of situations is difficult. Not every contingency can be covered. Therefore at some point reasonable decision making must come into play. And, that is all true, but there are two major problems with it. One problem is that courts have ruled multiple times at multiple levels that vague and subjective laws are not enforceable. Defining what vague is can be a large subject in itself, but whatever the definition, it is certain that vague laws create difficulties. The bigger problem is the arbitrary power that it gives to the person in charge. Cesare Beccaria says it well in his book 'On Crimes and Punishments', "If the power of interpreting laws be an evil, obscurity in them must be another, as the fo

Political Column - Opening Avenues of Opportunity

The heart of entrepreneurship and development is initiative. The nemesis is bureaucratic red tape. Each has a purpose. The one to conquer scarcity in the world and provide for our desires. The other to establish boundaries to work within, to protect people from each other. The one the beating engine of the world, the other the suffocating confines in which it runs. Dalton Township is a developing area. Large companies like Michigan's Adventure and Duck Creek RV Park are doing additions. Smaller businesses like The Scoop ice cream shop and the Full Moon Diner and Saloon have recently opened. Things are finally going to happen with Business Park North. And there's more on the horizon. I was recently at the ice cream shop on M-120 talking with a friend, and he inquired about food trucks. About what he needed to do, about what the steps are. I told him that I didn't think we had any ordinances on them, but I would look into it. I did. It turns out that Dalton doesn't have a

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