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What happened to freedom?

By Henry Lamb
web posted September 8, 2008

Zoning is one thing; social engineering is quite another.  Zoning in cities and metropolitan areas, while not really necessary, can be justified if the zoning decisions are made by locally elected officials who can be held accountable by the local community.  Historically, zoning has not been a concern in rural areas where neighbors are not stumbling over each other.

With the advent of sustainable development, and the notion of "smart growth," zoning has grown into comprehensive planning that encompasses the entire county, region and state.  The people who promote comprehensive planning are convinced that a planned community, designed to protect the environment, is far more important than the private property rights of any individual member of the community.

Moss Dalrymple was one of those individuals.  After serving in three wars, he moved to an unincorporated area of Marshall County, Alabama, where he expected to live out the rest of his years in peace.  He lived in a mobile home in a rural area where neighbors didn't stumble over each other.  Over the years, he accumulated some "stuff" that was visible from the highway.  It wasn't much, but it was important to Moss.  He worked for it.  He paid for it.  It was his, on his property.  It harmed no one.

No one that is, except the Code Enforcement Officer.  This county official knocked on Moss' door and told him that he had 10 days to remove the "junk" from his yard.  If he failed to comply, fines would accumulate at the rate of $150 per day plus court costs.  And on top of that, the county would remove Moss' property and send him the bill.  And if the bill were not paid, the county would place a lien on the property, and if necessary, sell the property to clear the debt.

 What happened to the idea that a man's home is his castle?  What happened to John Locke's idea that what a man makes with his own hand is his property, and no one else has any right to it?  What happened to the idea of due process of law, through which anyone who was harmed by Moss's "stuff" could file a lawsuit, prove his loss, and recover damages? 

What happened to freedom?

A Code Enforcement Officer "declared" Moss' stuff to be junk, and imposed a penalty that could result in the taking of his life's work.  Moss didn't pay the fine; he fell over dead.  The county removed Moss' stuff, and left a much worse mess than Moss ever had.

This kind of intrusion into private property rights is occurring all over the nation.  The idea that private property is sacred, as John Adams so eloquently proclaimed, has all but vanished in this era of politically-correct "sustainable development."  The collective needs of the community, as determined by professional bureaucrats, are far more important than the private property rights of any individual.  

 Very few people know that this transformation of values is the result of policies that originated in the United Nations.  In 1976, the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements adopted a 65-page policy document, signed by the United States, which said:

  • Public control of land use is indispensible
  • Redistribute population in accord with available resources;
  • Control land use through zoning and land-use planning;
  • Excessive profits from land use must be recaptured by government;
  • Public ownership of land should be used to exercise urban and rural land reform;
  • Owner rights should be separated from development rights, which should be held by a public authority.

All of these, and many more recommendations from this conference, are now completely incorporated into local ordinances and state laws. 

Urban Boundary Zones is an idea that prohibits public utilities outside the UBZ.  This policy destroys the value of property outside the zone, and artificially inflates property values inside the zone.  Inflated property values increase tax revenues, and, since this increase in value is the result of government policy, rather than because of owner improvements, profits from the sale of this property are being confiscated by governments who apply an "unjust enrichment tax."

Governments, and government-funded non-government organizations, are aggressively separating owner rights from development rights through conservation easements and the outright purchase of development rights. 

It has taken more than 30 years for these policies to evolve from the United Nations, through the sustainable development process, and into local ordinances in the remote counties of Alabama and all the other states.  Nowhere in the process, did the Congress ever debate or approve the concept of sustainable development.  Sustainable development is social engineering, imposed and enforced by government.

This is what happened to freedom. ESR

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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