Property Rights Foundation of America®

Carol W. LaGrasse, excerpted from full article by that title
in Positions on Property, Vol. l, No. 2, May 1994.

The End of the Long March
Environmentalism's Iron Grip

By Carol W. LaGrasse

As environmentalism battles for its place as the central organizing motif of American civilization, inane sacrifices and crude intrusions will become as much the norm as the Children's Crusade and witch hunts were less than a millennia ago.

Americans bellyache about taxes and corrupt politicians out of one side of their mouths while voting for therapeutic government to cure every ill.

With this compulsion for bigger and bigger government, environmentalism is riding a tide that can easily swamp individual freedom. At the same time, the integrity of the family, community and church, which have been an individual's bulwarks against the almighty state, are declining.

Each new wave of environmental consciousness breaks out as a source of additional regimentation.

If any facet of life or production is missed, environmentalism's beam will expose it from the shadows to selective scrutiny, study, legislation, regulation, and enforcement.

The accomplishment is another source of power for the bureaucrats, willingly conferred. The griping subjects empty their pockets, forge their own chains, and hew the club for their oppressor.

Each cycle stimulates further monitoring that begins a next cycle of control. Environmentalism's world view tightens its iron grip.

Grasp the totality of it.
The use of land by people and businesses to construct homes and buildings of any type hangs on onerous environmental considerations. The use of existing homes, offices, schools, industrial buildings, gardens and even streets hinges on their "contamination" by lead, asbestos, PCBs, pesticides or whatever. Environmental regulations even creep into Personal behavior such as tobacco smoking during business and public activities, as well as during recreational pursuits.

Environmental rules severely restrict every resource-based industry from farming to mining, and the manufacturing of virtually everything. The production of energy, the operation of vehicles and the transportation of goods are under constant environmental assault.

Practical waste disposal is an exercise in futility involving environmental oversight of the processing of waste for recycling or disposal, the transportation of waste, the storage and disposal of waste on land (no matter how innocuous), and the disposal of even small fractions of waste to air or water. The regulation of any type of pollution from anything is possible, from the noise pollution of a chainsaw operated miles from other humanity to the minuscule oil pollution from a recreational power boat whose engine manufacturer has already reduced oil usage to a small fraction of the previous amount.

The poison of toxic waste will never kill Americans. But the poison of uncontrolled power will kill the American soul, which is freedom.

The heebie-jeebies over micro-pollutants are the ultimate tool for power. Americans could be leaning back to enjoy ease of production and the flowering of culture in a free society. They have the security of long life with a food production and distribution system that is the envy of the world and a medical care system of unexcelled sophistication.

Yet the fear of ozone holes, global warming, and dangerous substances in the air, soil, water, food and even the walls of buildings allows people of normal intelligence to be victimized by government.

The real and imagined inequities and imperfections of the American culture and economy stimulate power concentration and intrusion all out of proportion to the extent of problems supposedly being solved. We have the best medical system in the world. Yet people are willing to turn it over to bureaucrats. We have the most open society in the world. Yet people allow intensifying and increasing government intrusions to rectify waning prejudices.

And where grave problems such as crime exist, fearful people allow the government to legislate away the fundamental freedom to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment. People welcome intrusive, forceful federal crime controls instead of looking for solutions within their control. Unconstitutional seizures of assets of supposed criminals before trial have become widespread. Penalties for crime are not in constitutional law but at the whim of police. Domestic violence results in one-third of the murders of women yearly. But women lack the courage to deal with this. Instead, they seek massive government intrusions to tame the uncomfortable relations redefined as "sexual harassment."

None of these and other symptoms of a confused and guilt-ridden culture have the potential to wrack the entire way of life and prosperity of Americans as much as environmentalism.

Environmentalism is a perfect tool to concentrate power.
Environmentalism is an intolerant quest whose holy goals can never be satisfied. The air, water and land can never be perfectly clean. Food will always have some residues. Emissions can never be reduced to zero. Logical standards for emission controls that served the public health have given away to veritably limitless requirements for cleanup under the arbitrary purview of bureaucrats who lack any perspective for what good their dictums do or do not serve. So they require virtually anything they want for any purpose that appeals to them at the moment, even if only as a bargaining chip to bring a business, person or farmer to his knees.

There is no relief nor reasoning with these elite bureaucrats because the only work they have ever done is push papers and observe, from pre-kindergarten TV to advanced college degrees. They do not know what it takes to accomplish anything productive.

These sullen bureaucrats are fanatics. Their smugness cannot even be bought except at the levels accessible to the highest players. There is no payoff system like that in a big city building department reaching down to the bag guy. Freedom loving, sensible citizens are no match for their punitive moralism.

Vampire bureaucrats poke from an infinite sheave of regulations that penetrate deep into every sphere of life. Their "law" sanitizes the process of bleeding people and business to submission.

The barrier to regulations in the home that compare to the inane ones imposed on business is breaking down. Ten million aquarium owners may find themselves subject to new federal regulations requiring a prescription from a veterinarian to put fish medication in fish tanks. Pet stores will not be able to sell the substance to hobbyists if a federal task force proposal goes through, according to the National Wilderness Institute.

They expand their power.
During the Bush administration the 59 agencies of the federal government issued about 5,000 new regulations yearly. In one year the Federal Register required nearly 70,000 pages to publish new regulations, which took up 21 feet of library shelf space. One thing the bureaucracy likes is bureaucracy.

In one of his last published columns Warren Brooks pointed out the extreme imbalance of federal government expenditures for environmental control. He observed that the Center for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that pollution causes between two-tenths of one percent and three percent of all cancers, or between 1,200 and 15,000 cases annually. Brooks pointed out that the EPA cost $131 billion in 1992, compared to the $20 billion budgeted for all public and private biomedical research, including for all cancers.(1)

The $131 billion exceeds the entire $95.6 billion income of all United States agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined during that year: It compares to all the 1992 personal expenditures in the nation for physicians, which totaled $153 billion.

Chart - Explosion of Environmental RegulationChart Information

These numbers are an economic catastrophe.

Environmentalists must realize that all their "economic activity" so touted by Vice President Gore produces nothing to feed, clothe or shelter anyone. Environmental costs are nonproductive, which is a way of saying that bureaucrats, lawyers, and environmental consultants, and workers risking their health to remove asbestos, are fed, clothed and sheltered by the rest of us through taxes and fees collected from us under the gun of government.

Environmental costs at this level can hardly be excused as preventative medicine, for they readily succumb to the scrutiny of risk analysis.

The effort to accredit environmental extravagance has become ludicrous.

"The bureaucrats have dreamed up a new formula to calculate the gross domestic product, resulting in a Green GDP," according to Llewellyn Rockwell, the president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. "The present GDP attempts to calculate economic productivity. The Green GDP would subtract the 'environmental' costs of such productivity."(2)

The absurd result, Rockwell pointed out, is that the Department of Commerce bureaucrats in Washington, DC, would subtract soil depletion from agricultural production, trees cut from new house production, and so on. In this arbitrary way, the environmental bureaucrats would have the numbers to "justify" the incredible regulatory expense with which they are strangling American production.

This environmental perversion of the soft science of economics has long been matched by the environmentalists' distortion of the hard science of the chemistry of pollution and the mathematics of risk analysis. Environmentalists have exploited paranoia and made a sham of the do-good instincts of Americans, siphoning the country's badly needed financial resources into non-risks like in-place asbestos and rural landfills because they can use these causes to build their bureaucracy and power. Even more perversely, environmentalists have repeatedly campaigned against the eating of wholesome fresh fruits and vegetables, one of the most established dietary factors affecting cancer prevention. This is the cruel environmental exploitation of science as hoax.

(1) Warren Brooks, "EPA's high cost of political science," Washington Times, December 16, 1991.
(2) Llewellyn Rockwell, "Greening the GDP," Washington Times, May 17, 1994.

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