Freedom, Tyranny, and Oppression

I wanted to thank reader and commenter John Vigil for his contributions.  John is a self-described Non Partisan which sounds from his posts absolutely right.  He is fair minded and willing to have a conversation which is to be applauded imho.

But his posts do have that fundamentally conservative vein of cynicism directed toward government.  Dissent and protest is of course bi-partisan and John is right to watch over, criticize and work to improve government, but we shouldn’t work to weaken it just…. because.  I see and understand the arguments behind ideas like term limits and voting to balance the partisanship of the different branches of government, but I find that they are used by conservatives to fundamentally transform our society to this libertarian utopia where private concerns rule.

2010 National Spending per GDP Comparison

Above is a chart from Wikipedia on 2010 Governmental Spending as a percentage of GDP.  Most people are not chart people I realize, but charts are such an effective means of conveying information.  What this chart shows is the US economy is like other countries including Russia, China and Mexico is heavily weighed toward private industry.  The heart of this difference of course is health care, all other wealthy industrialized countries have decided that universal health care should be an essential part of civilization.  We’ve bucked that trend.  But it isn’t just health care, it’s a national argument that conservatives and Republicans are winning that the private sector runs most everything better than government.  They contend government, bureaucrats, politicians, etc are bad words because they are inherently inefficient and usually corrupt.

The truth is government can run many institutions of our society much more equitably and efficiently and these organizations and institutions and individuals are no more corrupt that those in the private sector.  In fact I would argue that we tend to focus on the corruption of government and politicians largely because they are accountable to us and their misdeeds get attention.  A recent TS article quoted a HumCo Sheriff saying we are probably only enforcing 2% of the local illegal marijuana trade, and that is the illegal private sector, think about how much nonsense goes on in the legal private sector that we never hear about.

But any conversation critical of the private sector is difficult to have when framed by terms like Socialism, Communism, and the latest addition,  Tyranny.

So when John says Freedom, Oppression and Tyranny I think we tend to think about Government’s tyranny over us.  My thoughts based on a lifetime’s worth of experience of the more subtle tyranny of the private sector.  Here is a visual representation of one type of tyranny that no one is mentioning.  It is from only very indirectly related story in the New York Times a couple of days ago.

The Tyranny of Sprawl (imho)

John, I hope that was fair.  I really appreciate you contributions and hope we can continue the conversation.  It’s not fair that I get to posts the posts with all the pictures and charts, but I’m happy to continue the conversation on your blog too or whatever.

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22 thoughts on “Freedom, Tyranny, and Oppression

  1. somebody says:

    “They contend government, bureaucrats, politicians, etc are bad words because they are inherently inefficient and usually corrupt.”
    Isn’t that what you are saying about the supes?

    Also, nice pic of the so called sprawl, that is exactly what you get when you follow the rules set by the government. Minimum lot size, minimum distance to fence, neighbors house, setback from street, setback from property corners, sidewalk minimums, minimum road widths, minimum square footage of living space. I would like to see you come up with a design that does not look very similar to that picture.

  2. “Isn’t that what you are saying about the supes?”

    somebody – thanks for reading – yes I am – exactly. I believe those 4 Supervisors (Supes is another pet peeve of mine for similar reasons) have bought the line that their decisions are better made in private. You could have seen that in action last Monday when they backtracted on a decision they made together in front of the public’s eyes because they heard from their friends. Any questions, review the public comments from last Monday. You know they were getting plenty of emails from them too. The Arcata letter was a poorly disguised smoke-screen.

    Good challenge in your last paragraph. Take an arial view pict of Eureka North of 14th and West of P. That’s pretty good. Change some zoning to allow for business and life in neighborhoods and I think you are getting a picture. Repeat this process as needed in other town centers while also allowing for limited and carefully planned clustered living rurally. Like I said before, I’m no expert, that’s why we hire experts to start helping us figure this out. I’ve talked to Kevin Hamblin about this and he did tell me he recently went to a “New Urbanism” conference and he really enjoyed it. I asked him to give a presentation to the Progressive Dems and haven’t heard back form him. I’d like our community to hear about these things and think about what we can do to improve development patterns.

  3. somebody says:

    I’m all for the town centers and neighborhood business centers, but they should not be at the exclusion of all other development. Some people don’t want to live in town. That’s OK. It seems like you think there aren’t policies to allow for neighborhood commercial, or town centers, but there are. They just haven’t been developed, probably because it is too expensive to add a second story, definitely a third story is out of the question. Many people have moved here to get away from the “city” and now it seems are promoting infill to “city” densities. It is very bizarre to me… you want a rural community feel by building your neighborhoods to Portland density? I just don’t get that.

    You want businesses and jobs in the neighborhoods, make it attractive to come here. Other than the nebulous “quality of life” argument (that every community says they have), why would anybody want to set up shop here? In other areas the city or county might waive impact fees, property taxes, or give you a low interest loan. What positive steps does the county offer? I can tell you: Neighbors who will fight your project tooth and nail, throwing every roadblock in your path, and planning staff and public works that will bleed you dry with conditions of approval and the length of time it takes to get anything done.

  4. Many people have moved here to get away from the “city” and now it seems are promoting infill to “city” densities. It is very bizarre to me… you want a rural community feel by building your neighborhoods to Portland density? I just don’t get that.

    1) Not Portland densities, although that’s fine too, Portland’s focus on growth patterns which improves the attractiveness of their area making it a magnet for the yutes and at the same time having a mechanism for addressing the more esoteric environmental issues (more esoteric compared to property right’s issues)

    Some people don’t want to live in town.

    2) Let’s say people are moving here to get away from the city and want to build a rural home on their property. If it’s just you I have no problem with that. How many people are there? How many should we allow? Should everyone be given the green light? I ran into a guy at Kinko’s that was printing a map of a 2,000 acre property in NoHum that he was trying to sell to a “very prominent” (paraphrasing) basketball player. Great, capitalism. But shouldn’t we as a community begin to say hey, we want to allow this or that type of development. I really do want to preserve the rural aspects of the rural portions of this community and I want to continue to urbanize the urban aspects of this community, and I will live with the urban and exurban portions of this community, but I will fight their expansion at every turn – because I think they are wrong for the future because they lock us into a future where we are increasing our dependence on oil.

    And this is where I have compared regional planning this to the immigration debate. I think everyone agrees that we shouldn’t have illegal immigration, the hard question is how and who do we allow. We all agree (I think) that we shouldn’t allow everyone to build a home on their property sans regulation, we need government to be empowered to help us decide who and where and how we allow development. You and I probably agree on this, it is the details where we disagree, I think government should be more empowered with the ability to plan creatively in order to address concerns like protecting natural resources and agricultural and timber production for the long term, you’re primary (not only, but primary) concern is allowing people their right to live the lifestyle they choose. BTW, a concern I also share, but it isn’t my primary concern. (Please note that I have tried to be as fair as possible with my language making it sound like I am don’t value and want to protect the rural lifestyle, nothing could be further from the truth)

    In other areas the city or county might waive impact fees, property taxes, or give you a low interest loan. What positive steps does the county offer?

    3) We can’t bother racing to the bottom on this. We don’t need financial incentives to bring people here – let other communities steal from their communal tax base to offer incentives. We want solid, sustainable jobs.

    1. somebody says:

      DJ – I agree with most of what you wrote. I believe the resource lands are protected and the urban areas are where most of the development should – and is – taking place. You do not believe that, but admittedly do not have the depth of knowledge to know whether you are right, and are unwilling to pick up the phone and ask the people at planning if you are. You just want to keep saying things are so bad but not actually check the facts. I am not sure if that is very honest on your part. Frustrating for me.

      “We can’t bother racing to the bottom on this. We don’t need financial incentives to bring people here – let other communities steal from their communal tax base to offer incentives.”

      how’s that working out? you want to attract business by giving them a list of everything they can’t do?

      if you want a successful downtown where people can actually walk to work and shopping, you need to make the densities of those areas high enough so the businesses have enough of a customer base to survive. Where has this been successful – San Francisco, Portland, etc. Double the allowable density and there you go. Except for a few things – infrastructure capacity, and community desire. Many people really like having a backyard to garden in, BBQ, or play ball with their kids. I’m not sure who in Humboldt you could market a 3rd story lofts to in old town. Seems like of there was a high demand, that’s what the builders would build. They are not building 1500 square foot single family residential units on a cul-de-sac because they are fun to build, or they are neat, or they are trying to win some award, they are building them because that is what their customers want. It is pretty hard to sell an idea to a builder that they can’t in turn sell to their customers. Certainly there is a segment of the population that likes that type of dwelling unit (high density), but it seems most people don’t.

      If you aren’t prepared to massively subsidize a development like that to mitigate the risks, how else do you propose it happens?

      1. somebody, I don’t know why you insist on my bothering the planning department? I’ve admitted over and over, it must be difficult to develop one’s land, there are a host of Federal, State, and Local regulations, right? I know you can’t build Wal Mart on the McKay tract right?

        I know there is a market for the homes on the cul-de-sac. Where I’d like to begin is government doing what it can to insure a similar market is available downtown. That opens up a whole host of other concerns like preservation etc that have to be addressed, but we need to start thinking about this. The only real option for new homes right now is the suburban or exurban model. I’m saying let’s empower government to start pressuring and/or incentivizing for a market in town as well. We have models for government working to help transition our behavior through a combination of market forces and long-term targets …. the conversion of our automobile fleet to higher and higher corporate average fuel economies. (CAFE standards)

        The Republican line is, the best government is the local government – so let’s take them up on their challenge.

        “If you aren’t prepared to massively subsidize a development like that to mitigate the risks, how else do you propose it happens?”

        I don’t know. How do we? Good question and one I want the BOS and planning department and our community to begin to address.

        “Certainly there is a segment of the population that likes that type of dwelling unit (high density), but it seems most people don’t”

        I don’t think we know this. I don’t think there is a similar market of urban homes available. There are a couple of chances we have of developing a urban landscape from scratch – Danco’s Samoa and Arkley’s balloon tract. I would be one liberal who would favor a urban, foot and bike traffic-centric approach with creative zoning in both areas. A development that recalls our town’s roots. As an incentive, for example, I’d consider offering a plot of land in another location for some national chain if Arkley or the community demanded another chain store. I don’t like Wal Mart, but if it stays in the Bayshore Mall, I have no problem with that from a regional planning point of view.

        These are just two ideas, and they aren’t well thought out, but these are the types of conversations we should be having. The community needs to have more of a say on what goes where. It always comes back to that – your right to build what you want on private property and our communities’ need to address solvable social, economic and environmental problems.

        1. somebody says:

          “Where I’d like to begin is government doing what it can to insure a similar market is available downtown. ”

          Jon, they are doing that. It is called mixed use and town center. McKinleyville has had that zoning for 10 years, nothing has happened. I believe Arcata and eureka have the same type of zoning. If it isn’t happening it is because it is too expensive, too, risky, or nobody wants it. Probably a combo of all three.

          1. From what I’ve seen of the development off of McKinleyville Avenue near Washington, I am not impressed. The density of the small development near Bates is closer to where we need to go. It’s a small community of 2 story homes close to each other. And you’re right there is this problem of risk and demand. The way I see it, those brownstones in NYC are in high demand. It’s a matter of getting it right, being creative – that’s why I think we need a couple of professionals on the county staff who are trained in this area of expertise to help guide us. Let’s not be driven solely by the market, let’s put some brainpower behind our development, it IS that important and a little expense up front has a chance of having great rewards in the long term.

              1. Alright, another am person. We’ll then it’s the product mix we have to start selecting with more care. This process should not be developer-centric though as I think you’ve established the problem if it is.

                ie… “they are building them because that is what their customers want. It is pretty hard to sell an idea to a builder that they can’t in turn sell to their customers. Certainly there is a segment of the population that likes that type of dwelling unit (high density), but it seems most people don’t.”

                The developer is biased based on his/her (but let’s face it it’s all his right?)… his views (or possibly the bank’s that is bankrolling the investment)… OK one more try… The developer or bank-roller’s views are biased based on market forces and capital considerations. Is that enough to guide our county’s growth? Shouldn’t government be more involved not less exactly for this reason?

                Also…

                “If you aren’t prepared to massively subsidize a development like that to mitigate the risks, how else do you propose it happens?”

                Good question – maybe trade off’s? A developer can be allotted a certain percentage of cul-de-sacs for a certain percentage of high density buildings in town. Somebody, I don’t know the answers, but I’m sure there are solutions if we agree on the problems.

                1. somebody says:

                  It sounds like you don’t want people to have a choice in where they live. The developer is biased by what the customers want to buy. It is really that simple.

                  1. That’s exactly my point somebody. Currently I’m not given the choice based on previous development patterns. I’m pro choice – I’m arguing for affordable density as a choice. Trust me, it’s going to get more and more popular as gas prices get higher and higher. How do we structure our planning regime to allow for larger numbers of new or refurbished downtown or walkable areas in addition to the apparently necessary sprawl? Let’s get that 50/50 mix and give people a real choice – I agree. And I’m not talking about developments like that between 101 and 299, who would desire to live there?

                    This is exactly the problem. Seems to me we are in a vicious cycle here. For a moment, suppose I am right and we need to change our pattern of development to focus on denser living, is this even possible in your mind given that it is so much more affordable and you would argue desirable to continue to expand our asphalt and concrete footprint?

                    1. somebody says:

                      what makes you think smart growth is more affordable? that is a joke. please show me where it has lowered prices.

                  2. Replying to your other comment – I guess we’ve reached the max of nested comments…
                    “what makes you think smart growth is more affordable? that is a joke. please show me where it has lowered prices.”

                    Thoughts a) I don’t have any, I tend to agree with you it seems areas that practice smart growth like SF (by geographical necessity) and Portland (by early visionaries) tend to increase property values. I think this is an argument that the market desires smart growth properties. But you bring up an important point, one of the potential problems of smart growth is gentrification of urban areas. I think there would be more “smartness” needed – back to a point I’ve made – this is why I think we have a planning department – for planning. This is why I’d prefer empowering government instead of private industry in planning because the market simply can not make all these decisions and just uses a mallet when a scalpel is needed.

                    Your two last challenges seem to suggest that we should just continue the status quo because a) that’s what the people want but b) actually that may not be what the people want because smart growth increases market prices for homes when they have a choice.

                    If I’ve said smart growth is more affordable, what I mean is there is an option in smart growth to rid yourself of your automobile. Assuming all other things being equal (which you are right, often aren’t because of a) market forces favoring uban living and b) the more expensive building costs over existing structures compared to building on the open outskirts.)

                    1. One more thing, re-reading my quote – I was agreeing with you – building suburbs (ie extending the asphalt and concrete) is cheaper than building in town – at least intuitively. ie the outskirts don’t have buildings to break down, or potential hazardous wastes, etc to deal with, Just insert roads and infrastructure and go to town. (oops poor choice of phrase).

                    2. somebody says:

                      the reason the price goes up is because you restrict the supply. you want to give people what they want by eliminating all their other choices. if you only allow development in one area, the price in that area will climb.

                      the dumbest thing about smart growth to me is that they all say they want to preserve community character and create a unique sense of place, when in fact what you do by doubling the density in a place like cutten or mckinleyville is destroy the community character and make it look like all the other little smart growth communities. real unique, just like everybody else. i’ve been to a bunch of these, they all look the same to me…same same same. fake downtown district, high rent upstairs for the yuppies, strip mall posing as local merchants down below. all the people working at the shops can’t afford to live there, so they live across town and drive to ye olde yogurt shoppe every day, the rich people that live upstairs drive to their law offices one town over. total joke.

                      i don’t know why you think private development is doing the planning, it is not the case. go to a planning meeting and you might notice the government telling the developers what they can and can’t, according to the plan.

    1. Thanks Jane, that was awesome. I have watched Michael Sandel before on his Justice series which I highly recommend. He is a great teacher and does an outstanding job of involving his students in the discussion.

      I had to transcribe the first portion of a Chevy add that followed my viewing of Michael’s TED talk.

      “Jeremy – Chevrolet

      The Dirsrupt Techathon: we’re excited to see what developers come up with. We hope the large stack of cash we brought (video shows impressive stack of cash) motivates developers to build a few things on our platform…”

      Also, do you have a blog or publish your writing anywhere? You always have an open invitation to blog here if you are ever interested or we could help start another blog where we could have severally blogger’s posting on all things Humboldt from the liberal position – who knows, maybe even the Harold? A team effort to revive the Humboldt progressive voice.

      Obviously we are not always going to agree, liberals/progressives/whatever are funny like that, but I think thoughtful discussion based in reality and without fear of being partisan is needed in Humboldt to help broaden the discussion out of the usual Humboldt fare.

      Just an idea among many I have. Something has to be done – urgently yet also sustainably.

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