Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hinchey's Land Grab

Paul Smart, editor of the Olive Press, our local penny saver, printed my letter this month attacking Progressivism.  I have had a multi-month debate in the letters section with Gus Murphy of Brooklyn (why a guy from Brooklyn reads the Olive Press I'm still trying to grasp) but this month I wrote on a different topic, Congressman Hinchey's insane federal parks proposal. Have the people of Ulster County lost their minds to elect someone like Hinchey?

Dear Mr. Smart:

Congressman Maurice Hinchey has proposed to turn the Hudson Valley into a federal park. Mr. Hinchey has a long history of advocating extremist environmental policies that bestow dictatorial powers on government administrators. Repeatedly, he has painted such proposals as moderate. He did this with respect to a 1990s bill that he proposed when he was chair of the State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee. The bill that would have set up Soviet-style planning boards that would have limited if not ended construction. He managed to convince the previously skeptical Adirondack Daily Enterprise that this idea was moderate.
Around the same time Hinchey said that he would like to restrain economic growth in the Hudson Valley. His plan involved setting up environmental regulations known as the "greenway". He and his fellow Democrats succeeded in their goal of deliberately restricting economic growth. Employment in Ulster County has grown at one fifth the national rate since 1992 when Mr. Hinchey assumed his Congressional seat (and by under two percent since 1990, less than one ninth the national rate of employment growth). Now, Mr. Hinchey aims to further destroy Ulster County's economy by eliminating the rule of law through a federal park that would serve as a Trojan Horse to introduce federal control of the region.

The notion of the rule of law is apparently unfamiliar to Mr. Hinchey's supporters in the Democratic media, which serves as a Hinchey-for-Congress publicity service. To refresh your memory, please allow me to explain how a federal park will eliminate the rule of law.

The concept of the rule of law is that law must be predictable and subject to change only through the gradual process of judicial decision making called stare decisis (judges' use of precedents to maintain a stable set of legal rules) or legislation. In America, the founders established a Constitution to establish but limit federal power. The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 to clarify the limits. This was also done through the separation of powers across the branches of the federal government and federalism, the division of power between the states and the federal government.  Under the Tenth Amendment, rights not delegated to the federal government are retained by the states and the people.

Establishing a federal park would hand dictatorial powers to a park adminsitrator and abolish the division of power between federal and local control. It might also eliminate the separation of powers between the legislative and the executive branch in the sense that a parks administrator potentially would have unlimited power to make rules. Although the law might initially restrain such arbitrary power, the US Congress, in which Ulster County residents have scant voice, could change the law at will.  

More importantly, a park would eliminate state level rule of law, handing all decisions to a federal bureaucracy, in crucial areas like construction, land ownership, well digging, septic construction, fishing, hunting, wood burning, driving, smoking, eating, agriculture, establishing a business, building a camp, and virtually any other activity with any imaginable environmental impact. The park administrator could arbitrarily change the law. Even if that is not true in the beginning, Congress could endow the park administrator with new powers  over residents' protests.   That is precisely what Congressman Hinchey has repeatedly tried to do with respect to the hapless residents of the Adirondacks and Utah (he has repeatedly proposed a bill that would end development in 20% of the state of Utah) . Now he aims to do it to Ulster County.  Take a drive up to the Adirondacks and notice the poverty of the local residents there, courtesy of Congressman Hinchey, the Democratic Party and Mr. Hinchey's boosters in the Democratic Party media. 

Given Mr. Hinchey's recidivism in advocating radical environmental restrictions elsewhere there is no reason to believe that he has become an enviornmental moderate now. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that the parks proposal is a Trojan Horse.  During Mr. Hinchey's 18 years in Congress employment in Ulster County has grown at one fifth the national rate. You might ask yourself whether your economic welfare is of concern to him or to the radical environmentalists who motivate the parks proposal. 

But even if Mr. Hinchey is sincere that the legal effects would be minimal (which seems to be a contradiction in terms, for why else would he go through the trouble of establishing a park? To make up for the 15% of employment that he has destroyed since 1992?), the bill would effectively abolish the Constitution, federalism, stare decisis and local control of the land. Should Mr. Hinchey retire and environmental radicals lobby for strict restrictions on parks, the Hudson Valley Park could become a footnote to a major national environmental debate. Park regulations, laws, rules and dictatorial authority could be imposed without regard for Constitutional protections to which most Olive residents are so used that they cannot imagine life without them.

I have students who grew up in the Soviet Union and Communist China. If you want to learn about life where there is no rule of law, you can ask them. Or ask Mr. Hinchey's radical supporters in the environmental movement who likely have quite a few ideas about how to wreck your property's economic value and turn you into a serf. Just ask the long time residents in the Adirondacks (as opposed to the environmental radicals who have moved there in recent decades) about how wonderful Mr. Hinchey's parks proposals are.


Mitchell Langbert

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