Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Red Tape, Regulation, Intervention...and Freedom?

Limited Government and Private Property Rights…


I’ve had recent experiences in both of these arenas that deserve to be discussed.


Private Property Rights

We bought an investment property a little more than two years ago.  It is a home that was converted many years ago to a duplex.  However, the homeowner at the time did the conversion under the radar, so the local municipality will not consider it a legal duplex.  Furthermore, they are unwilling to change the zoning from single family dwelling to multifamily dwelling, in spite of the fact that it is surrounded by multiplexes.  In our efforts to make change, we dealt with a number of very friendly people at the city that were, frankly, also very clueless.  So, we decided to sell the property.  From the time that we went under contract with a buyer, two months have elapsed.  We are in the middle of signing final closing paperwork, and it has been an absolute motley crue of regulation and intervention clear through the sale process.  The buyer is getting an FHA loan, so the federal government is involved with the FHA requirements.  The buyer is also seeking redevelopment money from the city, and so the city is using the opportunity to make the property comply with zoning rules.  The loan companies have inserted their requirements, as have the title companies.  All real estate transactions are also regulated by the state.  In the end, if I ask the question “is this really my private property?” I have to conclude that it is, in fact, not.  If I had freedom to do what I wanted on the property, so long as it did not infringe on my neighbors’ rights and well-being, and if I had freedom to buy and sell property without constant intervention and regulation at every step of the process, then it would be private property.  But I conclude that we have had our private property rights stripped from us and really are all just tenants of the state.  After all, if I own the property free and clear, I will still forfeit it to the state if I fail to pay property tax.  I’m just a renter after all.


Limited Government

I build large pipelines for a living.  In a nutshell – LOTS of permits.  I work for a regulated company – we are regulated by FERC and DOT.  The federal regulators force other stakeholders (BLM, USFS, FWS, states, counties, property owners, etc) to work through a process known as NEPA to “streamline” the building of a new pipeline or related facility.  We (the pipeline company) also have the right of federal pre-emption if a stakeholder is not participating appropriately in the NEPA process or otherwise puts roadblocks in our way.  Now, I’m a champion of private property rights (in spite of my cynicism in the previous paragraph) and do not like to be involved in using eminent domain on projects; in fact, we do not exercise that authority very often.  However, if a government agency, state, county, or municipality fails to meet their obligation to the process, I feel no sympathy toward their cause.  I recently experienced a county throwing their weight around and doing whatever they could to get additional money from my company and bolster their budgets.  We chose not to federally pre-empt simply due to a tight timeframe, and the county knew this would be the case.  So, when a small county in the mountain states behaves in this fashion, I tend to feel pretty cynical.  I had held out hope that things were different in the small towns, cities, counties.  But the truth is, the small governments generally behave just like the big ones, and sometimes they seem even more corrupt.


So, when will the pendulum of freedom start to swing in the other direction?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What IS Discipleship?

Another great daily email from Ransomed Heart:

What have we come to accept as “discipleship”? A friend of mine recently handed me a program from a large and successful church somewhere in the Midwest. It’s a rather exemplary model of what the idea has fallen to. Their plan for discipleship involves, first, becoming a member of this particular church. Then they encourage you to take a course on doctrine. Be “faithful” in attending the Sunday morning service and a small group fellowship. Complete a special course on Christian growth. Live a life that demonstrates clear evidence of spiritual growth. Complete a class on evangelism. Consistently look for opportunities to evangelize. Complete a course on finances, one on marriage, and another on parenting (provided that you are married or a parent). Complete a leadership training course, a hermeneutics course, a course on spiritual gifts, and another on biblical counseling. Participate in missions. Carry a significant local church ministry “load.”

You’re probably surprised that I would question this sort of program; most churches are trying to get their folks to complete something like this, one way or another. No doubt a great deal of helpful information is passed on. My goodness, you could earn an MBA with less effort. But let me ask you: A program like this—
does it teach a person how to apply principles, or how to walk with God? They are not the same thing.

(Waking the Dead , 95–96)

Monday, April 20, 2009

I couldn't help myself - I had to re-post the "daily reading" that I received over the weekend from Ransomed Heart Ministries (from John Eldredge.) You know, this stuff calls to my deepest sense of self. I'm a Mormon - and here is a born-again Christian author to whom I owe a deep debt of gratitude.

Then from on high—somewhere in the distance there’s a voice that calls—remember who you are. If you lose yourself—your courage soon will follow.
(Gavin Greenaway and Trevor Horn, Sound the Bugle)

You are going to need your whole heart in all its glory for this Story you’ve fallen into. So, who did God mean when he meant you? We at least know this: we know that we are not what we were meant to be. Most of us spend our energy trying to hide that fact, through all the veils we put on and the false selves we create. Far better to spend our energy trying to recover the image of God and unveil it for his glory. One means that will help us is any story that helps us see with the eyes of the heart.

To live with an unmasked, unveiled glory that reflects the glory of the Lord? That’s worth fighting for.

The disciples of Jesus were all characters. Take James and John, for instance, “the sons of Zebedee.” You might remember them as the ones who cornered Jesus to angle for the choice seats at his right and left hands in the kingdom. Or the time they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a village that wouldn’t offer Jesus a place for the night. Their buddies called them idiots; Jesus called them the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). He saw who they really were. It’s their mythic name, their true identity. They looked like fishermen out of work; they were actually the Sons of Thunder.

(Waking the Dead, 82–83)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chickens and Social Leadership

So what do a few chickens have to do with Social Leadership?

In the past couple of months, the animal enforcement folks from my city have ticketed otherwise law-abiding neighbors of mine for having the audacity to raise hens in their own yards. The tickets are essentially a warning - they give a time limit in which to comply or they will forcibly remove them. I'm not kidding.

My Queen took up the call and began to talk to elected officials. This led us to city hall for a council meeting in which a few people were allowed to share their opinions on why it shouldn't be a concern to the city if folks have back-yard hens.

Anyway, how does Social Leadership fit into this picture? Prior to the city council meeting, my Queen and I sent out information to lots of friends and acquaintances, handed out stuff to neighbors, etc, and only a handful of them bothered to write to their councilmembers or show up at the meeting. There are a lot of explanations for this lack of incentive among us, but none of them really excuse us from taking a stand when things are wrong around us.

It's not about chickens - it's about standing up for what is right. It's about standing in support of other people who are sticking out their necks for what is right. Let's have a cheer for Social Leadership!

And in case you were wondering, none of the elected officials in the meeting believe we can take care of ourselves. They're in for a pretty big shock.

Give me a shout out for changing the world!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I wish all politicians were this honest...

On March 26, Daniel Hannan gave this speech in British Parliament: