"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
The Caretakers Are Everywhere
For this Fourth of July, my wife challenged me to create some sort of lasting memory for the kids, something that might even evolve into a family tradition. I could not, in good conscience, attend a breakfast sponsored by her church as she had hoped. I reminded her that part of the festivities included a 'patriotic program' and the singing of 'patriotic songs.' Since her church is of the sort that obeys the dictates of Caesar without question, as all 'good' American Christians do, there was no chance of her getting me to show up and, at a minimum, corral our five children amongst the flock. An alternative 'celebration' of our freedoms would have to be arranged.
I awoke early and went shopping, purchasing goodies necessary to outfit a cooler for a picnic: sodas, chips, and ice. Bread, cold cuts, condiments, etc., were in ample supply at home. I packed everything and waited for the rest of the family to arise, eat, and get ready.
By the time we left our home, it was almost 11 a.m. That's the nature of the beast when there are seven people in a family. If nothing else, the day would be memorable because it was just another July day in Tucson .
I selected a park on the side of town opposite where we live. On the map, it was bigger than most other parks in Tucson and on the outer limits of the city. I was hoping it would be relatively quiet compared to the parks more centrally located in Tucson . It was. In fact, for most of the three hours we were there, we had the park all to ourselves.
At first I was disappointed. There was only a small playground and a few picnic tables, most of which were in the shade but dotted with the processed refuse of the local residents (birds). I drove through the loop established in the parking lot and headed for the exit, but it was the kids who stopped me; they said the park looked 'cool.' Back around I went and found a perfect parking place, one that would still be in the shade after three hours in the midday Arizona sun.
After unloading the van, I walked over past the playground area and found a map detailing the layout of the park. As it turned out, most of the park was comprised of trails and wonderful desert vistas. At its core, it was a bird and wildlife sanctuary. Not the type of park I had in mind, but I was determined to make the best of it for the kids.
We walked over part of the trails and took in the scenic beauty. I cannot emphasize enough the beauty of the desert, especially in the early morning and just before sunset. I grew up on the Jersey shore and have always found something especially appealing about the open space, undulating ground covered with desert flora, and mountains in just about every direction. All combined, the desert produces the most beautiful sunsets the eye can see and the brain process. Even in the middle of a day that would reach 105 degrees, the view along those trails was still impressive.
As it turned out, my kids had more fun running, yes running, in that heat along those trails than they have ever had playing in other parks that had swings, slides, monkey bars, etc. They talked about coming back when the weather had cooled down. I got them looking forward to returning during monsoon, the day after some heavy night rains, to see how a wash becomes a creek or raging river.
In the end, I think the peace, tranquility, and discovery of the desert made much more of an impression on them than the heat. We 'celebrated' Independence Day as I had hoped: exercising what little remains of our right to be left the hell alone, separate from the blatant nationalism and militarism that permeates this country, not just on the Fourth of July, but every other day of the year.
There were no flags flowing in the wind. No blowhard bellowed the national anthem or the annoying 'God Bless America ' one more time. No parades or color guards doted the landscape we had at our pleasure. While driving across town, I didn't even notice any of those dumb-ass magnets so many of the sheep affix to their vehicles to show how much they support the state, er, I mean the troops. I'm sure they were there, but I was too focused on the theme of 'independence' to notice.
While sitting in the shade, eating my lunch, and listening to the wind blow through the trees, I thought about the Kelo case, the recent Supreme Court decision opening the door to states' seizure of private property for 'public use.' Specifically, I pondered how that decision might play out if the political dynamics changed here in the Tucson area.
I thought I had an exclusive interpretation of the case, something to write about, until I read Anthony Gregory's recent post on this site. The Kelo decision certainly poses challenges for the libertarian. On the one hand, the case can be seen as a further assault on property by the state, which it is, no doubt. On the other, as N. Stephen Kinsella noted in an earlier column, the Supreme Court's decision argues the case as an issue of federalism, a long-forgotten and intentionally plowed-under principle of our system of government. As Gregory notes in his column, Kinsella makes 'compelling' arguments that the Court acted properly by upholding the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision.
In the end, I found myself agreeing with Gregory that these two positions could be reconciled. In a perfect world, no state would exist to steal private property, and certainly, multiple layers of the state would not be able to work in collusion to accomplish that end, as in the Kelo case. The Supreme Court should have left this issue alone. For this case, the only band of thieves would have been the state of Connecticut . As Gregory argues, the Supreme Court opened the door for every other state to follow suit. It, the Court, has established for all the petty tyrants from every small town to major urban center throughout the 50 states, the authority to take private property for 'public use' if the confiscation can be presented as a way to improve the public weal.
Tucson is one of the best 'big' small cities in the United States . With a population of around 700,000, give or take, the Tucson metro area pales in comparison to the Phoenix metro area, an expanse of territory that houses nearly six times the population of Tucson. Tucson also lacks a Phoenix-like internal highway system, one that connects the far reaches of the metropolitan area with downtown. Granted, Tucson is smaller than Phoenix , but the absence of such a system of highways is due to the wishes of most Tucsonans who fear that the character of the Tucson community will be compromised and it would only be a matter of years before Tucson begins to look more like Phoenix . I would tend to agree with them.
For anyone who's ever been to Tucson , building such a system of roads across the heart of the metropolitan area, as has been done in Phoenix , is not possible. Drive across town north to south or east to west and you'll find no centrally located expanses of unoccupied land to build a system of highways to connect the outlying areas with downtown. Homes, shopping centers, hospitals, churches, businesses, and schools are all 'in the way.'
All that could change now, thanks to the Supreme Court. Once while waiting in line for a movie ticket, I heard a guy from Phoenix complaining about the traffic situation in Tucson and how much longer it took him to get to the theater because there were no highways like back home to speed him along his way. He had to stop at lights, vary his speed, watch for bicycles and pedestrians. It was because of those tree-huggers and environmentalists that driving across Tucson took so long. If only more growth-minded people could get power in Tucson , the city could move into the modern age.
Suppose that happens. The new mindset could convincingly argue that an internal highway system would promote economic growth and greatly increase public revenues. More and better schools and hospitals could be built, better and cheaper healthcare for the poor could be provided, more programs for children could be funded. Water reclamation, desert preservation, police protection, economic security, higher education, could all be funded with the increased revenues generated by the economic growth facilitated by a highway system.
The process would be simple, really. The master planners would only need to take a map of Tucson and draw a few red lines running north to south and east to west. Every home, business, church, school, and park that was in the way of progress would simply be plowed under, the destructors smiling through the whole process and repeating the mantra that all this is necessary to improve the public good. That's essentially what the Supreme Court endorsed.
Like Anthony Gregory said, the best thing the Court could have done was to just shut up, to not say anything. Only residents of Connecticut would initially suffer this decision. Private property defenders in the remaining 49 states would have had time to mobilize and make clear to local and state officials that such action in their states would be met with stiff, and possibly, violent resistance. The Supreme Court's pronouncement has precluded that scenario.
We left the park and returned to our home on the other side of town. The drive was pleasant and smooth. We hit a few red lights, had to avoid a few bicyclists, but all in all, we made good time getting home. I was basking in the accomplishment of teaching my kids something about the true meaning of independence.
To close out the day, I took my three smallest boys swimming. While at the pool, they would occasionally 'run' up to the edge and jump in the water. I was reminded by a hun sitting in the vicinity that children were not supposed to run around the pool and that she had seen several fall while running. I nodded my head and bit my lip. So much for independence. The caretakers of our welfare are everywhere.