‘Development’ is not a dirty word

By Henry Lamb

Environmental extremists have done a great job demonizing important words in our vocabulary:
logging, growth, corporations and development, are but a few. These are not dirty words.

Development has made possible the highest standard of living the world has ever known. Americans live longer than ever before, and when they get sick, miracle cures and technology help extend their lives. Development is to blame.

More Americans live in safer homes than ever before. They travel at will in public and private transportation devices caused by development. Americans have more food, more entertainment options, more educational opportunities – more than in any civilization that has ever existed. It’s all the fault of development.

Of course, some environmental extremists think that these wondrous benefits are a scourge on the earth. They believe the world would be better off if none of this development had ever occurred. While they enjoy the benefits of development, they preach a gospel promoting a return to the “good old days,” when each day was a struggle to survive, when food had to be killed or gathered each day from the wild – the good old days of “wilderness.”

Fund-raising letters from these groups proclaim “acres paved over each day”; “save the land for future generations”; and “species dying from development encroachment.” They have done a great job convincing a generation that development is bad, wilderness is good, and – with a substantial contribution from you – they will save the world from development.

According to the federal government, only 6.4 percent of non-federal land in the United States is developed. When federal land is considered, the percentage of developed land drops to about 4 percent.

There’s plenty of room for wildlife, and for development.

People who live in congested urban areas have no concept of the open space that is available. Consequently, they are eager to allow urban planners to draw arbitrary “growth boundaries” and declare no more development here. Why? Let it sprawl. Let the market decide where the growth boundary is.

The first principle is this: In America, the land of the free, a person should be able to live wherever he chooses. The second principle is this: A free market is the best arbiter of growth and development.

These principles have been rejected by the America Planning Association, whose members earn their living by telling others how and where they should live. These principles have been rejected by environmental extremist organizations whose executives earn their living by telling you that development is destroying the earth. These principles have been rejected by government officials who have allowed the principles of freedom to be shredded in order to curry favor with the politically-correct crowd.

In his gut-wrenching withdrawal speech, Sen. Bob Torricelli said he treasured the U.S. Constitution. In his next breath, he talked about keeping the party in power that is dedicated to protecting the land. There is nothing in the Constitution that gives a senator, or anyone else in the government for that matter, any responsibility for “protecting” private property.

Private property should be just that – private!

If a community decides to regulate land use, the decisions should be made only by the people who live in the community to be regulated, not by the state legislature, not by Congress, and certainly not by the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements.

If land-use restrictions are to be imposed, they should be imposed only by local elected officials who live in the regulated community and who are directly accountable to the regulated community.

Nevertheless, the regulations that are squeezing the life out of private property owners originated with the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements in 1976. They were refined through the U.N.’s Agenda 21. They were Americanized through President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development. And they have been codified through a series of federal and state laws. Local elected officials who oppose federal and state mandates are powerless to resist.

Development is a good word, and a better enterprise. Every mortgage payment, bag of groceries, new automobile and college education is paid for by some kind of development activity. We should honor development and those who risk capital and invest energy in every development enterprise.

Those who want to stop development are free to go live in a wilderness of their choice, providing of course the wilderness is not in America. American wilderness is off limits to humans. Public land is closed to the public and private land is controlled by government. Our founders are surely spinning in their graves over this development.