How Portland is losing its way

By Dave Lister

The framers of Portland’s city charter had a pretty clear idea of what the city was supposed to do. They wanted it to provide police, fire, sewer and water services as well as streets and parks. They needed to provide those services in order for Portland to continue to be, as Massachusetts newspaper editor Samuel Bowles wrote in the early 1870s, a city that “has the air and fact of a prosperous, energetic town with a good deal of eastern leadership and tone to business and society and morals.”

Unfortunately, the framers were less clear on what the City Council shouldn’t do, and for decades city leaders have focused on social engineering, planning and transit trinkets rather than their core responsibilities.

With one dissenting vote, the Portland City Council will in November ask voters to approve a $72 million bond measure to build a new fire station and acquire new fire vehicles and communications equipment. The council wants us to agree to increase our property taxes to fund a city service that has been a core responsibility of the city since its founding. At the same time, Mayor Sam Adams and city planners are busily spinning new tax-diverting urban renewal schemes to, once again, declare portions of downtown blighted and in need of redevelopment. That means fewer dollars for the core services, more dollars for the chosen developers.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the “no” vote on the bond measure, gave me the following explanation:

“Equipment ensuring public safety is among the most basic services for a city to provide to its residents, workers and visitors. Most of the general fund was spent on public safety, and I believe progress was made in ranking importance of services in the 2010 budget process. I take responsibility for my share in the fact that, evidently, true prioritization was not achieved, and I will ask even more probing questions in the budget negotiations next year.”

My last property tax statement shows that 11 percent went to city of Portland urban renewal. Of the city’s share of my taxes, the urban renewal portion was more than one-third. With a third of our money funding 40 years of continuous, subsidized redevelopment, it’s no wonder that core services are coming up short.

This mission-creep madness is not unique to Portland. Despite an over $500 million budget hole for funding education and its other core services, the state of Oregon plans to pump nearly half that amount into a light-rail line from Portland to Milwaukie, while a vital piece of infrastructure, the Sellwood Bridge, continues to crumble. The new rail line, already estimated at $1.5 billion and still in the planning stages, will bisect inner Southeast Portland, displacing dozens of businesses and hundreds of good jobs. It also will likely be the most expensive yet because of the need to create new right-of-ways by condemning and buying private property.

Sitting on my patio, scratching my mosquito bites and wondering if creating wetlands in parking lots is really such a great idea, I consider Bowles’ words and what he’d think if he were alive to visit Portland today. After decades of elected officials who equate leadership with building things, we’re basically broke. With an unemployment rate pushing 11 percent, we’re not prosperous. With transit projects displacing long-established companies, we no longer have a tone for business. With our mentally ill wandering the streets and our schools failing miserably by any measure, we aren’t doing our duty for our society. As far as morality is concerned, I’ll let others judge. But I think Samuel Bowles would be gravely disappointed.

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  • Britt Storkson

    Public money should be spent for public projects/services…Not siphoned off to private parties. If we eliminated money going to private parties – otherwise known as corporate welfare – we would have plenty of money for public services.

  • Duh?

    I keep waiting for the Justice Dept to come sweeping in after a 10 year investigation and arrest the city leaders for corruption.

  • Bob Clark

    Thanks for getting your views in the Oregonian, Dave. Portland cityhall has too many busybody powers these days for my comfort. And my family’s escalating water and sewer, garbage, and property tax bills reflect over government from city hall. Even this tells only a fraction of the true actions of cityhall, as the city’s debt and unfunded liabilities have been escalating at more than twice the rate of inflation for the better part of a decade. The major part of the blame for too much cityhall is the Portland electorate. They seem to either don’t care, love big government, or are too complacent and unaware to understand the city’s mounting debt and unfunded liabilities.

    After having been away from the suburbs for several decades, I am now dusting off hopes of relocating to a sleepy suburb. So called “sprawl” has nothing on Portland cityhall and its dreams for more concrete condo jungles.

    Keep up the good work, Dave.

    • valley p

      “the city’s debt and unfunded liabilities have been escalating at more than twice the rate of inflation for the better part of a decade. ”

      Maybe so, but its population increased from around 350 thousand in 1980 to well over 500,000 today. And much of the debt is the big pipe project, which was forced on the city by the feds,

      “After having been away from the suburbs for several decades, I am now dusting off hopes of relocating to a sleepy suburb. So called “sprawl” has nothing on Portland city hall and its dreams for more concrete condo jungles.”

      You are in luck Bob. There are more foreclosed homes in bankrupt Happy Valley than you can imagine.

  • Dave Lister

    Thanks Bob. I’ll keep banging the drum, not that it makes much difference. Bicycles and bag bans are more important to the voters in Portland than jobs.

    • Anonymous

      “Bicycles and bag bans are more important to the voters in Portland than jobs.”

      Truer words have never been spoken.

  • David Appell

    > “Bicycles and bag bans are more important to the voters in Portland than jobs.”

    I doubt this is true, but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it is.

    So what?

    This is a free country, right? So don’t people have a right to democratically decide what their most important issues are and where their government should place priorities?

    Or must they always agree with YOUR priorities?

    • Anonymous

      In a free county you should be allowed to use a plastic bag, if you prefer it and a store should not be forced to tax us for the use of a paper bag.

      You must be thinking of something besides a free country

      • David Appell

        > In a free county you should be allowed to use a plastic bag, if you prefer it and a store
        > should not be forced to tax us for the use of a paper bag.

        You have seriously misunderstood the concept of freedom.

        “Freedom” are the rights your society gives you — nothing more, and nothing less.

        There are good reasons for controlling plastic bag use — I’m sure you know the pros and cons. Society can well decide that your “rights” have limits so that others may prosper.

        That’s exactly why, for example, you are not allowed to drive 100 mi/hr, even though you might like to and you might think you have the “right” to.

        You are not the only being on this planet. Other species, human and otherwise, should not have to suffer merely because you are too lazy to keep a reusable grocery bag in your trunk and insist on using up the planet’s finite resources and because you do not take care to properly recycle your plastic bags.

        Where did you ever learn that such selfishness was acceptable?

        • Anonymous

          If litter is the problem, then banning one of the many types of litter will not stop the litter problem.

          I have seen how green Portland treats the environment after a Earth day event.
          Not so green or pretty

  • eagle eye

    Maybe Portland is doing some not so swift things, but last time I looked, it was still pretty prosperous, one of the most prosperous cities and towns in Oregon. Certainly more so than Eugene or heaven help us Springfield. Or places where OC types tend to live — I won’t be so tactless as to list these places by name. Oh, I know, they’ll blame the spotted owl ruling for the next century just as they have for the last 20 years. I don’t buy it. Of places in Oregon, Portland is making a better go than most.

    • valley p

      “In a free county you should be allowed to use a plastic bag”

      I agree, and you are. You can still bring your own plastic bag to stores and use it as you see fit. And if you do, please dispose of it properly ok? I’m tired of picking up plastic along my rural road and Oregon’s beaches.

      “You must be thinking of something besides a free country ”

      How about one free of plastic litter?

      “Maybe Portland is doing some not so swift things, but last time I looked, it was still pretty prosperous,”

      To be fair, Portland has a lot more to work with, which is why it is the main city and region around. Confluence of the 2 main rivers, head of deep water navigation, and the north edge of the most fertile land in the nation all determined Portland’s destiny more than any particular decision. The current investments Portland leaders are making, all the things “conservatives” hate and say can’t possibly work, are what makes people around here hopping mad. But places like the Pearl District, an urban renewal area, now have a lot of valuable real estate where there once were empty warehouses. Like rail, bike lanes, corner stores, parks and plazas…Portland is a pretty great place and much of the nation is still beating a path here in spite of everything.

      • Anonymous

        In a free country, a store should not be told it can’t provide bags to it’s customers, for free.

        • David Appell

          In a country that truly relished freedom, the store wouldn’t have to be told.

    • a retired professor

      I tend to think that places determine their own economic fate, to a large degree. Take Eugene. It has tried to follow a low-growth path and I would argue a low-prosperity path. Long ago, if memory and lore serve me right, it repelled Hewlett-Packard and then a company called Data General. Later it chased out the largest hospital between SF and Portland.

      The Register Guard had an interesting article on the decline of per capita income in Oregon relative to the rest of the country. In the early 19040s Oregon was at something like 125% and now it’s down to 90%. It failed pretty miserably at making the transition from timber to a diversified economy. Other places have done a lot better, look at Colorado. But some places in Oregon have done a lot better than others, look at Bend.

      Portland has done pretty well. The poor parts of the state complain about how they’re being held back by land use laws, etc. but somehow the Portland area lives under those same laws and does a lot better. I can’t be sure but it seems to me the poorer, generally more rural and certainly more conservative areas could have done better to make a go of it for themselves. The Eugene area is not exactly one of the conservative areas, but I’m quite convinced it could have done better.

      • Anonymous

        Portland has done pretty well. The poor parts of the state complain about how they’re being held back by land use laws, etc. but somehow the Portland area lives under those same laws and does a lot better. I can’t be sure but it seems to me the poorer, generally more rural and certainly more conservative areas could have done better to make a go of it for themselves. The Eugene area is not exactly one of the conservative areas, but I’m quite convinced it could have done better.
        #6.2 a retired professor

        Portland has been allowed to do pretty much anything they want to do

        • a retired professor

          What has Portland been allowed to do under the laws that other cities haven’t?

          I know that the Portland area has been “allowed” to subsidize the rest of the state through the tax code and the redistribution of money to K-12 schools and other functions.

          What else?

          • valley p

            “I tend to think that places determine their own economic fate, to a large degree. ”

            Within the limits of ecological and social capital they have to work with yes. Ashland is nearly as remote and has similar resources as Klamath Falls, but one is prosperous and the other not. Why the difference? The luck of being on I-5 combined with the wise investment of forefathers who create the Chatauqua Park (now Lythia Park) which in turn captured the imagination of Angus Bowmer who decided to create a Shakespeare festival in the midst of the great depression. That resulted in Ashland becoming a tourist and then wealthy retirement community, while K Falls and other rural towns stuck with timber and ranching and prospered for a while, but later on stagnated.

            There i an interesting book about why some areas like Bend and Ashland transitioned successfully while other places did not. Its called Lost Landscapes and Failed Economies by Thomas Power of the university of Montana.

            Portland really can’t be compared to the rest of the state simply because it is the regional trade center by dint of geography. It has the advantage of a critical mass of human capital as a result, so it pulls in institutions that need educated people and they tend to do better than less educated people. Though Portland has done a lot to make itself attractive to these people, so its not all accidental.

          • a retired professor

            I agree that accidents make a difference, but they are not fate. Grants Pass is on I-5 and so is Medford. The former is very poor. Medford is doing better but not as well as Ashland (or even Eugene, which has done a good deal to hamper itself). Yet Grants Pass has a setting that many American towns would die for. So does Medford, for that matter. But has either tried to make itself as visually appealing as Ashland? Of course, Ashland has the Shakespeare Festival and also SOU. You can always argue about what is an accident and what is making something of things. Look at Sisters. It was a dying timber town until it decided to try to remake itself as an attractive tourist town between the valley and the Three Sisters. It made the transition very well. Note: attractive as in not some awful gas station and hamburger + dying industrial highway strip.

            How did we get on to all this? Oh, right. The question of whether Portland is doing pretty well, especially compared to the “red state” parts of Oregon + Eugene, which actually combines elements of both types in a weird stew. And I contend that locales largely make their own fates, and Portland probably deserves a lot of credit for being one of the more successful parts of Oregon.

          • Anonymous

            Portland has to rivers .

          • a retired professor

            So does Eugene! The Willamette and the McKenzie.

          • Anonymous

            But they are far from the ocean and less able to handle ocean shipping.

  • Rob Kremer

    David Appell writes:
    “Freedom” are the rights your society gives you — nothing more, and nothing less.

    Wrong country, David. The United States of America was founded on the radical notion that rights come from the Creator, not “society.”

    I can name a few countries that think rights are defined by “society:” U.S.S.R, Cuba, China.

    • Anonymous

      And David Appell

  • David Appell

    > The United States of America was founded on the radical notion that rights
    > come from the Creator, not “society.”

    You’re free to believe in fairy tales if you want, but the Constitution, which founds our government, makes no reference to any god or creator.

    • Anonymous

      He’s obviously referencing the Declaration of Independence, but he fails, unlike the authors of that document, to recognize a distinction between natural and legal rights.

    • a retired professor

      The Constitution may found our governmental structure, but the nation itself was founded with the Declaration of Independence. That was certainly the view of Lincoln, and the justification for the preservation of the union.

      While not all of the founders may have believed that rights are “God-given”, the belief in natural rights — whether they come from God, or Nature — was very very widespread. It’s hard to see what other justification either for rights or rebellion there could have been.

      If rights have no other justification than being what the government gives you, then I don’t see that they have any justification at all. If a government — whether democratic, or aristocratic, or dictatorial, or whatever — comes along and changes your rights — then they have no more meaning than any other arbitrary whim.

      And even if rights only come from government grant, what right does any government have to do that? Where does government get its rights?

      If you’re simply saying that all government is arbitrary and that essentially might makes right, you might be correct, but that’s a rather nihilistic view, in my opinion. Not a satisfactory basis either for ruling or being ruled.

    • Anonymous

      The Constitution tells the government, what it can’t do to the citizens.
      it can’t take away our free speech
      it can’t take away our property and guns rights.

      The founders knew there would be those that believed it was their right to take away choices, and now we are seeing it done, with paper and plastic bags.

      • current UO student

        “The founders knew there would be those that believed it was their right to take away choices, and now we are seeing it done, with paper and plastic bags.”

        You’re even more ridiculous than David Appell. Do you feel deprived of freedom, Anonymous? Are you a retailer who wants to have plastic bags on hand for his customers, and now cannot? How horrible for you? My condolences.

        • Anonymous

          In a free country I should have the right to choose a plastic bag, if I choose to do so and the store should have the right to give that bag away to help the customers carry our their purchases, if they choose to do so.

          If you do not like to use plastic bag, you can choose to not use them and you have the right to pay a extra 5 cents if you choose, for the use of the paper bag.

          I defer to freedom and choice of the individual, not the mandate of the collective.

          I understand why you would be afraid of individuals choosing what is best for themselves. Your side would have less power to force your view of the world, on the individual.

          • David Appell

            If you choose a plastic bag then you also choose the costs of its proper disposal, or the costs of its improper disposal. Are you ready to pay for that?

          • Anonymous

            If I dispose of my garbage properly, I’m not responsible for you, not doing the same.

  • David Appell

    So how did this work exactly? Did “God” sent the founders letters saying, give your country rights A, B, C and D, but let’s leave out E and F? Did he talk to them in his sleep, or write messages in the sky?

    > If you’re simply saying that all government is arbitrary and that essentially might makes right,

    Of course government is arbitrary. It’s a social agreement that people select for themselves, or acquiesce to, or are forced to endure at the gunpoint of others. Rights are social agreements too. In some countries marijuana is legal. In others it is not. This was decided by “God?”

    • current UO student

      David,

      you say, “You’re free to believe in fairy tales if you want, but the Constitution, which founds our government, makes no reference to any god or creator.” Well, the Declaration of Independence does reference a Creator, with a capital “C” (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”). What theological entity/deity the authors of the DOI had in mind and by what mechanism it implemented these “rights” is up for debate (and to my mind irrelevant). Regardless of anyone’s personal belief system, paradigm, model of the universe by which they live and understand their own existence, degree of arrogance and/or ignorance, et cetera… that the United States’ founders made reference to a Creator is a fact of history. Deal with it.

      And, yes, government is arbitrary. So what? What are you attempting to argue? And why? That an individual’s a priori “natural” right to life is equivalent to an individual’s legal right to smoke weed? Seriously? Do you truly not see the usefulness of a distinction between natural and legal rights? Or are you an anarchist? You’ve never struck me as being that simpleminded.

      Your original comment…

      >> “Bicycles and bag bans are more important to the voters in Portland than jobs.”

      >I doubt this is true, but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it is.

      Give me a break, dude. Generally speaking, we all know this is true. But it’s only a sliver of a larger truth, which is that people all over the world (not just in Portland, not just in Oregon, and not just in the U.S.) are both easily distracted (politically speaking), uninformed (for a variety of reasons), apathetic (for better or worse), and often times confused about what is in their best interests (most likely as a result of the mechanisms of cultural hegemony, as well as incessant exposure to propaganda from all sides and every direction).

      >So what?

      Well, it seems a relevant observation to me, and one that transcends political ideologies. Both issues mentioned by Bob Clark are worthy of attention (in my opinion), but neither would be at the top of what I would consider an intellectually healthy electorate’s priority list.

      >This is a free country, right? So don’t people have a right to democratically decide what their most >important issues are and where their government should place priorities?

      Yes, it is. From what I can tell nobody was challenging that notion. They were merely expressing their opinion with regard to how Multnomah County voters appear to prioritize social/political issues. Being a left-centered individual I’ve taken my fair share of abuse on this website (and, no, I’m not impressed with the way many of these people conduct themselves in discourse, and in the end couldn’t care less what those individuals think about anything), but I’ve got to say that you are being ridiculous. Last time I checked it was anyone and everyone’s constitutional right to be publicly critical of the apparently foolish and naive (even to my sympathetic eyes) priorities of the Multnomah County electorate.

      >Or must they always agree with YOUR priorities?

      No. Must they always agree with yours?

      • valley p

        “Give me a break, dude. Generally speaking, we all know this is true.”

        Have to disagree with you there UO. I’ve lived in or near Portland for over 30 years, and do a lot of business there. Portland is very much a commercial trading place, and people who live there need work or business just like everywhere else. It may be true, though only in a very general way, that the typical Portlander values quality of life over money (past a certain point). And part of how quality of life gets defined includes bicycles and a healthy ecosystem, thus bag bans. But Portlanders are as subject to Maslov’s hierarchy as any other people. Pushed far enough, they will opt for bread over bikes if it ever comes to that.

        The Portland critiques on this site reflect the unfortunate “culture war” that some folks feel is important to stake out their position on. Live and let live seems to have left the station a long time ago. So nearly every personal or community decision becomes political in the worst sense of the word. A pretty small gesture like banning plastic grocery bags, rather than being viewed on its merits is dealt with as a blow against one version of freedom. This is most unfortunate.

        • Anonymous

          It is only unfortunate to the people that want to force their view on others, by banning plastic bags because they are unable to persuade people, their view is correct.

          • valley p

            That is one way of looking at it. Another way is that people are tired of the external costs people who insist on using plastic bags cause, even though there are better, cheaper alternatives (reusable bags).

            20 years ago the plastic grocery bag, now ubiquitous, was unknown. All it represents is a false cheap way to take things home. Get over it.

          • David Appell

            Not only this, but plastic bags rip and tear — how many jars have you lost because the cheap plastic bag tore and your jelly or pickle jar landed on the pavement?

            This never happens with reusable bags. This alone pays for them.

          • Anonymous

            none

          • David Appell

            > none

            I don’t believe you.

          • Anonymous

            I don’t use plastic bags

            so none

          • Anonymous

            Mr Appell
            Why were you using plastic bags?

          • David Appell

            > why are you using plastic bags.

            Because that’s what they give you. In the last few years I am increasingly using reusable bags, but I don’t always remember to take them with me, though I now do more often than not.

          • Anonymous

            So, because you can’t remember to bring a reusable bag, you want it to be a law that no one can use a plastic bag.

            Why am I not surprised.

            You don’t even practice, what you preach.

          • David Appell

            My imperfections, or yours, should not be the standards by which laws should be set. If it’s the law, I’ll buy a cloth bag at the store (what would it cost, a dollar or two?) Once or twice of that and that habit of bringing my own bag will be ingrained. You act like this is some huge violation of your independence, as if it’s your right (or mine) to waste resources without consequences.

        • current UO student

          Fair enough. I think I may have been a bit vague in my previous comment. The point I was trying to make is that issues such as plastic bag usage and anything having to do with bicycles are given a disproportionate amount of attention in Portland, particularly by the voting demographic that I personally interact with most of the time (18-35). Furthermore, these issues are more often than not addressed from an emotional perspective, and rarely from a practical one (e.g. negative externalities created by plastic bag usage/waste). And I feel comfortable (and sad) in saying that the vast majority of people I cross paths with are for all intents and purposes economically illiterate. So, my intention was not to suggest that people don’t care about jobs (I am certain they do), but rather that by and large – and at the risk of sounding like some kind of elitist – they don’t have the tools to make good voting decisions with regard to economic issues. Case in point, M67; I had many conversations with many different people leading up to that vote, and everyone seemed to have a passionate opinion one way or the other. But truth be told, very, very few of those individuals, regardless of their position (yes or no) could articulate any substantive understanding of the issue.

          Having said that, I’ve lived for various lengths of time all over the U.S. and in four other countries, and without hesitation I’ll state for the record that Portland is my favorite city that I’ve ever lived in. I love it and hope to find good work here when I graduate (though if that’s what I want I’ll probably have to start my own business).

          “The Portland critiques on this site reflect the unfortunate “culture war” that some folks feel is important to stake out their position on. Live and let live seems to have left the station a long time ago. So nearly every personal or community decision becomes political in the worst sense of the word. A pretty small gesture like banning plastic grocery bags, rather than being viewed on its merits is dealt with as a blow against one version of freedom. This is most unfortunate.”

          I couldn’t agree more. The pseudo-righteous anonymous guy above is a perfect specimen.

          • Anonymous

            The live and let live left philosophy left much of Portland, when the left took over the city and now wants to mandate how we must live, in what kind of housing and how we should travel, and what we must subsidize to reach Green Portland’s religious goal etc.

            The bag ban is only one more piece of the leftest mandatory puzzle.

            If you can’t make the argument to persuade people to do what you believe is bad, force them to comply. The culture war come from you mandating that nonbelievers must conform to your values.

          • current UO student

            It really is horrible, isn’t it, Anonymous? And just as I was getting accustomed to the tyranny of lead-free paints. Where’s Braveheart when you need him?

          • valley p

            Well welcome to reality. People everywhere spend an inordinate amount of time and effort on small ball issues. And many if not most people let their emotions drive them harder than their intellects. And only a handful of people know the first thing about macro economics. All of this is not peculiar to Portland, believe me.

            Portland compares favorably as a place to live, no question. I’ve been here long enough (over 30 years) to watch it evolve from an oversize logging town into a pretty sophisticated place. Overall my experience is that the elected leadership by and large has done what those who elected tham have wanted, for good or ill.

            Like all grads these days, you will have to choose place to live versus ease of employment. I did the same 33 years ago, chose Portland, struggled a lot to make a living, but have not looked back.

          • current UO student

            Bob Clark said, “Bicycles and bag bans are more important to the voters in Portland than jobs.”

            David Appell said, “I doubt this is true, but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it is.”

            And I said, “Give me a break, dude. Generally speaking, we all know this is true. But it’s only a sliver of a larger truth, which is that people all over the world (not just in Portland, not just in Oregon, and not just in the U.S.) are both easily distracted (politically speaking), uninformed (for a variety of reasons), apathetic (for better or worse), and often times confused about what is in their best interests (most likely as a result of the mechanisms of cultural hegemony, as well as incessant exposure to propaganda from all sides and every direction).”

            Perhaps Mr. Appell is the one you should be condescending to with your “welcome to reality”, valley p. I was making an observation that is apparently not obvious to David, and you’ve basically reiterated everything I said. I was not judging anyone with my comments, but nor am I going to pretend that the momentum of Portland’s bag ban was generated by the economic considerations of the masses.

          • David Appell

            > … nor am I going to pretend that the momentum of Portland’s bag ban was
            > generated by the economic considerations of the masses.

            It certainly is, but for some reason you and others here refuse to accept the negative external costs of plastic bags that have been clearly identified.

          • current UO student

            NO! I COMPLETELY ACCEPT THE NEGATIVE EXTERNAL COSTS OF PLASTIC BAG PRODUCTION, USE, AND WASTE!

            BUT THE MOMENTUM WAS CREATED BY SHOWING PEOPLE PHOTOS OF SEA TURTLES WITH PLASTIC HANGING OUT OF THEIR MOUTHS!

            If you really think otherwise, then I don’t know what to say. You are hopelessly naive.

          • David Appell

            What momentum?

            How do you know this was how the “momentum” was created?

            Are not some turtles having problems with plastic bags? Or should we ignore this problem?

          • current UO student

            “What momentum?”

            What do you mean “what momentum”? Who do you think got the ball rolling here? It was the Oregon Surfrider Foundation, and I’m pretty sure their main concern was and still is protecting sea life.

            “How do you know this was how the “momentum” was created?”

            Because I’m alive, and I listen to people, and I’ve rarely ever heard anyone mention the literal costs ($) of using plastic bags, but I have heard regularly about the harm done to wildlife by plastic bags.

            “Are not some turtles having problems with plastic bags? Or should we ignore this problem?”

            Why are you being so thick? Are you being obtuse on purpose? I like turtles too, David. AND I THINK PLASTIC BAGS SUCK. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about how people make decisions, and with regard to this issue I believe that most people – and when I say “most” I do mean the vast majority – do not think about plastic bags in terms of their external economic costs. This is one of those places where standard economic models break down, where people don’t behave rationally, and don’t respond to economic incentives. I can’t prove it, call it intuitive if you must; or, just go out to a grocery store or a bar and conduct a vox populi survey. Ask folks to define externalities, positive, negative, whatever. Ask them if they are more concerned about the economic costs of using plastic bags or about turtles choking on their garbage. Ask them which consideration is more likely to persuade them to stop using plastic bags.

            So, in the end, if people (in Portland and elsewhere) were more economically savvy (which translates for my purposes as “concern for jobs”), there would be no need to appeal to the sympathies of turtle lovers (aka “liberals”), and no need to listen to the pseudo-righteous idiocy of quasi-conservatives like the anonymous individual who is all over this thread. We would have long ago collectively responded to the economic incentive that is represented by the re-usable grocery bag. In short, plastic bags are and have always been a waste of money (but we’re not discontinuing our use of them for that reason, are we?).

            I’m with you, Dave, I share your concern for the environment, and whatever works to get the job done I’m all for it; it’s just that I also happen to be concerned with the economy. Why are you making it out as if it has to be one or the other?

          • David Appell

            I think the “plastic bag and bicycle crowd” in Portland is very aware of the externalities they are concerned about and have chosen a way of life that helps to minimize those external costs.

          • current UO student

            A vague notion of the harm caused by improper disposal of plastic bags realized upon seeing a photograph of a sea turtle with plastic sticking out of its mouth, or a few bags stuck in the bushes alongside the road, does not an economist make.

            Once again, I am not condemning the worldview that approves of the bag ban – I’ve been using re-useable bags for years… hell, I think my Trader Joe’s bags might even be “collectible” by now – but I happen to agree with Bob Clark that it at least seems “bicycles and bag bans are more important to the voters in Portland than jobs.”

          • David Appell

            Do some research. We are not talking about a single turtle with a garbage bag around its throat.

            Look up “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in Wikipedia. That’a a start, at least. The article contains several references to scientific articles about the characteristics of the GPGP.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_Garbage_Heap

            Beyond this, there are many sites where you can research the impacts of plastic bags. Many of them contain references to scientific papers. You can doubt these if you want, but you will need to provide better scientific data than they do.

            Clearly, human selfishness knows few bounds.

          • current UO student

            Holy shit! You’re a maniac AND you have apparently chosen not to read anything I’ve written. David, I am an industrial design student (hint: we study all kinds of plastics and their use) at the School of Architecture and Allied Arts with a BA/Economics minor. Sustainability, not surprisingly, is emphasized in the design school, the business school, and the sciences (chemistry) these days. One… more… time… I support the plastic bag ban, at least in the sense that I think it is in everyone’s best interests (both long and short term). The issue was never “The Bag Ban” per se. The issue was whether or not “bicycles and bag bans are more important to the voters in Portland than jobs.” I think they are (it’s a fairly innocuous statement), you don’t. Relax.

            And yes, I am familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as well as the North Atlantic Gyre. Here’s a link to a decent documentary called “Addicted to Plastic”: http://www.crypticmoth.com/plastic.php

            Here’s another link to a site that explores the economics of plastic bags: http://www.plasticbageconomics.com/

            Knock yourself out.

          • David Appell

            I don’;t see what special insight into the environment an industrial design student is supposed to have, but in any case you wrote:

            > The issue was whether or not “bicycles and bag bans are more
            > important to the voters in Portland than jobs.” I think they are
            > (it’s a fairly innocuous statement), you don’t. Relax.

            Actually I am all in favor of such policies, if that’s what the residents want. Lots of them do. Good. There are otherwise too many ugly cities in this country, like Las Vegas, like Phoenix, like Houston… places that will do anything for jobs.

            If people want a bike & bag society, like something in Holland or Belgium or Denmark… more power to them. It’s the future, anyway. The sooner we get there, the better.

          • current UO student

            “I don’;t see what special insight into the environment an industrial design student is supposed to have”

            Granted, we are not environmental scientists, but a major part of the gig is life cycle analysis. I’d wager that industrial designers (including i.d. students) are required to know more about plastics in general than 99% of all other professions. The one exception being chemists who specialize in plastics.

            By the way, you are aware that industrial design is essentially synonymous with product design, right?

            “Actually I am all in favor of such policies, if that’s what the residents want. Lots of them do. Good. There are otherwise too many ugly cities in this country, like Las Vegas, like Phoenix, like Houston… places that will do anything for jobs.”

            You’re in favor of economic ignorance? Weird, but to each his own.

            “If people want a bike & bag society, like something in Holland or Belgium or Denmark… more power to them. It’s the future, anyway. The sooner we get there, the better.”

            You’re off the rails, bud. You’re having a different conversation at this point.

          • David Appell

            > Granted, we are not environmental scientists, but a major part of the gig is life cycle analysis.

            Ohh, well…. life cycle analysis, discussed in the classroom. I’m sure that makes you an expert, right?

            What are you, 22 years old? Maybe 25? You’ve held lots of different jobs, right, and lived in several different states across the country/world? I’m sure you’ve been promoted a few times, and been fired once or twice? Ever changed careers? Ever even left your home state?

            So just how experienced are you? I mean, let’s not underestimate an UNDERGRADUATE CLASS IN LIFE CYCLE ANALYSIS, by all means.

          • current UO student

            “Ohh, well…. life cycle analysis, discussed in the classroom. I’m sure that makes you an expert, right?”

            Woe is me. I didn’t realize I had made any claims of expertise, but I’d bet we get a little more of that sort of thing than you did in journalism school. Regardless, that was a response to your arrogant and pointless assumption that I was unfamiliar with the Pacific Garbage Patch.

            “What are you, 22 years old? Maybe 25?”

            33. How big is your dick? Two inches? Maybe three?

            “You’ve held lots of different jobs, right,”

            Yes. I’ve made my living mainly as a carpenter.

            “and lived in several different states across the country/world?”

            Yes. Four countries for one year (give or take a few months), six states for three years or more, and travelled at one time or another to all fifty states.

            “I’m sure you’ve been promoted a few times,”

            Yes.

            “and been fired once or twice?”

            No.

            “Ever changed careers?”

            What do you think I’m in the process of doing right now, moron?

            “Ever even left your home state?”

            You do the math.

            “So just how experienced are you? I mean, let’s not underestimate an UNDERGRADUATE CLASS IN LIFE CYCLE ANALYSIS, by all means.”

            Yeah, and let’s not underestimate the size of your ego. Who do you think you are, punk? You see the word “student” and assume you’re somehow superior, or that your opinion is more valuable than those who carry that title. Thanks for revealing yourself. I’ll be graduating summa cum laude next year, and though it may not be worth anything to you, it’s worth a whole lot to me. I’ve earned it. So, tell you what, we’ll just call it quits for now because you haven’t got shit to say; and we both know you don’t have the balls to take that attitude up with anyone face to face because you’d get ripped a new pussy before you could wipe that undoubtedly smug look off your face.

    • a retired professor

      If all government is simply “arbitrary”, if it is just “might makes right”, then there is no more justification, say, for the end of slave trading than there is for slave labor camps. That’s a kind of nihilism.

      Instead of just sneering, why don’t you learn how people throughout history have come to the conclusion that there are either God-given rights or natural rights. If you don’t want to start with religious thinkers, try some natural law thinkers.

  • Gary

    If a fire were to happen I would want only the best equipment and men to be there to put it out.
    It is a small price to pay for safety and security.
    I will gladly pay it and will vote yes.
    Our lives are more important than money.

    • Anonymous

      The money that should have gone to fire, schools and police has been diverted to Urban renewal and subsidizing developers.

      Now they want a new tax to pay for what they gave away.
      It makes no sence

  • Anonymous

    http://portlandtribune.com/news/story_2nd.php?story_id=127975191271371400

    Reader comments
    Re: Adams takes new approach to renewal

    “It’s important that we specify the costs and benefits first, then we’ll have the big picture discussion,” said Adams”

    Yeah right. Since when does Adams favor specifying [real] costs and benefits?
    Is that what he think happened in the SoWa planning?
    Or any other UR scheme? Not hardly. Instead low balled project estimates and inflated revenue projections provide planning bureaucrats the rosy picture to justify both their claims of “feasibility” and their recommendation for “approval” to PDC commissioners and city council.

    Mr. Redden,
    That tired explanation of Tax Increment Financing is entirely useless to readers, voters and taxpayers.
    To clarify the ponzi scheme of Tax Increment Financing
    you must clarify the reality of how the millions are raised to subsidize these development schemes.
    Here is a simple demonstration.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:TIF_graph.pdf&page=1

    The reality with TIF is that nearly all of the revenue is simply taken from the yearly routine increases in property taxes which the taxing jurisdictions rely upon to help offset rising costs of basis services. Leaving a hole in basic services budgets which must then be filled with other or new taxes and fees.
    The way large sums are collected is by drawing Urban Renewal District boundaries much larger than any of the planned projects or improvements. This sweeps up 100s or even 1000s of acres of fully developed real estate and redirects those property taxes away from basic services for decades.
    Every year those property taxes increase like all other real estate in the city. But instead of funding what the public thinks they are paying them for, those dollars are re-directed to pay towards the mounting Urban Renewal debt.
    And while planning bureaucracies like to defraud the public by claiming they are generating these increases
    those increases are not related to any UR plan at all.
    Furthering the public deceit is the often pitched lie that property within UR districts rises faster in assessed value generating more revenue than would otherwise occur without the “investment”.
    That’s impossible. M50 limitations restrict annual property tax increases to 3%.
    It wouldn’t matter if a Taj Mahal was built the property across the street would not see a boost in their property taxes beyond that limited 3%.
    Unfortunately that 3%, year after year for decades, is directed away from basic services and spent on the Taj Mahal debt.

    Additional to the misrepresentation of TIF the UR plans themselves are too often without merit and fail to generate the outcomes promised.
    In may cases these plans are preceded with promises that the Tram, MAX or streetcar alone will “spur”, “trigger” or “prompt” BIG development by the private sector who can’t wait to build next to them. Although many millions from the same UR/TIF plan used to help fund the transit project.
    But even after many millions more are spent subsidizing the planner’s desired development the spurring, triggering or prompting of private development never occurs.
    Primarily because the model planners and city officials seek doesn’t pencil out.
    After millions in debt is stacked up there’s a rail transit line and a subsidized mixed use building or two and nothing more.

    This new downtown UR plan is as bad as any. It will take $252 million from the general fund property tax revenue stream and spend it on student housing and other public projects which pay no property taxes. In this new plan there isn’t even the pretense of generating new revenue. And like all others there will be no concern for the hole left in basic services budgets or how it will be filled. This is nothing but reckless abandon and gross misappropriation.

    As for the Rose Quarter, think about this area. It already has every single component planners say will trigger private development. It’s close to downtown, at the confluence of multiple Light Rail and streetcar lines, already has PDC subsidized mixed use buildings, Rose Garden, Convention Center, Government office buildings and a nearby shopping mall.

    Still it needs more tax dollars to help more development? And the tax dollars to be used will have to be TIF and come from schools, libraries, police, fire, parks and human services?

    http://portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=127975191271371400
    Adams takes new approach to renewal

  • bennie

    David Appell must be one of those new Communists that has found a home in the new Green Party.

  • John in Oregon

    I admit to being disturbed by some comments expressed in this thread. Terrified might well be a better choice of words. Such was the case to the claim that “Freedom” is the rights your society, government, or ruling class gives you.

    Rights given by government is not Liberty, rights given or denied by society, government, or a ruling class is Tyranny. I have no desire, nor shall I ever, sacrifice my individual liberty at your altar of power.

    The assertion that rights are given by government is well founded in the concept of the Divine Right of Kings. Only slightly weakened when in 1215 the English Nobles wrestled a limited charter of liberties from King John as outlined in the Magna Carta.

    Not to diminish those limited steps to liberty, the founders of the United States of America took a leap frog to the future. That leap is found starting in the Declaration of Independence. Divine Providence replaced the Divine Right of Kings.

    Some, including Elena Kagan, have been dismissive of the Declaration of Independence as irrelevant. Nothing could be farther from the truth. On July 3, 1776 the American people were subjects of the Crown bound by English law. An independent people are free to adopt a government. The colonies were neither free or independent.

    The founders knew that as subjects of the Crown they were bound by certain obligations. Thus the first paragraph of the constitution. I have highlighted portions to simplify the plain meaning.

    *When* in the Course of human events, *it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands* which have connected them with another, *and to assume* among the powers of the earth, *the separate and equal station* to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, *a decent respect* to the opinions of mankind requires that *they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.*

    It is in the second paragraph that the founders identify that which would replace the English Crown. It is here that the founders made that leap beyond existing English Law.

    This paragraph of the Declaration reads:
    *We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal:*

    This innovative statement insists that no one life is more valuable than the next, and that when all have the same individual rights no individual has the authority to rule over or oppress another. A self evident truth is universal and applies to all.

    *that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights:*

    They cannot be taken away, divided, diminished, nor are the individual rights of one person subservient to those of another.

    *that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness:*

    The common example of individual rights at that time, Life, Liberty and Property was changed in opposition to slavery.

    *That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men*

    Governments are created by the people in order to protect the individual rights which existed prior to the government.

    *deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed*

    The power of Government flows from the people who’s consent allows that government to have power.

    *That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it*

    Government serves at the pleasure of the people.

    *to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness*

    Built on the foundation of the Declaration of Independence our Constitution of 1787 and its amendments created a government of only specific limited powers granted by the people to the government for the specific purpose of protecting the rights, life, liberty and property of the people.

    On July 3, 1776 Americans were the subjects of the Crown. On July 5, 1776 Americans were citizens of the United Colonies of America who were then in open rebellion with the Crown.

    • valley p

      The laws of nature and the laws of God? Nice rhetoric. That Jefferson fellow had a way with words. But nature has no “law” regarding human freedom. Humans are tribal and clan dependent animals. And tribes and clans have always favored the collective over the individual, and for the most part still do, which is why homeowners associations can stop you from hanging out your laundry to dry in nature’s fresh air. This tribal and clan history goes back a few hundred thousand years before the Declaration that simply ignored it and declared nature otherwise.

      And even better: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”

      Except of course for non property owners, women, and slaves, and later Orientals, Mexicans, American Indians, people with disabilities, and to this day gay people. Not only were MOST people NOT created equal to the Founders, they were also NOT given anything close to equal rights. They had to win those rights through hard struggle against so called patriots who shoved the constitution in the faces of those who were left out of it.

      So please, John, stop the sanctimonious nonsense. Laws and freedoms are what people and their governments decide they are at the moment. No right to attend an integrated school, then a right to. No right to vote in southern states if you are dark skinned, then a right to. No right to an abortion, then a right to. No right to marry the adult of your choice. Well we are still working on that one.

      Fortunately for us the long arc of history bends in the direction towards more freedom, but not without taking more responsibility, and this is where the rub comes in. Your right to pollute stops when your plastic bag blows onto my front lawn.

      Oh…and “the people” may have the right to dissolve their government. But advocating its overthrow is treason. Yet another conundrum we have to live with.

  • John in Oregon

    There can be no better validation of Portland having lost its way than the comments above to which I reply.

    Nice answer. Isolate one individual and apply a large dollop of sneer and ridicule. How could one possibly respond to such a withering intellectual assertion? Dismissing a key understanding of the world as rhetoric, a way with words, just a turn of a phrase with no particular substance or value.

    Except, that when subjecting serious thought to a large application of sneer, one should make an effort to at least quote the offending phrase correctly, particularly when to do so required a simple copy and paste. For the record the proper phrase is QUOTE the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God UNQUOTE.

    Those words had very clear meaning then as they do now. The more than 50 people making up the Continental Congress discussed and debated each word, each line, sentence, and paragraph of the declaration. They did so with justification as this singular document, the declaration, would place them in opposition to the single most advanced military power of the day.

    The continental congress participated in no trivial exercise in flourish of words of no particular meaning. All had at least a grade 6 education and were familiar with John Locke, Adam Smith and others. They quite well understood each and every of the words below which each placed his name and honor.

    Of course the modern intellectual who sneers at the uneducated rabble of the revolution has no need for Locke, Smith, or the more recent Alexis de Tocqueville, Angelo Codevilla, James Madison Federalist ninety-one.

    The sneer assures us that Humans are tribal and clan dependent animals. > *Tribes and clans have always favored the collective over the individual. This tribal and clan history goes back a few hundred thousand years before the Declaration that simply ignored it and declared nature otherwise.*

    About those hundreds of thousands of years Thomas Sowell said it brilliantly. ‘Many of the wonderful-sounding ideas that have been tried as government policies have failed disastrously. Because so few people bother to study history, often the same ideas and policies have been tried again, either in another country or in the same country at a later time — and with the same disastrous results. One of the ideas that has proved to be almost impervious to evidence is the idea that wise and far-sighted people need to take control and plan economic and social policies so there will be a rational and just order, rather than chaos resulting from things being allowed to take their own course.’

    Yet confidently and loudly we are berated that humans are mere clans, no different than a heard of Cows under charge of a Bull. Naturally the great advances were wrought by such as the Sir Isaac calculus tribe, the Thomas Alva magic light brigade, the Wilbur & Orville flying bicycle clan, the Henry T manufacturing crew, The Franklin bifocal group, the Whitney cotton crowd, and the Fulton steamboat folly league.

    Then the greatest scorn is reserved for the lack of Instantaneous Perfection. On July 3, 1776 the list of contempt was simply the acceptable standards of English law. Then come July 5, 1776 the founders are damned for their lack of Instantaneous Perfection.

    Thus President Washington could have accurately said he inherited the mess from George the Third. He did not. Washington went about the business of creating a nation. A practice continued by President Jefferson as he confronted the Barbary coast pirates and slavers. Following Tripoli Jefferson joined the British suppression of the international slave trade.

    Worse yet is morphing the self-evident truths that all men are created equal into the false idle of equality of outcome. Turning equal rights before the law and equal opportunity under the law on its head.

    The thinking of the equal stuff crowd would logically question why not one NBA team has a quadriplegic player. There ought to be a law. A supposition instantly rejected by John Callahan who trashed his body as a youth. Putting aside self pity and dependence Callahan seized opportunity. The equal outcome crowd demean beyond imagination those such as Callahan and Carl Brashear.

    Retired professor touched here the core of the issue when he said; > *If all government is simply “arbitrary”, if it is just “might makes right”, then there is no more justification, say, for the end of slave trading than there is for slave labor camps. That’s a kind of nihilism.

    Instead of just sneering, why don’t you learn how people throughout history have come to the conclusion that there are either God-given rights or natural rights. If you don’t want to start with religious thinkers, try some natural law thinkers.*

    • valley p

      “There can be no better validation of Portland having lost its way than the comments above”

      There had better be for your sake, because I don’t live in Portland.

      “For the record the proper phrase is QUOTE the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God UNQUOTE.”

      Well that certainly makes a difference. What difference? I don’t know. What God can there be other than Nature’s God? What is there other than nature?

      “The sneer assures us that Humans are tribal and clan dependent animals.”

      No John. A few hundred thousand years of human history assure us of that. Humans are not solitary creatures like mountain lions or hummingbirds. Never have been and never will be. Hermits die alone in caves with no offspring.

      “Yet confidently and loudly we are berated that humans are mere clans,”

      Mere? Did I say mere? Nope. I didn’t say mere. Did I compare us to cows? Nope again. But nice straw man attempt. If it helps, try this on:

      *we humans are individuals living within social structures shaped by our long history as group dependent animals* .

      “Worse yet is morphing the self-evident truths that all men are created equal into the false idle of equality of outcome. Turning equal rights before the law and equal opportunity under the law on its head. ”

      Are you claiming that minoritie of all stripes, women, and gays have had equal “opportunity” or “rights” under the law since the constitution was written and adopted? You can’t be serious John.

      “Instead of just sneering, why don’t you learn how people throughout history have come to the conclusion that there are either God-given rights or natural rights. If you don’t want to start with religious thinkers, try some natural law thinkers.”

      I’m familiar with the claim. I just don’t buy it, nor do I “sneer” at it. If there were any God given natural rights they would have manifested themselves a long time before the founding rich white guys discovered them. Our rights are decided on and secured by ourselves, that is people who proclaim those rights, fight for them, and then put laws in place to protect them. God is nowhere in the picture (as far as I can see), and nature does not give a rip about us one way or the other. People can claim or rationalize otherwise. The historical evidence is overwhelmingly against. Freedoms are earned inch by bloody inch. They are not given.

      You do realize John, that by referring to my arguments as nothing more than “a sneer,” that you are engaged in a poison the well logic game? Of course you do. I mean how can anyone find anything a mere “sneer” says as having any use?

    • valley p

      I forgot to add….who is it exactly who has the pipeline into what “Natures God” thinks are human freedoms? Who received the memo? John from Oregon? Thomas Sowell? Thomas Jefferson? Or is claiming some mandate from God simply a way to legitimize one’s personal beliefs or opinions?

      As a committed agnostic, I’m real skeptical when anybody claims something came from God.

  • John in Oregon

    Lets start with probably the most important thing you said. > *You do realize John, that by referring to my arguments as nothing more than “a sneer,” that you are engaged in a poison the well logic game? Of course you do. I mean how can anyone find anything a mere “sneer” says as having any use?*

    Honestly, that is one possibility. The other possibility is that you were in fact sneering. Shall we attempt to ascertain which? Yes, we shall.

    First the misquote. It wasn’t a simple misspelling, typo or word transposition, nothing like that. You simply jumbled together some words without an understanding of the meaning. That indicates you really have no understanding of the concept, natural law, the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, which you simply dismiss.

    Next you make an assertion that the founders reliance on the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God is faulty because humans are clan dependent animals. Thus you make a minimalist refutation of the founders position. That’s fine, except that you are using natural law, your claim of clan dependence, to refute the natural law employed in the declaration.

    Its not just that you don’t understand the concept of Natural Law, but that also you don’t care. Consider my quote of Retired University Prof. You noticed he also used the word sneer, blew past it being a quote and attributed the quote to me.

    That’s dismissal without considering the merits of a subject. Sneer would be a fair word to use.

    There is something more

    The founders had a great deal of knowledge to draw upon. Insight in fields such as natural law, economics, politics, human thought and religious thinking. They took a leap in understanding across a broad swath.

    The concept that rights attach to the individual and not an authority, group or some construct called government is just one.

    I am mystified that you choose to attach rights to the group as that is antithetical to your desire for freedom. To that end support of authoritarian top down despotic government is illogical.

    • valley p

      “That indicates you really have no understanding of the concept, natural law, the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, which you simply dismiss.”

      I understand the concept very well and I, along with a whole lot of philosophers and anthropologists, dismiss it as wishful thinking with no basis in human history or biology. Its a theological construct. To accept it you have to (a) believe there is a God who (b) has laid down rules for human behavior and (c) happens to agree with those proposing any particular “natural” law. As an agnostic, I think a and b are possible, but not proven. I think c is a real stretch and mighty problematic when you consider the number of competing religions who all think they have a direct pipeline to what God thinks and wants of us.

      “Its not just that you don’t understand the concept of Natural Law, but that also you don’t care.”

      Oh, I care all right. If such laws existed I would want to know about them. And I certainly want to know who is claiming such laws exist, what their evidence is, and how this happens to line up with their political agenda. Having God on your side has got to be helpful no?

      “I am mystified that you choose to attach rights to the group as that is antithetical to your desire for freedom.”

      Laws are passed and constitutions written to protect both individuals from the group, and groups from individuals. Its not one or the other. Individual freedom is pretty meaningless in a non functioning society. It would be Hobbesian.

      “To that end support of authoritarian top down despotic government is illogical. ”

      So who is arguing that point?

  • John in Oregon

    VP you say . *I understand the concept [natural law] very well*

    No.

    You don’t.

    You have a nice knee jerk. As demonstrated by your comments such as > *To accept it you have to (a) believe there is a God who* and > *religions who all think they have a direct pipeline to what God* and > *Having God on your side has got to be helpful no?* .There are more, many more.

    Natural law has its roots in ancient Greek thought. It is a discipline independent of and pre-dating Christian theology. Religious thinkers found natural law compatible with religious thought as natural law is that which is knowable by human beings by means of their powers of reason.

    John Locke and Adam Smith observed natural law. Neither were religious thinkers.

    Governor William Bradford chose natural law over religious agreement to the betterment of Plymouth colony.

    My interest in natural law has been the era of Locke and Smith. So I sought out Jonathan Dolhenty for a succinct descriptive statement of natural law. Emphasis mine.

    ‘What do we mean by “natural law”? In its simplest definition, natural law is that “unwritten law” that is more or less the same for everyone everywhere. To be more exact, natural law is the concept of a body of moral principles that is common to all humankind and, as generally posited, is recognizable by human reason alone. Natural law is therefore distinguished from — and provides a standard for — positive law, the formal legal enactments of a particular society.’

    ‘During the 19th century natural law theory lost influence as *utilitarianism* and Benthamism, *positivism, materialism,* and the historical school of jurisprudence became dominant. In the 20th century, however, natural law theory has received new attention, partly in reaction to *the rise of totalitarianism* and an increased interest in human rights throughout the world.’

    Given that King George based his authority on the divine right of kings, anyone should quite easily understand why the founders insisted that rights were given to the people by God and not by Government.

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