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Life in the Administrative State – Myopia Edition

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One of the things that happens when the state establishes a bureaucracy to deal with one thing is that the newly created bureaucracy forgets that it is a single piece of a bigger puzzle – it is not the beginning, the middle and the end.  For whatever reason they cannot seem to see outside of their purview.  And example would be the EPA regulating the military in a time of war.  The point of war is to, as is popularly said, “break things and kill people.”  The very purpose of war is destruction, NOT conservation.  And yet when Saddam Hussein set fire to all those Kuwaiti oil wells, all we heard about was the environmental damage.  Yes there was environmental damage, but it was an act of war, an attempt to destroy the economy of the region.  It seems like the news is full lately of this kind of myopic nonsense.

For example, the border wall is a fight about national security and the flow of illegal substances into the country.  And yet:

A Customs and Border Protection policy says the agency “will integrate environmental stewardship and sustainability practices into operations and activities.” But Congress has given the agency the power to waive environmental protections like the Endangered Species Act. Such laws could require the government to produce an in-depth environmental impact analysis of a new project, develop less-damaging alternatives and perform environmental monitoring after construction.

A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection was unavailable because of the partial government shutdown, a result of the political standoff over funding for the wall.

An article published last year in the journal Bioscience, which has been signed by more than 2,900 scientists, said the administration’s plan would “threaten some of the continent’s most biologically diverse regions” by blocking free movement of many species and contributing to flooding. More than 1,500 native animal and plant species would be affected by the wall, the paper said, including 62 listed as endangered or vulnerable.

Honestly – are we to let possible terrorists cross the border at will and fentanyl continue to kill our citizens by the thousands in order to protect the “free movement” of some desert rat?  At least when they put all those people out of work in California’s Central Valley over a “Delta Smelt” no one died.

Then there is the war on plastic, being waged most heavily in Europe, but picking up steam here.  I love this:

Glass soda bottles could be worse for the environment than plastic, the world’s biggest drinks manufacturer has warned, as the UK’s anti-plastic drive has seen more glass bottles sold.

Coca Cola said it had seen a 14 per cent increase in the distribution of glass bottles over the past year, which are increasingly seen as a trendy and more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic bottles.

But despite this common view, a spokesman for Coca Cola warned that glass may not be less damaging to the environment than plastic, as it is much heavier, and therefore has a much larger carbon footprint.  Carbon is one of the gasses which scientists have found to be behind global warming.

Coke is absolutely right about that – it requires very high temperatures to make or recycle glass.  That means burning something and that means carbon emissions.  But what really gets to me is that the problem is not what something is made of, glass, plastic, etc. – it’s how it is disposed of.  Plastic is not the issue – litter is the issue.  What problem there is here, and it is less than the press would lead you to believe, is a human behavior problem.  But no, people get focused on a patch of floating plastic in the ocean, and nothing else, not even their precious global warming, matters.  Maybe myopia is a bad analogy – made it’s some sort of weird OCD?

But this story takes the cake:

A conservation officer from Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment staged an undercover investigation that has been used to prove a Cree Frist Nations man illegally sold fish he’d retrieved from a lake by his home.

In the end, the sting operation caught the man earning all of $90.

What is not mentioned in that quote is that the investigation lasted 16 months.  In other words, the Saskatchewan government spent tens of thousands of Canadian dollars to catch a petty crime.  Not the first time I have seen a story like this. Some years ago a criminal defense attorney asked me to review the evidence against his client, accumulated by a California environmental agency, to see if that agency had messed up somehow.  Well, they had not, the client was guilty.  What was stunning was the mountain of evidence. I cannot, for obvious reasons, go into detail here, but as environmental crimes go, this was a minor thing.  The environment was never actually damaged.  Some paperwork was not properly filed and some very minimally hazardous waste was stored (safely) rather than properly disposed of.  This crime was something that I would bet every reader of this post has committed in their own home at some point in their life.  Yet the state of California saw fit to dispatch not one, but two, “agents’ to an out-of-state location for weeks.  Further, the “perp” was tailed in-state for months.  Can you imagine the cost?

At some point the myopia becomes simply an enormous waste of taxpayer money.  The cost of “fighting” the problem exceeds the benefit society obtains by regulating the activity to begin with.  But, just like a business, an agency has to grow to thrive and that mean new and expanding regulation and new and expanding enforcement even when it is not really called for or justified.  This, dear friends, is the truest example of “too big to fail.”  If a company tries to grow when their is no economic justification for that growth it fails.  But not our government agencies – they grow and grow and grow.

But then that’s the difference between healthy tissue and cancerous tissue.  Healthy tissue dies when its job is done.  Cancerous tissue grows and grows and grows.


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