The U.S. 2010 mid-term elections are now over, and many who are weary of political rhetoric are ready to take a few months off until the 2012 campaigns begin in earnest. At least that is the way I feel. That is, until I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by Michael Coffman, Ph.D.
Dr. Coffman was making his case as to why we really do not have any time “off” in the United States these days. With concepts he developed from his book, Rescuing a Broken America: Why America is Deeply Divided and How to Heal it Constitutionally, Dr. Coffman answers the often-asked question, “What can I do?”
In his discussion, Dr. Coffman deftly describes the division of world views in American society as the opposing philosophies of John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau. While Locke’s writings were used as the cornerstone of the Declaration of Independence, Rousseau’s writings produced the French Revolution and inspired the likes of Karl Marx and others.
According to Locke, the purpose of government is to “unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estate, which I call by the general name, property.” He used the term “property” as meaning sovereignty of one’s self and the right to personal well being that tangible property can bring. The term “Life, Liberty and Property” is used in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Rousseau saw “man as a malleable creature” to be molded by an enlightened government. Interestingly, he seeks to achieve this equality through a vague “socialist metaphysical concept” called the “general will.” The general will asserts the rights of the community are superior to the rights of the individual. Following the French Revolution in 1848, the country was headed toward a complete Rousseau-based socialism. In response, in 1850 Frederic Bastiat wrote The Law. Socialists, Bastiat wrote:
Desire to set themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate it according to their fancy… They think only of subjecting mankind to the philanthropic tyranny of their own social inventions. Like Rousseau, they desire to force mankind docilely to bear this yoke of the public welfare that they have dreamed up in their own imaginations. [Emphasis mine]
Bastiat could easily have written this in response to the state of affairs in America today. The path that has been set forth to place that yoke upon the people is to take away property rights.
While providing many examples of the effects of the federal government’s infringement on individual property rights, Dr. Coffman illustrates how the principle, applied through a series of misguided regulations beginning with the Community Re-investment Act of 1977, created the 2008 financial collapse.
Additionally, he explains the “plundering of America” with the perverted “rule of law.” By forcing people to adhere to the general will (as defined by the power brokers of government), the government becomes superior. Laws are then generated that: “convert plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it [converts] lawful defense [of life liberty and property] into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense…and treats the victims—when he defends himself—as a criminal.”
The onslaught of legislation generated in Washington D.C. between 2008 and 2010 is an indication of the intensity of Rousseau socialism in action. While thousands of individuals have been fighting for their own property rights with regards to eminent domain laws and the Environmental Protection Agency for decades, the two-year onslaught awakened a desire in a growing number of Americans to know what happened while they were busy living their lives.
Sadly, the perceived right to “plunder” the property of individuals has proven too much a temptation for members of either political party. Therefore, whoever is sent to Washington may speed up or slow down the progression, but the direction stays the same—at least at a federal level. However, Dr. Coffman outlines the process by which the local government has the power to force the federal government to obey its own laws using the “coordination process” to protect the local community.
Although few communities know about it, Congress has directed the federal agencies to coordinate with local government “because they recognize that local authority must be consulted and involved in the decision-making process above and before the public input process.” Essentially, many federal and state laws require federal and state agencies to work with local governments (on a government-to-government basis) in the negotiation process of projects.
For example, as long as the local governments remain ignorant of the law, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and radical environmental groups have been able to interfere with personal property rights (Dr. Coffman expands on many cases).
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) sets statutory coordination requirements and identifies the concerned entities in Title 42 §4331(a): “The Congress…declares that it is the continuing policy of the Federal Government, in cooperation with the state and local governments, and other concerned public and private organizations…” The first entities are governments and the second entities are private groups or citizens.
Further, §4331(b) requires the federal government to “coordinate federal plans, functions, programs and resources.” The coordination occurs between governments, not the public. In essence, this requirement allows state or local governments to block federal encroachment when the rights of the state or locality are in jeopardy. It also means the “public,” which includes environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), has no authority or standing to implement “plans, functions, programs and resources” in a manner binding on the affected citizens.
The Coordination Process
Attorney Kelly Grant is a key player in the discovery and development of the successful strategies of the coordination process. He points out the binding requirements of the two most-used culprits in usurping personal property rights: the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA).
According to Grant, Congress requires federal agencies to implement the coordination requirement as follows:
1. Keep apprised of state, local and tribal land use plans;
2. Assure that consideration is given to local plans when developing a federal plan, policy or management action;
3. Provide early notification (prior to public notice) to local government of development of any plan, policy or action;
4. Provide opportunity for meaningful input by local government into development of the plan, policy or action; and
5. Make all practical effort to resolve conflicts between federal and local policy, and reach consistency.
Success in the coordination process is possible when local communities, usually counties, take advantage of the opportunity to develop their own county plans within the framework of NEPA. The federal agency is then forced to adjust their plan to be consistent with the local plan.
Choosing representative government begins on the local level. These positions are the first defense against federal property grabs!
Next month, Part 2: “Moving Forward in Rescuing a Broken America.” Dr. Coffman’s briefing will be released on DVD soon. Watch our web store for details.