Principles and Public Policy - Six Misconceptions Set Right for the Record by Richard Reid
Common misconceptions reappear during campaign season. They often persuade voters to vote against their best interest. If you are tired of the same old half-truths here are some ideas for responding to them.
1. “Humans are more important than all other species”
There is a common misconception that, of all plants and animals on earth, humans are the most important. In other words, it doesn’t matter if we routinely wipe out plant and animal habitat.
Of course we do have the right to use natural resources for our survival as long as we understand that natural resources restock on their own schedule. When our population and consumption grow faster than natural resources can supply us, we suffer the consequences. What makes us important compared to other species is our unique ability to conserve natural resources and delay some consequences.
2. “Saving the environment costs jobs”
Many resist conserving natural resources claiming that conservation limits job growth. They forget that the job market, like all markets, cycles through booms and busts. Jobs in the buggy whip industry were lost just as jobs in the automobile industry were opening up. Today we’re losing jobs in the auto industry just as jobs in the “green” economy are coming online.
3. “Let states decide what to do about endangered species”
Our green economic future depends on our ability to conserve natural resources and protect species. Some want to ignore the Endangered Species Act and let individual states protect species. When endangered species don’t cross state lines, these people think the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution shouldn’t apply. Everyone knows the web of life isn’t restricted to political boundaries. That’s why protecting species is a global concern.
4. “Leave the free market alone”
According to some, the free market is natural and amoral. They insist the market works best when it is left alone. Some even try to tie government’s hands by deregulating the market. Others hate playing by the rules so they will steal retirement funds, defraud investors, market unsafe products and poison where we live. When it is free to do so, government levels the playing field and keeps “bad apples” out of our market.
5. “When government restricts land ownership, government should pay landowners”
Some believe that restricting real estate development is like taking wealth from a property owner. To keep the playing field level, a property owner should give back some of the increase when government action increases land value. That’s the “give and take” of the market.
6. “This land is my land, I can do what I want with it”
Even though there’s no product like land, many people assume the free market applies to real estate. Land is vital to everyone’s survival but no one can make more land or move it where they want. Civilization depends on land for growth, safety and security. Because our lives depend on land we need to keep land safe from abuse and we need reliable access to land for the common good. That’s why we have laws prohibiting land abuse and why we have eminent domain.
Next time you hear one of these misconceptions consider the harm they cause and set the speaker straight.
Richard “still an optimist” Reid lives in Salem, and continues after decades of sustained work to have a great sense of humor and believe that our actions in this world make a difference. He can be reached at: [email protected]