eminent domain

Assessing blame for water price

Published in the Monterey Herald – July 31, 2017

Assessing blame for water price

By Lawrence Samuels

Special to the Herald

      A report from the Food and Water Watch has Cal Am water rates as the most expensive in the nation. Maybe. But who is really responsible for the high rates?

      The story began with a 1995 proposed dam in upper Carmel Valley. The dam would have been the lowest-cost alternative since the fresh water is already free, naturally. Moreover, the dam would let the river flow during the dry summer months to accommodate the steelhead salmon, red-legged frog and other important species. Easy peezy. But no, the radical environmentalists said that a desalt plant would be better, although far more expensive. The dam was voted down. The cost of water seemed to be unimportant.

     When the dam was no longer politically viable, the radical environmentalists changed their tune. No, the desalt plant would not do. As for the temporary government agency—the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District (MPWMD), explicitly organized to resolve our water problems—they seemed impotent to do much of anything. After spending around $100 to $150 million dollars to find a new water source, there was little to show. In fact, the taxpayers’ money spent by MPWMD would have provided the lion’s share of the funds to build a dam. Ironic.

     Other alternatives to provide water got the attention of Clint Eastwood, who offered to donate a large parcel of land for a reservoir near Carmel River in early 1990, a project called the Cañada Reservoir Project, which most people wholeheartedly supported. That is, almost everyone except the MPWMD that had elected a number of radical environmentalists who opposed the lower-costing water gift. The project died. Apparently, cost was again no object.

     It took the local city mayors’ Monterey Regional Water Authority to get a desalt plant off the ground after almost 25 years of do-nothing. But here again, the radical environmentalists sued, obstructed, and delayed in every possible way to stop the desalt plant. This pattern only increased water rates. And even if Cal Am had been a public entity, the water rates would be still be high, since the State’s court order forced the water provider to get customers to use less water, thereby making the production of water more expensive per gallon.

     So, what is the game plan of the radical environmentalists? We know they don’t like water because it might inspire some growth, despite the harsh restrictions against building anything in Monterey County. Maybe they simply want to show their political muscles by actually stealing the water company before they eminent-domain whole neighborhoods into wildlands, returning Monterey to its pre-Columbian days. But that would bring up another problem; water would be fairly cheap then, and the make-water-expensive crowd could never allow that.

     Lawrence Samuels is author of the 2013 book, “In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action.” He lives in Carmel Valley.

Using eminent domain against Cal Am is like stealing

Published in the Monterey Herald, June 29, 2017

Guest Commentary

Using eminent domain against Cal Am is like stealing

By Lawrence Samuels

In an effort to expand the government sector, Public Water Now not only advocates a buyout of California American Water, but if the water company refuses to sell, an expropriation of their business. This ideology of stealing has an ugly history that few people today would publicly support.

The story begins with Willian Lloyd Garrison, leader of the American Abolitionist movement that eventually led to the demise of slavery. Garrison was famous for labeling slavery “manstealing,” a word that connected enslaved labor with a type of stealing. At the time, most Americans saw stealing as morally wrong, so Garrison’s association of slavery with stealing was a powerful argument against the theft of a man’s time, life and assets. So, in this sense, the ballot measure proposed by the pro-eminent domain ideologues to forcibly seize Cal Am, is reminiscent of antebellum slavery.

Garrison was also a proponent of “self-ownership,” meaning that people owned themselves and therefore cannot be stolen and enslaved. He worried that if government itself attained the authority to legally steal, it could take anything by force. Government law had already given private citizens that power, but if government itself engaged in such authority, to legally steal people and their belongings, another kind of enslavement would rise. John Locke had earlier addressed this issue, warning that without private property rights the individual had no rights whatsoever.

There were numerous ideologies in the 20th century that opposed classical liberalism by promoting stealing in the name of community good; plundering nations and minorities. In fact, these collectivists from the 1920s-1940s believed that the state could take anything from anybody, even their labor. One such social justice militant in 1920 Germany demanded the “nationalization of trusts” (corporations) and “the common good before the individual good.”

Of course, the pro-stealing cohorts don’t like being victims of stealing themselves. They would rather be the stealer, not the stealee. So, to avert this dilemma, they seek political dominance with the muscle to impose their brand of utopia upon society.

Nonetheless, one could argue that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander? If stealing becomes acceptable, should we eminent domain Public Water Now supporters, confiscate their homes and bank accounts for the common good, bulldoze their buildings for public parks? Wouldn’t this be the appropriate karma?

But alas, this scenario would lead to a kleptomaniac society where nobody owned anything and the bigger the brute the greater his violent plunder. Fortunately, America was founded on the idea of equal treatment for everyone, which would include the owners of Cal Am. That should be the focus of Public Water Now, not its political demand to steal from others.

Lawrence Samuels is author of the 2013 book, “In Defense of Chaos: The Chaology of Politics, Economics and Human Action.” He lives in Carmel Valley.