Column on Tree Hugger Hypocrisy
Tree Hugger Hypocrisy
Tibor R. Machan
I live in Silverado Canyon, about 7 miles east of Irvine Lake in Orange County, California, and it is a very pleasant place except for the fact that there is a small group of residents who want to dominate the place with their personal life style. They are bent on imposing their private preferences and policies on everyone else without, however, footing the cost of doing so.
Like most canyon communities, Silverado Canyon, an unincorporated part of Orange County located on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest, is populated by a highly diverse group of residents. Rich and poor, professional and amateur, nature lover and hermit, and so forth, there are all kinds of people who live there. And most of them confine their influence to the region they rightfully occupy and for which they paid and keep paying good money. So long as they do not dump any harmful activities or their results on their neighbors, this is just as it should be.
By all rights and common sense, if I want to start managing my neighbors’ lands, I must buy it from them. I do not get to select the TV programs they watch, the garden they wish to cultivate, the stuff they store in their garage, etc., etc. unless I obtain permission from them. That is what property rights mean--you get to decide what you do with or to your property, not others around you unless you gave them permission to butt in.
But the people who are intent on forcing their ideas on everyone else in Silverado Canyon do not have any respect for human rights. One may wonder whether they also believe that women have no rights over their own bodies, or newspapers over the content of their editorials, or authors over the plots of their novels. It makes sense that if they think they are authorized to determine the use of my property in Silverad Canyon, they would also believe they are authorized to determine the use of whatever else is mine, including my body, my novel, my column, etc. I have to assume, then, that they pose a serious hazard to our freedom on all fronts since they believe others’ freedom to make use of their land is open to them to violate just because they feel like it.
Yes, sometimes one’s neighbors engage in undesirable activities on their property but unless this intrudes on others, violates other people’s rights, they must use friendly persuasion to dissuade them, not coercive force. At one time a neighbor of mine across the street from my home in Santa Barbara kept filling up his front yard with a lot of junk auto parts and I finally had enough, so I wrote to him, a friendly but pretty firm letter imploring him to clean up the mess. But I also acknowledged that the front yard belongs to him, not to me, so I need to ask his cooperation and not simply impose my will on him--maybe sneak over in the middle of the night and clear it of the mess on my own. I did not have this authority, not by any reasonable morality and certainly not by any just law. So I asked, implored, urged, and did not demand! And I did actually manage to convince my neighbor and the front yard got cleaned up in no time. And I expressed my sincere appreciation and we remained cordial neighbors for years thereafter.
Alas, the group in Silverado Canyon, members of which refer to themselves as Tree Huggers, does not possess the kind of civility that my Santa Barbara neighbor and I did. Instead of going through the proper process of buying up the land they wish to control or persuading their neighbors to fall in line with their plans, they just make use of all kinds of legal technicalities and pressures that circumvent the rights of their neighbors so as to get their way.
That is the method of an unruly mob, not of citizens of a free society. That is how barbarians behave, not people who have an awareness of the rights of their fellow human beings. And since they refuse to move away from the lands they wish to preserve, keep rural, they are rank hypocrites to boot.