Snowbird, American Fork Canyon, and Property Rights

It’s now common knowledge in northern Utah County: Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort wants to develop property it owns in American Fork Canyon, over the ridge from the existing resort. Setting aside the controversy over who wasn’t involved or informed as this plan was developed, it comes down to a question of property rights – as so many local issues do.

Mineral-Basin-American-Fork-Canyon

According to this recent Fox13 News story, Bob Bonar, President of Snowbird, asserts that Snowbird’s plan is within the rights of the property owner.

This is still the United States of America, after all, where we acknowledge and protect fundamental rights. Property rights are among these; we speak of them in the same breath with life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and freedoms of speech and religion.

On its face, it might seem simple. Snowbird owns the land, and property rights belong to the owner. That should settle the question, right? Can’t we just dismiss any opposition as grouchy politics, or as acronymic, nuisance sentimentality in a league with NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), NOTE (Not Over There Either), BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything), or NOPE (Not On Planet Earth)?

Actually, it’s not that simple. (You saw this coming, right?) Land ownership doesn’t settle the question legally or philosophically. Let’s talk about why.

The Post I Never Finished Last Year (Updated)

For me 2015 was, among other things, a year in which I didn’t blog as much as I hoped to, and didn’t finish some of the writing I started.

I’m trying to avoid that this year, in part by scaling back my expectations, but also by doing a little better outside of election season. There are things other than politics and government about which I want to write — am writing — elsewhere, but these things matter too.

I have fragments of an unpublished post from last year in which I predicted some things for the coming year. I thought it might be interesting to look back, forward, and around on the same topics one year later.

Constitution Day: A Big Deal

US ConstitutionHappy Constitution Day!

228 years ago today, the 1787 Constitutional Convention finished its work and formally sent its proposed Constitution of the United States of America to the states for ratification. It was a pivotal day (and then some) for the United States, but also for the world.

Granted, the Founders each brought large, vigorous bundles of competing interests to the convention. Granted, they were imperfect on many levels, as mortals tend to be. Granted, some of them owned slaves, and the rest of them were (just barely) willing to defer that problem as the price of having a functioning government at all. Granted — and inevitably — their work was imperfect, incomplete. That’s why they established a mechanism for amending it. But their compromise of compromises was the best they could do under the circumstances. It was the best we have ever done. They gave us a flawed, tempestuous republic which survives to this day.

David’s Handy Little Election Guide (Updated)

[Note: I have updated this post since writing it, mostly with links to later posts about races and issues considered here — and three proposed state constitutional amendments I didn’t realize were on the ballot.]

In keeping with my long-established (but not perfectly consistent) tradition at LocalCommentary.com, my little election guide considers the races that are on my own ballot, and few if any others. So the interest is localized. As the man said, all politics is local.

This post includes notes, numerous links (mostly to candidate web sites), and my own commentary.

Early Voting

Early voting starts tomorrow in Utah. Fellow American Forkers may vote early at the American Fork library. Utah.gov lists early voting days, hours, and additional locations.

My Votes

Usually, I analyze candidates and issues, do some Q&A with candidates, and toss my opinions around for weeks or months. I generally report on meet-the-candidates events in considerable detail. Then, a day or two before Election Day, I list my votes, if I list them at all.

It’s an unusual year for me. I haven’t heard of a meet-the-candidates event in American Fork, which disappoints me. And I’m telling you my votes at the beginning of my (foreshortened) writing cycle this year. I’ll add more detailed treatment of some candidates and issues as time permits, between now and Election Day.

The Importance of Not Being Unified

Author's Note

Political Differences

Political differences are not sins or any other species of moral failure. Political differences are not treason. We don’t fight political differences with fire, literal or otherwise, even if they run to philosophy and first principles. We don’t address them by calling large groups of people racists, socialists, morons, or extremists. Political differences are highly heat-resistant, but only moderately light-resistant, so we address them with persuasion and reason — and with patience. To be sure, we learn very quickly to expect far less than complete success in doing so.

That’s probably okay. We need political differences. We respect them. We learn from them. We embrace them. But these days, I’m afraid, it would be an improvement if we would all just tolerate them with civility and equanimity.

Somehow, all that relates to the following.

Marilynne Robinson: Capitalism or Freedom?

From Marilynne Robinson, When I Was a Child I Read Books (New York: Picador –Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)

Having just quoted Walt Whitman, she writes:

We now live in a political environment characterized by wolfishness and filled with blather. We have the passive pious, who feel they have proved their moral refinement in declaring the whole enterprise bankrupt, and we have the active pious, who agree with them, with the difference that they see some hope in a hastily arranged liquidation of cultural assets. (x)

The key words at the end are “the secondary consequences of the progress of freedom” (my italics) . . .

I know that there are numberless acts of generosity, moral as well as material, carried out among [America’s] people every hour of the day. But the language of public life has lost the character of generosity, and the largeness of spirit that has created and supported the best of our institutions and brought reform to the worst of them has been erased out of historical memory. On both sides the sole motive force in our past is now said to have been capitalism. On both sides capitalism is understood as grasping materialism that has somehow or other yielded the comforts and liberties of modern life. . . .

What if good institutions were in fact the product of good intentions? What if the cynicism that is supposed to be rigor and the acquisitiveness that is supposed to be realism are making us forget the origins of the greatness we lay claim to — power and wealth as secondary consequences of the progress of freedom? (xiv-xv, italics added)

(The link above is to the book at my Amazon store, where purchases support this site. However, libraries and fine local bookstores are also wonderful things. The chief thing is to read.)

Read Mike Lee’s Speech

In August 2009 I first heard Mike Lee speak; this was before he declared himself a candidate for US Senate. My blog post about the experience was entitled, “I Think I Found a Great Candidate.” I’ve thought this before, and I’ve probably said this before, but . . .

I told you so.

At the same time, I was in the middle of publishing three lengthy essays on freedom in America. The second was entitled, “I Am a Tocqueville Conservative.” (I’ve lately republished those posts here at Freedom Habit.com.) The connections here are not obvious, but if you read my Tocqueville piece, then read this recent speech by Mike Lee, you’ll see why I liked him so much in the beginning, to say nothing of now. And you might think he is a Tocqueville conservative.

His speech is important. Even if you don’t read anything of mine, read his speech. Please.

(This speech got a bit of attention in The Washington Post. See also Holly Richardson’s recent piece on “Senator Mike Lee’s Impressive Turnaround.”)

 

Recommended Small, Daily Doses

Books

Many books make sense, more or less, if you read them in small pieces, day after day. Some don’t. Here are some books that are particularly well suited to brief, daily reading.

Audio

A valuable companion to Reagan, In His Own Hand is Reagan in His Own Voice, which features audio recordings of dozens of his radio spots, with some commentary for context. This lives on my iPod and brings back memories of many early mornings in my youth.

(Links here are to my Amazon store. Purchases support this site.)

Do you have favorite daily doses?

Essential Books on the US Constitution (Founding)

(Last updated 25 September 2104.)

Many of these books are slow going, but they can be very rewarding. And they’re pretty much essential, if you want to be solidly grounded in a free nation’s founding principles and essential institutions.

The Federalist (or The Federalist Papers) by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay

This collection of newspaper columns is the book most other books on the US Constitution quote. I suggest that, if you’re disinclined to read the whole book at once, you simply skip the ones that don’t sound interesting.

Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 by James Madison

Instead of sitting with the Virginia delegation, James Madison sat near the front of the hall, so he could hear everything and take these notes. You could read this cover to cover, but I use it for reference, to look up discussion on issues and constitutional provisions I’m studying.

Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville

Writing in the mid-1830s, Tocqueville explores not just government, but American society, as well. He explains how Americans were able to become and stay free, and foretells major threats to our freedom with uncanny prescience.

Cheese, Sunroof, Freedom

Author's Note

This is the third in a three-part series of essays on freedom in America. The first was entitled, “The Gulf Which Divides Us.” The second was “I Am a Tocqueville Conservative.”

Cheese, Sunroof, Freedom

In a fit of dietary decadence a few weeks ago, I went to a Wendy’s drive-through and ordered a “single.” The Voice asked, “Would you like cheese on that?” I declined. I like cheese and cheeseburgers well enough, but I didn’t want to pay the extra quarter or whatever.

A couple of years ago I bought a well-used Honda Accord EX, which has a slightly peppier engine than the base model. It also has a sunroof. I wasn’t specifically shopping for an EX; that’s just what there was. The sunroof is fun, but I wouldn’t have chosen it as option at additional cost.

Freedom is like cheese and sunroofs. (I wonder if that sentence has ever been written in English before.) All else being equal, almost everyone loves freedom — and cheese and sunroofs, I suppose — but only some people are willing to pay any significant price for it.

You may have beaten me to two points. First, the word freedom is attached to so many concepts, including some which are mutually contradictory, that there’s little point it discussing it without a clear, specific definition of what it means in the present context. Second, when was “all else” ever equal?