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October 30, 2007
'Cycle of Dependency'
Thomas Sowell is a national treasure, a genuine intellectual who has a knack of being able to write about complex issues without talking down to people or making himself incomprehensible.
His column today is a gem and well worth reading: "Cycle of Dependency" - and he uses the wildfires out in California to hammer home his thesis that when people depend on government to get them out of trouble of their own making or when government skews the free market in order to solve a "problem, chances are they simply create more problems for government to solve:
Now that politicians have created this mess, they are ready to play heroes riding to the rescue. Sowell blames environmental extremists for never being satisfied with enough open spaces despite the clear fire danger involved. And the greens can get away with it because they know any fires that break out will be put out by government and any damage caused to property will be rebuilt with government assistance.
As for the flames sweeping across southern California, tragic as that is, this has happened time and again before — in the very same places in the very same time of year, just like hurricanes. Why would people risk building million-dollar homes in the known paths of wildfires?
For the same reason that people choose to live in the known paths of hurricanes. Because the government — that is, the taxpayers — will get stuck with a lot of the costs of dealing with those dangers and the costs of rebuilding.
Why is there such a huge amount of inflammable vegetation over such a wide area that fires can reach unstoppable proportions by the time they get to places where people live? Because “open space” has become a political sacred cow beyond rational discussion.
The same severe government restrictions on building that drive home prices sky high also lead to vast areas with nothing but trees and bushes. Where it doesn’t rain for months, that’s dangerous.
It's enough to make your blood boil. And thanks to Sowell's clear and cogent arguments for free market solutions to the problem, there is something that we can advocate doing about it.