Thursday, May 31, 2007

An Allergy to Freedom (UPDATE, June 1)

The view from Sunriver,
a beautiful Oregon community where, at present, the police can only deal with actual threats to life and property. Kind-hearted folks in the State Legislature are working at this very minute to change that.

You need to buckle up your kids!” a shrill, insistent voice commanded from across the parking lot. “It is the law, you know.”

My patience already whittled down to a stub following a typically exhausting shopping excursion (a fairly major undertaking, since five small children were involved), I fixed my tormentor with a theatrically polite smile. She seemed like a pleasant enough middle-class mother, apart from the look of smug civic rectitude radiating from her face.

Why, thank you for that reminder, deputy,” I called out before planting myself in the driver's seat of our mini-van and driving off. I neither buckled in our kids, nor checked for a reaction from the Dutiful Pillar Of Law And Order who had issued the rebuke.

Although Oregon – where this encounter occurred – has a “primary” seatbelt law, I didn't have to buckle up, nor did any of the passengers, while we were in the parking lot: Only those driving on “highways” (a category including any public street) are required to wear seat belts under threat of a citation. This will quite possibly change soon in Oregon, in large measure because of the kind of reflexive, freedom-aversive conformity displayed by the moral tutor I encountered in the parking lot.

Working its evil way through the Oregon legislature right now is a measure, House Bill 3445, which would end a promising experiment in civic liberty just as it threatens to become interesting. Two Oregon resort towns – Sunriver and Black Butte Ranch – are currently free of the plague of modern traffic enforcement.

Police in those towns are presently forbidden to detain and cite drivers who commit trivial violations of minor traffic laws. They retain the power to arrest those who are caught endangering others through reckless driving, of course. But in those two Oregon towns, the police can't stop a driver or issue a ticket for committing any of the malum prohibitum-type infractions on which so many municipal departments thrive. And it's driving them crazy.

No seatbelt? No citation. No tail light? No ticket. In too much of a hurry? Not to worry,” summarized a March 3 AP dispatch from Sunriver. “Sgt. P.J. Beaty watches people in this upscale development breaking traffic laws, and sees plenty of them. But he can't pull them over. A man swerved head-on into Beaty's lane, and then back out again and Beaty couldn't law a glove on him.”

Last winter, a dispute flared up between the Sunriver Owners Association, the de facto government of the 2,000 resident vacation community, and the Sunriver Service District, which governs the police and fire department, over the status of Sunriver's roads, which are considered private but open to the public. In February, the Service District ordered police to consider the roads exempt from minor vehicle infractions.

As a result, the Sunriver Police “can only stop drivers for what the state [of Oregon] calls traffic crimes, such as drunken or reckless driving” and they have removed their radar units from their patrol cars.

In Black Ranch, which is also governed by a private homeowners association, police officers do enforce minor traffic laws, but they can only issue “ranch citations” which do not appear on an individual driving record.

It is important to recognize that the police in both villages were not impeded in any way from dealing with situations in which a depraved person turns his automobile into an instrument of mayhem. They were simply forbidden to stop people for anything less than behavior that directly threatened the lives, persons, and property of those living in the community.

There's not been any rampant crime here,” Sunriver resident Susan Lawson told me. Lawson, who works for the Sunriver Scene, the publication of the Sun River Owners Association, pointed out that many critics of the police restrictions believed that the village would quickly become a haven for drag racers and other maniacal motorists. She dismissed those concerns with a quiet chuckle.

If you know Sunriver's roads, you'd know this was impossible,” she related. “They're curvy and lined with trees. There are deer everywhere. And we have roundabouts, or traffic circles, at several locations, So it's not as if the city is laid out to encourage drag-racing.”

All the panic over the situation was completely unwarranted,” Lawson continued. “The police haven't gone away, and they can certainly intervene where someone is endangering others. They're still on patrol, and if someone were robbing the mini-mart up the road the police would obviously have the power to arrest the suspect. The police are simply not permitted to enforce a very small number – it's either six or eight – of laws dealing with minor traffic infractions, because our roads are the equivalent of private property.”

And the problem with this is...?

If the police are restricted to dealing only with legitimate threats to life, person, and property, what's the emergency? Why are Sunriver civic leaders so anxious to change (.pdf) this uniquely attractive status quo?

HB 3445 (.pdf), which was sponsored by Republican (natch) state representative Gene Whisnant, treats Sunriver's situation as an emergency. It would expand the definition of highways to include “every public way ... and place ... within the boundaries of this state, open, used, or intended for use of the general public for vehicles or vehicular traffic as a matter of right,” including “premises open to the public that are owned by a homeowners association....”

One all but inevitable side-effect of this law, by my reading, would be the application of traffic laws to private roads and parking spaces; indeed, Oregon State Police Lt. Carl Rhodes used the example of “a supermarket parking lot” to describe the present status of Sunriver's roads. So it's entirely reasonable to believe that once the measure is passed, revenue-leeching Oregon police will have the power to cite drivers who fail to buckle up before pulling out of a parking space in front of a supermarket. Which would meet with the approval of the sweet lady referred to above.

Whozat? Whisnant -- Eugene Whisnant, Sunriver's representative in the Oregon State Legislature.

Whisnant and co-sponsor Rep. John Dallum have called for that measure to be amended with an emergency clause implementing its provisions immediately.

Once again I must ask: If everything in Sunriver is, as Susan Lawson (a supporter of HB 3445) told me, “really quiet” in Sunriver, what's the rush to change things?

One oft-stated concern is the fact that the town's population often expands from 2,000 to 10,000 or more during Summer tourist season. Is the assumption here a) that all of these people are looking for an excuse to run amok behind the wheel; or b) that many of those people would be frightened by the prospect of spending some time in a town where drivers enjoy a modicum of freedom from police harassment?

I suspect the genuine source of urgency here is found in the joint testimony offered by the Sunriver Service District and Owners Association to the Oregon legislature on April 12: “[The] change in enforcement has received wide-spread publicity, which has, unfortunately, affected Sunriver's reputation as a safe vacation destination.”

This is a version of option “b” -- fear that a “reputation” growing out of a little additional freedom might somehow act as a tourist repellent, despite the fact that Sunriver had somehow avoided descending into Hobbessian anarchy after the police were put on a shorter leash.

Perhaps this is a correct assessment of the public Sunriver is trying to attract. Maybe the termagant from my parking lot encounter is entirely representative of contemporary Americans – people who have come to believe that safety is the divine State's gift to its dutiful subjects, who seek the comforting embrace of obedient conformity.

In any case, this episode offers a small illustration of the process through which tiny but promising eruptions of freedom are quickly suppressed.


In a very pleasant phone conversation, Rep. Whisnant explained to me that his intention was to craft a bill that would be "specific to Sunriver and Black Butte Ranch," permitting the police in those particular villages "to enforce all of the state traffic laws," and that he didn't believe it would apply to other private roads and parking spaces.

This is certainly true of the second sentence of the brief measure, which focuses on "premises open to the public that are owned by a homeowners association" -- which describes Sunriver and Black Butte Ranch. However, the first sentence just as clearly offers the broad and inclusive definition of "highway" referred to above. When I asked Rep. Whisnant about this, he said that this was "boilerplate info inserted into the bill by lawyers" -- which is where trouble of the sort I'm anticipating often begins, of course.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Whisnant married a fourth-generation Oregonian and moved to The Beaver State following retirement.

While he seems to be on amicable terms with most of his constituents, Whisnant knows that at least one former resident of his district isn't happy with HB 3445.

"Just this morning I heard a message from a friend of mine, a former mayor who now lives in Hawaii. He wasn't pleased with the bill," Whisnant told me. "He told me that my job `is to get rid of bills, not to move more of them through.' That's generally what I'd prefer to do, of course, but it seems that every session we end up with more [laws] than we began with."

A spartan new editon of Pro Libertate: the e-zine is now available at The Right Source.


dixiedog said...

Good grief, Will. I had to laugh when I read it. You mean you got coppers, who have nothing better to do than sitting all around parking lots in your neck o' the woods, squeakin' aloud about bucklin' up!?

Well, on second thought, I guess since there's only minuscule real crime in those remote areas and "post office"/resort towns, the coppers perhaps have nothing better to do?

Damn, don't you folk out West have any donut shops in the vicinity ;)? Perhaps, you need MORE of those out in those parts than we have and we have aplenty.

Yes, like virtually everywhere else, our coppers will ticket ya also for not buckling up and other minor infractions, but for the most part, they just don't loiter around private property searching for easy ticket fodder as you describe either.

It was interesting that Susan Lawson said everything is quite quaintly in the Sunriver area and "not any rampant crime," yet she supports the bill (HB 3445 you spoke of) before the Oregon legislature.

Huh? It's this kind of broken brain activity with folk who don't consider themselves retarded, of course, that is so troubling for the rest of us.

I know not ALL women are safety and security maniacs, men loathers, and government lovers; there's exceptions to every generalization. Even so, are women in general, as opposed to men in general, just more tyrannical-minded by nature? Perhaps, John Adams knew what he was talkin' about when he mentioned "tyranny of the petticoat" in conversations with his wife.

Anyway, whatever the reason for the incomprehensible thinking of Mrs. Lawson, and even though she's not a generic commoner so to speak, this thinking is nevertheless quite illustrative also of the same kind of oxymoronic mindset ingrained in the public at large as well.

William N. Grigg said...

D.D. -- Incomprehensible as it may seem, there are police in this part of the country who occasionally loiter outside Wal-Mart and other big box stores, lurking in the shadows like child molesters, waiting to snag people who leave the parking lot unbuckled. Ontario, Oregon is notorious for this kind of lurk-and-cite "law enforcement."

But bear in mind the fact that we have cops who have nothing better to do than run teenagers in for fist-fighting, or threatening inoffensive people with felonies because their pet dogs seem a little underweight.

And no, there ain't no donut shops 'round here, neither. I really should look into opening one, perhaps.

Captain Kirk said...


Tyranny of the petticoat...I got three names for you...Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi...and all from my state of residence...and all with the power to screw up areas of our country ( let's say like Florida) far and beyond California. Adams nailed this one on the head two centuries ago and yet most folks nowadays are oblivious to his observation. Did we all check our huevos at the door in order to allow these socialist-fascists in dresses (would that include Barney Frank too?) get away with all of the feel-good nanny laws that we're currently stuck with? BTW, I'm not a misogynist, I just don't care much for the three aforementioned individuals and their actions very much. Why do we put up with this?

Zach said...

Luckily, I'm an Oregon resident. I've written my state rep to ask him to vote no on this. I also implored him to work to get other reps to vote no. I recommend that any other OR residents reading do the same.

You can do so here:

Fred said...

D.D. beat me to it.......

The thought of someone being compensated by the tax payers to stalk parking lots while having the nads to open its mouth to release such an admonition is- well, I thought it was funny for about a half second.

Here I thought the fuzz way out West were the more old fashioned types, i.e. don't call unless you have a REAL problem.

Perhaps a Donut shop - or better yet - a Pro LiberLatte Coffee shop would be profitable in your neck of the woods. I'll give you six six months to move on it. Otherwise I'll register the name. This type of place would keep the bored parasites within sight (and within arm's reach) so they can be prevented from inflictng their good deeds on the citizenry.

You wouldn't see the REAL men very often sitting around sucking up free coffee in this type of place becuase they would be out looking for the crooks. Although they might stop in for a polite word or two, and insist on paying for their drinks.

William N. Grigg said...

Fred -- I sure wish I had the means to capitalize a venture bearing the artfully witty name you've conjured up! Thanks for the six month head start.

DrFix said...

Is that Sunriver rep for real? I mean, what was so wrong about things that he had to pull this stunt? It seems that the citizens should be hammering to remove him just as they were declawing their cops. Seems people aren't free to be anything but slaves.

Taylor said...

I got a kick out of a cop blatantly running a red light at 45mph (approx) at a busy local intersection the other day.

Setting a good example for us when they're not tasering us for minor infractions.

Jacob said...

I must have missed something. When did you move to Oregon? I thought you were in Idaho. Or Utah. Or are you on the border?

I'm confused.

William N. Grigg said...

Jacob, I'm still living in Payette, Idaho, which nestles up against the Snake River. Ontario, Oregon is just across the river (roughly 2-3 miles from here), and my family frequently makes cross-border runs to shop, since there is no sales tax in the People's Republic of Oregon. Confiscatory property taxes are assessed, and suffocating regulations abound, and the Nanny State commissars won't let you pump your own gas, but there's no sales tax because that would be "regressive."

We'll zip in, shop, and zip right back across the border. And every time we have Oregon in the rear-view I let out a Braveheart-style bellow, "FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEdommmmmmm!" followed immediately by the sheepish qualifying comment, "Well, in relative terms, anyway."

dixiedog said...

But bear in mind the fact that we have cops who have nothing better to do than run teenagers in for fist-fighting, or threatening inoffensive people with felonies because their pet dogs seem a little underweight.

What a sham(e). You know, like Fred said, I also thought those who lived in the West (except Californistan, naturally), especially the Pacific Northwest, were of the "rugged individualist" mold and those who always wanted to keep gubmint and its LE arm to a minimum.

Are a large portion of the local paladins and county mounties in Ontario and Malheur County, respectively, transplants from large regional metro areas? Say, Seattle or Portland?

The reason I ask is because I think our own general dearth of the above harassment citations may in due time be a thing of the past, if we get enough of these NYC transplants, I've seen, into all the local departments here. Gloucester County already has a sizeable number of deputies from the NYC metroplex area already.

Nearly all the training and attitudes they lived and worked by in the garrisoned urban jungle and nearby towns migrate with them down here.

If/when a city becomes a "metropolis" or a bone fide urban jungle, it seems to always become more liberal and progressive. By extension, because of the large population and with enough metro areas or metroplexes in a state or region, they also will end up shaping the politics and culture of the state or region.

This is another phenomenon I wish I had time to study in depth: Why is it that where a large gaggle of folk congregate and reside in high densities, the garrison mentality takes hold? The higher the density, the more statist-minded the folk seem to be.

dixiedog said...

..Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi...and all from my state of residence...and all with the power to screw up areas of our country ( let's say like Florida) far and beyond California.

That's not a surprise, CK, since most men or women, in power positions are a troublesome lot at best. However, I was speaking of just the basic generic commoner lot and how women within that lot seem to be more statist by nature than the men of that lot.

Of course, this brings up another point about how commoners decide the reality essentially. If you look at San Francisco area, those women you mentioned reflect the majority view (as regards politics, culture, and religion) of the public in that region. Kennedy likewise reflects the majority views of the Massachussetts public.

Otherwise, these folk wouldn't be voted in repeatedly by the people! What else could explain it?

dixiedog said...

Seems people aren't free to be anything but slaves.

The way I see it humanoids are not wired for freeeeeeeeeeeeedommmmmmmmmmmmm naturally and, for most of human history even to the present day, slavery of some sort is the status quo. Freedom and liberty are actually aberrations for the natural man, not slavery.

Jacob said...

"Freedom and liberty are actually aberrations for the natural man, not slavery."

I'd politely disagree with your Milton Friedman-esque view in that slavery isn't a natural thing in the animal world. Even the king of the jungle can be fled or killed without backup being called if you're another animal.

Humans have invented the unnecessary evil that is government. It most certainly did not come about naturally.

dixiedog said...

I'd politely disagree with your Milton Friedman-esque view in that slavery isn't a natural thing in the animal world. Even the king of the jungle can be fled or killed without backup being called if you're another animal.

We're not animals, but I appreciate the lesson, nonetheless. Simply "survival of the fittest" is the natural progress of things in the animal world. I suppose you knew that already, though.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain control." - Thomas Jefferson (emphasis mine)

He omits the original state of things here, but it's obviously implied, regardless of the state of things at any moment in time, that people are bent towards slavery. If you look throughout history, people have always been bent towards enslavement, perhaps not directly, and certainly not consciously, but by their desires, actions, and whims they nevertheless support it.

"Men rattle their chains to show that they are free." - old saw

Folk easily mistake genuine slavery for faux freedom.

Most folk are naturally risk-averse, especially to life and limb. But one must be willing to take risks to life and limb to be able to honestly claim they believe in true freeeeeeeeeeeeeedommmmmmmmmmmmm!
Humans have invented the unnecessary evil that is government. It most certainly did not come about naturally. contraire, government is a necessary "evil" because people are NOT inherently good as the modern mindset seems to like to portray.

Pure nonsense.

God ordained governments among men as well. Are you saying He is wrong for doing so? Again, how many times does it have to be said that government is composed of the SAME people that you mingle with everyday. It's a reflection of the community in question. The people who make up the ranks of government are not aliens from afar, but are the people with whom we associate in some fashion everyday.

Government in the abstract is not the problem. Again, governments were ordained by Jesus Himself. Ergo, people have to be governed totally, either mostly by self-control provided by the Holy Spirit and minimal external government as the Founders had in mind, OR totally by external human authorities who, being mere humans themselves, also are not inherently good.

Hence, this is why as we require more external government, because we're increasingly becoming incapable of self-government (as a snapshot of the post-Christian culture at any given moment will attest), we lose more and more genuine freedom and liberty.