Educate and inform the general public on the true cost of regulations and on property rights issues.
In the familiar quote, "Widespread defiance of a bad law leads to disrespect for law in general," we are re-minded that a democracy must guard against the misuse of law. This concept has been recognized for centuries, and the basic truth of the statement resonates as we explore all of the costs of our current system.
What is the moral cost when our children see our institutions adopt unethical and manipulative behavior?
What is the moral cost when citizens see hugely inequitable regulations transferring wealth from the poor to the politically powerful and wealthy?
What is the social cost when an honest citizen cannot live a single full day without violating a bureaucratic code or rule?
Today, in King County, where CAPR started, we live in an "Alice in Wonderland" world. The Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) demands fees and buffers for wetlands with no water. Returning salmon are clubbed to death before they can spawn. Genetically identical hatchery salmon are not counted in total salmon returns. Helicopters are used to place logs that a dozen Cub Scouts could roll into place in a few minutes. Unelected bureaucrats have more power than elected officials do. Tens of millions of dollars disappear down bureaucratic rabbit holes. This might be amusing if we did not bear such terrible opportunity costs.
Think about the full cost that we bear when a farm family is stopped from building a modern home because of one of these fictitious wetlands or bureaucratic greed that jacks the price of permission to $25,000 or more. The bureaucrat, lacking the wisdom and intelligence to fully comprehend his/her actions, is delighted that he has “protected" approximately 1 or 2 percent of the farmer’s property from conversion to a modern house for the farm family. The farmer is humiliated with manipulative DDES behavior, demands and fees but remembers the lesson. The following year the farmer sells to a developer.
DDES has created such an environment of mistrust over the years that when King County established the very positive "Agricultural Lands Preservation Program" for the Kent Valley, many farm families refused to have any contact with King County. An alternative "Critical Areas Ordinance" could be based on the several well-respected preservation models, which use fair market purchases (The Nature Conservancy, etc.) that have preserved millions of acres of environmentally sensitive land worldwide.
The average price of a single-family home in King County in 2000 was $289,000. In 2001 the price rose to $294,000. In 2002 the price went all the way up to $338,000. Most urban homeowners are overjoyed at that increase without considering the downside. The US Census Bureau data indicates that for every $1000 price increase, approximately 2000 families at the low end of the economic scale are priced out of the market. It may well be the children and grandchildren of those very same homeowner's that are doomed to pay rent to live in the tenements. Professors Edward L. Glaeser of Harvard University and Joseph Gyourko of University of Pennsylvania recently published a study titled "The Impact of Zoning on Housing Affordability" in which they outlined multiple methods for determining the portion of house costs attributable to regulation. The Seattle area's number is near $200,000 while sixty-three percent of the nation has no "zoning cost" at all. Are we really getting $200,000 worth of good from that money?
Taken in its entirety we pay an incredibly high cost for an inequitable and adversarial system that only truly benefits bloated bureaucracies and urban developers.