Who’s responsible for overregulation?

Published 7:24 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

There are many who would argue that if a person owns land, that person has the right to do with that land what he or she will. Others would argue that attempts by the federal government to control what that landowners do with their land is overreach.

Those are valid arguments — to an extent.

Land does not exist in a vacuum. It is not a single entity, but part of a whole. It sits above the same water table as properties miles away. When it rains, that rainwater drains from shallow ditches to larger streams and creeks, then rivers, on to sounds and oceans. It’s all connected. If one private landowner chooses to pollute their own property, eventually that pollution will affect everything downstream. If many landowners choose to pollute their own properties, the issue is magnified.

There’s also the impact of runoff. Nature has a way of supplying its own drainage, in those ditches and steams that may sometimes appear to be dry. When development eliminates them, water may have nowhere to turn. It makes one wonder if this is what happened to the area between Fifth and 15th streets in Washington, parts of which are known to flood during a hard rain. According to columnist Harold Robinson, who grew up in that area, there used to be a swamp in the neighborhood. Over the decades, more roads and houses were built, not only there, but on higher ground to the north. The swamp is no longer, and even though there is a sewer system, it is unable to handle heavy rainfall. Once runoff reaches lower ground, it has nowhere to go but to fill the streets and even some yards.

Those who did the development, who perhaps filled in a swamp or ditches and paved over or built on them, did not intend to create a problem for their neighbors.

The actions of man, though well-intended, can have unintended consequences. Man, having learned from the consequences of past actions, is in a position of being proactive, when it comes to such issues. And that’s where government steps in in many cases: to prevent the mistakes of the past, which ends up as regulation.

Unfortunately, what this actually means is that when individuals cannot be relied upon to be good neighbors and look out for the whole, as opposed to only their own interests, then government has to do it for us. Should government be blamed for overregulation or should we be looking elsewhere, perhaps in the mirror?