Review of Sustainable: The War on Free Enterprise, Private Property and Individuals, by Tom DeWeese (Gold Dust Publishing, 2018), 206 pages, ISBN-10: 1732037000; ISBN-13: 978-1732037007; $19.95 on Amazon
At the beginning of his nonfiction cautionary tale, Tom DeWeese notes President Abraham Lincoln famously warned Americans we need not worry about enemies across the sea but should instead beware of enemies from within that can undermine a nation of free people.
In Sustainable, DeWeese documents the increasing efforts by socialist-leaning groups to remove our property rights and individual freedoms under the banner of “sustainability” in a methodical and often unseen manner, using myriad environmental concerns to cloak their true intent of all-encompassing government.
Among the many topics the book covers is a subject that has received insufficient emphasis in the literature previously: the critical importance of property rights. Few people recognize a major reason our nation has led the world in wealth creation is our easy system of recording and securing ownership of private property. It makes the county recorder’s office one of the most powerful forces for freedom in the world. Many are likely unaware most countries make it extremely difficult for the average citizen to own and prove ownership of property.
DeWeese shows how property rights in the United States and around the world have increasingly been undermined during the past century through restrictions on, for instance, people’s ability to protect their property against intruders and through zoning laws limiting what we can place upon our property and where.
UN’s Agenda 21
DeWeese discusses at length the United Nations’ ongoing, quarter-century effort called Agenda for the 21st Century, or simply Agenda 21, which aims at achieving sustainable development worldwide by having national, regional, and local governments adopt its plans.
DeWeese documents the extent to which the UN’s efforts to eliminate the concept of independent, sovereign nations are gaining ground around the world, including, to a limited extent, in the United States.
DeWeese writes, “Using the claim of the Constitution as a ‘living document,’ proponents have successfully opened the United States into accepting the concept of global harmony with the grand plans of worldwide Sustainable Development.”
DeWeese describes the plans of globalists in government bureaucracies, international agencies, and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to reduce or eliminate individual property rights; tightly control public education and the economy; and limit people’s choice of living arrangements, mobility, and even farming practices, supposedly to protect the environment and public health and safety. DeWeese describes how NGOs and activists within the U.S. “deep state,” acting without legislative oversight, impose regulations that thwart economic freedom and progress through unwarranted air, water, soil, and wildlife laws.
Powerful U.S. NGOs
DeWeese discusses various proposals and laws developed in the United States to increase environmentally driven government control over the public. He discusses, for example, the Wildlands Project, a plan put forward in 1985 by Dave Foreman, cofounder of the radical environmental group Earth First!, to convert half of the conterminous 48 states into nature preserves, regardless of whose property it was. Most people laughed at the plan until formidable NGOs, led by the Nature Conservancy and Audubon Society, began funding efforts to promote it. The UN adopted much of the plan as the basis for its Convention on Biodiversity.
One of the earliest major governmental strikes against liberty and property in the United States was the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. DeWeese shows the law became the single most important tool in eliminating individuals’ and industries’ right to make use of their land. Under ESA, any critter in the nation that can conceivably be portrayed as threatened with extinction takes precedence over property rights and human well-being.
DeWeese also exposes The Nature Conservancy’s promotion and financing of “conservation easements”: paying farmers and ranchers to give up the future right of their heirs to use their land freely, essentially allowing dead hands in the grave to rule the living.
Smart Growth Exposed
One of DeWeese’s most fascinating chapters examines the idea of so-called Smart Growth, revealing the downside of this nice-sounding idea. Smart growth plans are part and parcel of Agenda 21. Under the guise of smart growth, urban planners have been given power by the public—or more accurately, a politically active subset of the public—to create what they perceive as order out of what is portrayed as the chaos of people freely choosing how to use their property to establish businesses or build homes.
Smart growth plans typically draw a line around a community, limiting growth outside of it and increasing the density within it, in order to control urban sprawl. These regulations significantly increase the price of housing, with an especially onerous effect on low-income people.
“Sustainable Development is truly stunning in its all-encompassing reach to transform the world into feudal-like governance by making nature the central organizing principle for our economy and society,” DeWeese writes. The author conclusively demonstrates smart growth was not developed to improve and enrich society but instead to organize and control people. It is a scheme of socialism, he argues.
DeWeese makes a strong case sustainable development cannot be achieved without destroying private property rights. Anyone who loves liberty should reject the push for sustainability.
President Trump would do well to place this book on his reading list.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director of The Heartland Institute.