Diary

WHY I AM RUNNING: Conservative Reflections from the 101st House District of Michigan

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North of Grand Rapids, in rural Kent County near the City of Sparta, a visionary entrepreneur named Alan Taylor opened up new offices for his fledgling medical device manufacturing business named Hart Enterprises. He moved his new company there from the suburbs of Chicago because he was beguiled by Michigan’s fishing and hunting grounds, and because he knew the western shore of Michigan offered a better style of life for him and his family than the hyper-urbanism of Chicago. In the late 1980’s, he built a new manufacturing plant outside of Sparta, and was almost immediately employing 100 people. In a state that relishes jobs, this was an outstanding start.

When he first broke ground for his new plant, Taylor set aside an acre-sized parcel of his own accord because he wanted to provide an area for rainwater runoff from his parking lot, and his engineers and attorneys (and the State of Michigan) insured him that this was an appropriate course of action so he would not run afoul of Michigan’s “wetland protection” laws (which, even then, were poorly drafted, arbitrary, and unpredictable). Of course, he had in-hand all of the appropriate permits to bear witness to his thorough-going planning before the trucks ever began rumbling. So, the plant was built, occupied, and the medical devices were delivered to customers all over the world. Hart Enterprises was on its way to becoming a uniquely American story about Michigan’s great manufacturing heritage.

Fast forward to September of 2008: Alan Taylor was found guilty of supposed violations of Michigan’s Wetlands Protection laws.

His high-tech medical device business had seen nothing but steady growth in his years since moving to Michigan, and he needed to expand his facilities. During this expansion, which began in 2001, the area of set aside (which was never considered a “wetland”), became seasonally damp during the construction. Back in the heady days of merely 8% unemployment here in Michigan, the Granholm Administration was feeling its oats, needed to flex its environmental muscle, and decided to call a halt to Mr. Taylor’s evil plans to conduct actual capital enterprise in Michigan, and thus the Government of Michigan sided with the little man-made swamp over the big, bad Entrepreneur.

It is worth noting that Hart Enterprises was planning to expand it’s workforce, as well, and employ nearly 500 people once the expansion to it physical plant was complete. But, here we are, half a decade later, with a plant half-built, the owner entangled in a specious lawsuit over a poorly written statute, and 400 people without work that otherwise would be employed.

This little vignette is emblematic of why I am running for the representative seat for the 101st House District here in northwest lower Michigan. If Henry Ford were alive today, and he petitioned the localities to build his Dearborn River Rouge plant (a plant, that at its height in the 1930’s employed nearly 100,000 people), as regulators, they would turn him down cold: “Look what you are doing to the Environment!” they would say; “Look what you want to do the Rivers! What about worker safety?” And so on, and on, until, after 20 years of useless litigation, Henry would likely have said, “Oh, to heck with this. I’ll build my factory in China.”.

But, thank goodness, we were a free country and a Great State back in the early years of the 20th century. And, I will add, as a people here in the 101st District, we still bask in the glow of the great industrialists who built this state into a world-altering economic powerhouse. For most of the 20th century, we had a general respect for the risk-takers, for the entrepreneurs. We understood the sanctity of private property ownership, and had an abiding great regard for people of good faith that engaged in mercantile capitalism. The State of Michigan would never have dreamed of seizing a man’s private property for the extremely specious, stastist and authoritarian reason as attempting to mitigate the loss of swamps. (-especially the loss of swamps! Michigan is about one-third swamp. Why would we mourn the loss of any?)

But, what of “The Environment”? Should we mourn the loss of swamps? Should the government have seemingly arbitrary power to materially take a man’s private property without appropriate compensation? No, actually, they should not, and we should re-comport our state laws to reflect this. And, I hold, this is not just an economic imperative, it is a social justice imperative. Without predictable, knowable laws vis-a-vis private property, there is no such construct as “The Environment”.Without private property, the ability to govern a free people falls apart, and with it, the enforceability of any of their laws, including ones that pertain to “the environment”. Private Property is not a bauble that can be thrown on the statist ash-heap, in deference to whatever chic cause they might think is more important. Rather, the sanctity of private property, and of private capital, is foundational to our state; And, assaults against it, such as those illustrated in the Hart Enterprises case, must be stopped. Once they are stopped, all the supporting legislation, stare decisis, and local ordinances, must be overturned or repealed. With these things accomplished, a sort of citizen/state equalibrium will be established, and prosperity can begin again apace.

And we need political leaders that will to do so; this is why I am running for 101st House District Representative.