Oklahoma City’s water policies are recklessly inadequate.

The announced proposals to meet the drought crisis in Oklahoma City are recklessly inadequate.

The proposal to raise rates by percent increases is fine up to a point.  We’re in trouble if a large number of small users increase their usage, so we should certainly increase the price of water if a particular user’s consumption goes up more than normal.

But we are  also in trouble because we have some very large domestic users of water, including golf courses, upscale homes with water amenities, and luxury business and academic campuses.  This Oklahoma City Gazette article Water Hogs, online at http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-13296-water-hogs.html, reports that  the top seven private homes in Oklahoma City consume more than 17 million gallons of water!  

Our golf courses also consume huge amounts of water.  Earlywine Park Golf Course in Oklahoma City uses 143.7 MILLION gallons of water.   Oklahoma City has five publicly owned golf courses.  There are . . . hmmm. . . about 10 privately owned courses. That is a lot of water, and it’s not clear, especially with the public courses, that all of that water is publicly accounted for. You occasionally see signs claiming that the golf courses are not watered with treated water. Given that our situation is an absolute shortage of water, not a capacity shortage of treated water, that claim rings false as a drought mitigation effort.  I am certainly not opposed to golf, nor to publicly owned golf courses.  But if I, as a home gardener, will be asked to sacrifice my plants, I expect our golf courses to be using every best practice on the books to minimize their water usage. 

The basic structural change we need is to charge more when people use more.  Why should my working class wallet subsidize the water greed of wealthy homeowners who use upwards of three million gallons of water each year?

Besides that structural change. . . Everyone needs to consider their personal water behavior.  My new book, iPermie — how to permaculture your urban lifestyle, has a whole section on water, which discusses the importance of better personal water behavior, as well as changes to the structures that regulate our water supplies.  It’s available as a $1.99 ebook download at http://www.ipermie.net . (Please excuse the commercial, but having already written thousands of words on the subject, it is easier to refer you to my published commentary than to repeat the effort here.)  Oklahoma City lives and dies with its watershed. How does your personal behavior impact that watershed?

We need more water harvesting within the City. I recommend that everyone take a look at http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/ and implement suitable strategies to conserve water at your home place. Over the last few months, I’ve been sculpting my land with berms, swales, and keyhole beds to catch water that runs off the roof, driveways, sidewalks,  and the higher elevations of my property and retain that so it soaks into the ground. The basic trick we want to do with rainwater is to slow it down and spread it out.  

None of this looks weird. Someone looking at my yard from the street would think I have a series of raised beds with pathways. Which I do, but these particular raised beds and pathways also function as berms and swales to catch water and hold onto it long enough for it to infiltrate into the soil and soak up into the beds (swales).

We can all hope and pray that the drought breaks, but that hope should not be the basis of our public policy.  Our entire city is designed to waste water because the city’s pricing of water tells a false story — that water is abundant and cheap.  In fact, water is scarce and expensive, but that’s not the story our prices tell us. So we don’t design for water frugality, instead, we design for water waste.

Our politicians need to get a real-world orientation when it comes to water and so do we the people. The time to learn water conservation habits and build a water frugal city is BEFORE the climate crisis droughts drain our lakes. Those who wait, vacillate, and procrastinate will pay a terrible price for their reckless irresponsibility.

Two technical notes:

1.  How to calculate the potential water harvest from your roof:  Multiple the AREA of your house in square feet times the annual rainfall in feet.  This gives you the cubic feet of rain that hits your roof every year. Multiply this number by 7.48, which is the number of gallons in a cubic foot of water, and voila, you have the potential harvest from your roof in gallons.  You can also do this for your sidewalks and driveways and any outbuildings you may have.

Even in a dry year, this is not an insignificant amount of water.  The dryest water year for Oklahoma City over the last 100 years was 10 inches of rain (.83 feet), our average annual precipitation is about 3 feet of rain.

In the driest year on record, my house, which is 1,548 sq. ft, would catch:

1548 TIMES .83 feet of rain EQUALS 1,284 cubic feet of water,

TIMES 7.48 gallons/cubic foot EQUALS 9,604 gallons.

2. The first step towards designing your own rainwater harvesting system is to observe where the water flows.  Note that the place to start is by sculpting your land. Later you can think about gutters and tanks but start with berms and swale (raised beds and pathways).  Every time it rains, take your umbrella and go outside and observe where the water is flowing. You may think your property is flat, but it probably isn’t, so learn how it slopes. A lot more about this is written in iPermie, but the basic trick is to start at the highest level and work from there.  Always allow room for overflow.  Besides iPermie, the Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond books are essential reading.  Find more info about those books online at http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org.










Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Climate Instability, Economic Prosperity, Environmental Sustainability, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Living, Permaculture, rainwater harvesting, water | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Catholic bishops have no one to blame but themselves.

On the first Sunday of Lent, the opinion pages of the New York Times carry a biting editorial comment by Russ Douthat – The End of a Catholic Moment :

The collapse in the church’s reputation has coincided with a substantial loss of Catholic influence in American political debates. Whereas eight years ago, a Catholic view of economics and culture represented a center that both parties hoped to claim, today’s Republicans are more likely to channel Ayn Rand than Thomas Aquinas, and a strident social liberalism holds the whip hand in the Democratic Party.

Indeed, between Mitt Romney’s comments about the mooching 47 percent and the White House’s cynical decision to energize its base by picking fights over abortion and contraception, both parties spent 2012 effectively running against Catholic ideas about the common good.

This transformation suggests that we may have reached the end of a distinctive “Catholic moment” (to repurpose a phrase from the late Catholic priest-intellectual Richard John Neuhaus) in American politics, one that began in the 1980s after John Paul’s ascension to the papacy and the migration of many Catholic “Reagan Democrats” into the Republican Party.

Note that Mr. Douthat is not a liberal critic of the Church, but an orthodox Catholic (cf Rod Dreher at “Goodbye Catholic Moment,” http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/.)

The Catholic Bishops have no one to blame but themselves for this sad situation.  They themselves started the barrel rolling with their toxic approach to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. First, with the connivance of the Vatican, they covered up the problem. Then, they denied it was a really bad problem. Finally, when they simply could not avoid reality, helped along no doubt by the successful prosecution of lawsuits costing them big money, they discovered that clergy sexual abuse was in fact a grave problem and they had better do something about it.  “Doing something” of course most definitely did NOT include removing the bishops responsible for this evil, either in the dioceses or in Rome.

And now they wonder why people don’t trust them.

Close on the heels of the breakout of the clergy sexual abuse issue was their equally toxic handling of the American unjust war “problem.”  They resolved that by preaching a gospel of moral relativism, as I have chronicled with excruciating detail at  http://www.justpeace.org/warresponse.htm .  Whatever the right to life means to them, it most emphatically does not include the right to life any of the civilian populations of Iraq and Afghanistan who get in the way of our greed for oil and minerals and imperial glory.

And now they wonder why no one is paying attention to their “Fortnight for Life.”

Where was their “Fortnight for Life” when our bombs and missiles were raining down with impunity on the civilian populations of Iraq and Afghanistan?

It was no where.

While civilians were slaughtered, the United States Catholic Bishops, with only a very small handful of exceptions, were busy praising the war by their faint condemnation of it and effectively advocating  a doctrine of morale relativism regarding the participation of Catholics in unjust wars, even though eminent religious voices throughout the world were strongly against our recourse to war.

It bears repeating, even at this late date, that unjust war is an objective evil — it is always and under all circumstances morally wrong and thus participation in an unjust war is the moral equivalent of participation in abortion and murder.

Further, the Iraq and Afghan wars have  an objective moral nature.  They are either just wars or they are unjust wars.  Both-and is not a condition that can be relevant to this case.  It is an either-or situation. These wars are what they are, irrespective of our perception of their morality or immorality. A in fact is A.  It is not B.

For further details about the moral theology involved with this, see the Lenten Declaration of Bishop Michael Botean, http://www.justpeace.org/botean.htm of the Romanian Catholic Diocese of Canton, Ohio, and the essay, Moral Law and the Iraq War, by Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy,  http://www.justpeace.org/lent2007cwnews.htm#Moral%20Law .

Let us recall the research I did in 2006:

Over the past month I conducted a review of the individual statements about Iraq of the bishops who are responsible for dioceses in the U.S. I searched the website of every diocese and did internet searches on the bishops’ names. Only 39 diocesan bishops made public statements calling for prayers for the people of Iraq. Twenty publicized or endorsed the various statements of the bishops’ conference on Iraq. Twenty-eight provided some sort of catechesis about just war teaching. One hundred forty-six of the bishops responsible for dioceses had nothing to say about Iraq since 2002 (that can be found on the Internet, retired and auxiliary bishop statements were not researched.)

Only one bishop responsible for a diocese issued a canonical declaration against involvement with the war in Iraq, Bishop Botean of the Romanian Catholic diocese of Canton, Ohio. With great moral clarity, he told his people that willing participation in the Iraq War was the moral equivalent of willing participation in an abortion. (at http://www.justpeace.org/nov132006.htm )

Since there are 195 dioceses in the United States, we can see from my research that 3/4ths of the United States Catholic bishops had nothing to say about the Iraq War.

If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, no one will go to battle.

Nearly all of our bishops are guilty of material cooperation with the objective evil of unjust war.  Many of them remain compromised by their willing facilitation of sexual crimes against children. The Vatican has provided little in the way of correction. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI maintained their confidence in Cardinal Law formerly of Boston and Cardinal Mahoney, formerly of Los Angeles, even though they are among the most egregious facilitators of the sexual abuse of children. Until recently, Cardinal Law was archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Maggiori in Rome, and has served on all of the Vatican committees and congregations having to do with bishops for many years.  If even the Pope is going to embrace the facilitators of child molestors as his friends and closest collaborators, it is not hard to understand why people despair of change.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with our bishops.

What keeps me going is the understanding that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit  will have the last word and judgment on the behavior of these bishops.  It may appear before the world that they have escaped the consequences of their poor decisions, but no one can escape the judgment of God, whose prophet wrote –

Hear, therefore, kings, and understand; learn, you magistrates of the earth’s expanse! Give ear, you who have power over multitudes and lord it over throngs of peoples!
Because authority was given you by the Lord and sovereignty by the Most High, Because authority was given you by the Lord and sovereignty by the Most High, who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels!

Because, though you were ministers of his kingdom, you did not judge rightly, and did not keep the law, nor walk according to the will of God, Terribly and swiftly he shall come against you, because severe judgment awaits the exalted. For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test. For the Ruler of all shows no partiality, nor does he fear greatness, Because he himself made the great as well as the small, and provides for all alike; but for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends.

We aren’t the first generation to face the problem of what to do with bishops making bad decisions.  Sure, we have our Cardinal Law’s and Mahoney’s. But we also have our Archbishop Romero of El Salvador and Helder Camara of Brazil, as well as Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin of New York, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Franz Jaegerstatter of Austria, and others, too many to count, each one  is an Epiphany of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ made manifest in flesh.

Given all this reality, we also know that the same water never flows under the bridge.  Fundamental to Christianity is the praxis of forgiveness. It’s not hard to understand. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Yet, we are only ordinary human beings. As we extend to them our forgiveness for what they have done, if we think about it, we may find within ourselves a dawning understanding of  the fundamental realities of this era: We the People, and the common good that serves us, are looted and then abandoned at will by elites in politics, religion, business, academia.  We can forgive. We must forgive. But the vocation is also to resist, in every moral way possible, these demons who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

On this first day of Lent, please join me in prayer that our bishops will honestly and seriously examine their consciences, as individuals and as a collective body, and come to an understanding of their sins against God, against the Catholic faithful, in particular our children, and  against the long-suffering people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us pray that this understanding will induce a profound conversion — a metanoia — among them so that they publicly confess their sins and start the process of making honest reparations for the damage, suffering, grief, and pain that they have caused to so many innocent people.

Let us also understand that our religious hierarchy will inevitably be influenced by who we are, as moral persons living and acting in the greater society which surrounds us. If we do not praxis what we preach, I think the Apostle Paul would say something along the lines of “You are no better than the pagans who surround you.” And maybe in fact worse.  If we want better bishops, we probably need to start by being better Christians ourselves.

So let’s all give up the passive silence that is effectively agreement with the culture of death, and do something useful and real every day to overcome evil with good.

Novena to St. John Chrysostom on behalf of the United States Catholic Bishops. http://www.justpeace.org/stjohnchrysostom.htm





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Lenten Exhortation to Quit Smoking!

If you’re thinking about giving up smoking for Lent. . . here’s my advice. . .

Smoke all you want today. In fact, chain smoke your way through this last day of slavery to tobacco. Before you go to bed, go around the house and take all of your smoking paraphernalia (ash trays, packs of smokes, ciggie butts, etc.) and throw it in the trash can outside of your house. OK, then smoke one last cigarette and go to bed and wake up to a better life of health and freedom.

Tomorrow, take things one hour at a time and you will do just fine. If you can take off from work, that’s good. Quitting smoking is a valid reason to call in sick, because for the first four days, as your physical dependence on nicotine fades, you will feel reasonably miserable, or maybe even maximally miserable. So you could take four days sick leave and just get over it.

Eat anything you want. Indulge yourself with long hot baths or showers.  Soak rosemary and other aromatic herbs in the hot bath water. Use your favorite scented oils as aroma therapy, gently heating them over a candle.  Take pain meds for the body aches. (Tylenol, Ibuprofen, etc.)  Drink lots of water. Your body is flushing out poisons and toxins and you need plenty of water for that. Herbal teas like chamomile help ease the tension.

Smoking cessation is hard work, but it is useful work, and it is work that once completed, NEVER EVER has to be done again, as long as you remember the NOPE motto — Not One Puff Ever!

I worry about all my friends who smoke, and I pray for all of you that you will quit smoking. I am often astonished by how many “counter-culture” young people I know willingly enslave themselves to giant tobacco CORPORATIONS and voluntarily feed their own version of the war machine. Please, people, OCCUPY YOUR LUNGS on behalf of peace, planet, and justice and stop supporting giant tobacco companies who profit from selling a product that leads to death and misery and who politically support everything we abhor. Smoking cessation is one way to voluntarily withdraw your consent from the system of domination and subjugation that destroys people and the planet and the future.

Here’s an article from a site that was most useful to me when I quit smoking.


For Christians, the disciplines of Lent provide an excellent time to quit smoking. I quit many times, but the one time that I was successful — the last time I quit — started two years ago on Ash Wednesday. By the grace of God and the motto NOPE i have not smoked one cig since then.

For Catholics and other Christians who may have a devotion to Mary, here is anapproach to quitting smoking rooted in Catholic mysticism.  



I printed out the prayer card he offers and carried it with me and prayed the prayer on it often as a way to deal with cravings.  I used the progressive muscle relaxation technique, described at the  Smoking Cessation through Faith and Prayer site,  quite a bit during the first month of not-smoking.

I carried my Rosary everywhere I went. When I would get antsy for a cigarette, I held the beads and ran them through my fingers, which gave me something to do with my hands.  The other maneuver I used  to get through cravings was to say or sing the Jesus Prayer — Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Today, nearly two years after Ash Wednesday of the Reign of Gabriel, Archangel (2011), I can truthfully say that the thought of smoking fills me with dread.  I don’t want to go through the quitting smoking process ever again.  And I will never have to do that, as long as I remember Not One Puff Ever.

That can be true for you too, all my friends and anyone else who wanders by who smokes.  You don’t have to live in financial bondage to the cigarette corporations, who are certainly among the most sociopathic of business entities. You can be free, you can support your health, you can help your lungs to heal themselves.

Smoking stops with me and smoking stops with you too, and that can be true right here, right now. . . it is completely within our individual abilities to do this.

You know this is work that needs to be done.  So just do it!

Call me if you want a smoke and I will talk you out of it, 405-200-8155.

iPermie has a chapter on addiction in the section on health.  http://www.ipermie.net 

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iPermie now on sale!

My new book, iPermie! How to permaculture your urban lifestyle, is now on sale at these fine online sources.  Only $1.99! for 14 sections, 248 chapters, 399,000 words!



Amazon Kindle

Apple Store


Versent eBooks

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Climate Instability, Corporation shenanigans, Economic Prosperity, Environmental Sustainability, Financial Crisis, food, garden, Local Food Systems, Peak Oil, Permaculture, Social Justice, War and Peace | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A new book from Bob.

Announcing. . .


How to permaculture your urban lifestyle.

A good-life design guide for Millennials, Boomers, and Generation X.

Strategies, tools, and techniques to help you navigate the cardinal threats
of peak oil, climate instability, economic irrationality, and political criminality.

An Almanac of  Useful Information and Permaculture Self-Study Guide.

1,025 letter-size pages in the PDF format, approximately 388,000 words.
14 sections, 248 chapters.

Available now on the January order of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.


Coming soon to fine ebook retailers everywhere including Amazon Kindle, Nook. Smashwords, etc.

Priced at US$ 1.99.

Visit http://www.ipermie.net to preview the the summaries of the chapters and the Foreword by Vinay Gupta.

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Oklahoma City Nanny State Alert!

Oklahoma City is asking the state legislature to lower the height requirements before the city can write code violations and get a court order for a contractor to mow a property, charging the homeowner with the bill, from the present 12 inches to 8 inches.  The law is vague, referring only to “grass and weeds” and Oklahoma City code inspectors routinely exploit that vagueness.

If a court order is obtained, the homeowner gets no notice of the hearing and no opportunity to respond.  Rumor has it that the City inspectors routinely swear that an “emergency situation prevails” so the normal process of noticing someone that a court is about to act upon them must be waived due to imminent threats, yadda yadda yadda.  This of course is almost always at best an exaggeration and at worse perjury, but they get away with it. The city judges know who writes their paychecks and they act accordingly.

Don’t bother with contacting your city council person.  The city has already approved its list. Now is the time to contact your state senator and state representative and urge them to vote against this expansion of Oklahoma City’s Nanny State and to protect the rights of property owners.

Reported in the OKC Gazette at http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-16833-looking-for-laws.html

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And here’s the rest of the story.

And here’s the rest of the story.

We didn’t get 23 drivers for the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House November 2012 delivery day that I thought we needed, but we did get enough that all the deliveries were done as of today (only one was done today). 392 which was what we wanted to do (it’s a multiple of 12, and the groceries are in cases of 12 or 24, expect for spaghetti which for whatever odd reason comes in boxes of 20).

We did have to unexpectedly contend with rotten oranges randomly in the cases of oranges. We ended up hand sorting out about 20 cases of rotten oranges. No one’s favorite task. But we were able after sorting out the rotten to give everybody  four oranges and families got eight to twelve.

We delivered as much food as the bags were physically able to hold. Instead of the usual paper bag in a plastic grocery bag, the food bank sent us hundreds of blue shopping bags, so each one held a paper bag. They were very sturdy and the Wal Mart propaganda notwithstanding they were very useful. The hydrocarbon debt of this work is not small.

All of us involved with this are very grateful for the people out there willing to vote with their bodies by taking practical action to do actually useful things to help.

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Leaving the poor behind for the wolves to devour.

What did I expect from Governor Mary Queen of Lynch Mobs Fallin?  I guess I expected more than what we got, which just goes to show how I am not immune to the random hope that somebody somewhere in the goobermint might get a clue and do something righteous for a change.

Cue gales of laughter at the utter absurdity of that thought.

It didn’t happen at the Czar’s Palace in St. Petersburg in 1917, nor at Versaille in France in 1789.  It’s not going to happen at the Governor’s Mansion in Oklahoma City nor at the White House in Washington.

This is how life looks at the edge of the abyss, as we stare down the long slide that looms ahead of us.

We are going down for the count.

We comfort ourselves with the thought — “Well, this won’t impact me.  I have a JOB.  I have real health insurance.”

That’s what lots of people thought in 2007.  Then came the financial collapse. They lost their jobs. Their health insurance disappeared. Their houses were foreclosed upon. Some of them ended up in tents in the homeless encampments hidden in all of our cities and many of our rural areas.

We’ve had it so good for so long we can’t conceive of how things might go differently.  But it doesn’t take much.

The whispers are already roaming around the internet — “2013 is looking a lot like 1937,” a year which saw a sharp downturn in the Depression after a period of time when people thought things were getting better.

The deal is, there isn’t enough to go around anymore.

The rich and the powerful are taking so much, we are so seriously misallocating our governmental resources, that something has to give somewhere.  No one in our bipartisan goobermint is going to do anything rational like shut down the American empire and bring our troops and fleets home.  The elites make money off of war, so war we will have and it will get all the money it needs.

For Fallin and her lynch mobs, the answers are obvious.

They don’t really see the people who would benefit from the Medicaid expansion as human persons.  The poor don’t give money to Republican campaigns.  Most of them probably don’t vote for Republican candidates.  What’s the point of being governor if you don’t reward your friends and punish your enemies?  In her merciless calculations, all these poor people aren’t very productive. We shouldn’t be spending much on their health care anyway. We’re better off if their mortality rates increase and if they abort their children because of the desperation of their circumstances.  That way we have more for war, highways, and special corporate multi-million dollar welfare checks for those who give big bucks to the political establishment.

So once again I ask the questions that make people just roll their eyes and shake their heads –

  • Got food storage? If yes, “get more. If no, “better get some.”
  • Got a place to live that is debt free? If you have a mortgage and have financial assets, sell the financial assets and pay off your mortgage. If you have too much mortgage, sell your house and buy something smaller in a less prosperous neighborhood that costs a lot less so you can pay cash for it. A mortgage is a death grip, that’s what it literally means in Latin. If debts are consuming your income, declare bankruptcy.
  • If you rent, have a good relationship with your landlord. If you don’t have it and cant’ get it, move. What are your shelter alternatives?
  • Got a community of support in time of need?
  • Got extreme energy conservation so your operating costs are low?

The real message of Governor Mary Queen of Lynch Mobs Fallin’s action today in rejecting the Medicaid expansion is that Collapse is coming. The Ship of State is sinking and there isn’t enough room in the lifeboats for everyone. First people to be shoved off the decks without life-preservers are the poor.

You may be next.

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Mary Fallin decides to grind the face of the poor into the dust.

Governor Mary Fallin decided today to grind the face of the poor into the dust by rejecting the proposed expansion of the Medicaid program. I am not a big fan of big government programs, but the expansion of Medicaid is the only thing on the table for helping low income and working class people access quality health care.

By this decision, Mary Queen of Lynch Mobs Fallin announces to the world that Oklahoma is a Culture of Death State. God only knows how many families will look at their circumstances, and decide they can’t afford one more child, and choose abortion based on their financial desperation and their lack of access to health care.

I’m sure I will have more to say about this later, but in the meantime, I warn all Republican and Democratic office holders in this state:

Your cruel, cold, and merciless political actions may very well send you to hell.  Jesus Christ, who is not the Easter Bunny, but who is God, clearly and without any ambiguity says in the 25th Chapter of Matthew that all who turn their backs on the poor and do not heed their cry for justice and help, will be condemned to the depths of hell.

Don’t feed me any bizarre nonsense about how the “free market” will provide health care for the poor.

In the first place, there is no free market for health care in Oklahoma.

In the second place, because of the way health care is structured in Oklahoma, people who pay cash pay the highest prices.

And in the third place, if you were going to do something, you should have done it already.  Anything you have to say on the subject at this late date is just another attempt to baffle us with bull manure.

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. Ezekial 16:49-50

I nominate Mary Fallin as the Oklahoma Culture of Death’s Sodomite of the Year!  I might even have a plaque made to that effect and attempt to present it to her.

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An Open Letter to Oklahoma Conservatives

Brandon Dutcher, of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, threw down a gauntlet today in a column in the Daily Oklahoman — It’s Time To do Something Great!  He notes the extraordinary lack of vision among Oklahoma Republicans, who dominate the state, controlling the governor’s office and both houses of the state legislature. He writes –

Our experiment in ordered liberty is at stake. It won’t do for Oklahoma’s political leaders to “play it safe by adjusting the rudder slightly to the right and enjoy the ride until you term out of office,” as my colleague Michael Carnuccio put it.  “We live in a day and age when we need leadership — the kind that is strong, bold and transformational.”

I say “hear hear” and let me be the first to throw a proposal out to the conservatives of the State of Oklahoma.

How about a little old fashioned, free enterprise, as a strategy to counter both the hard times facing the nation and our own problems with poverty here at home.  There’s a reason why we have so much poverty in Oklahoma. It’s the way our system is designed to work.

You may reply, “you’re making an absurd statement, we have lots of free enterprise,” but that isn’t exactly so.  We have lots of highly regulated and restricted enterprise. We’ve organized things so that the marketplace isn’t especially welcoming to some folks and we completely exclude many from participation. I am talking about the ways that the government of the state, the counties, and the cities oppress the poor by making the traditional ways that poor people made a living illegal in many cases, or so highly regulated that you have to have money in order to get started in the first place. The concept of bootstrapping your way into better circumstances is pretty much against the law these days in Oklahoma.

Let us count the ways that this is true.

1. In Oklahoma it is  illegal to sell along public right of ways (sidewalks, roads, rest stops on the highways and toll roads, etc.) Where legal, such high prices are charged for licenses and they usually incorporate such bizarre regulatory requirements that they make street vending illegal. If this kind of free enterprise were legalized, we would end up with a non-stop flea market from one end of the state to the other along our freeways and toll roads.  Food trucks would be everywhere, offering tasty Oklahoma foods to travelers. It would give people reasons to stop and spend money in Oklahoma and provide ways for Oklahomans to start their own micro-enterprises that could grow, with time and effort, into full-time employment.

2.  It’s illegal to practice small scale itinerant trades without “proper licenses” which often have expensive prerequisites so that they function as barriers to market entry rather than protections for the public. These are trades like hair braiding, hair cutting, applying make-up, carpentry, plumbing, etc. The proliferation of coercive credentialing in general raises political barriers to finding and doing work and lowers compensation.

3.  In many municipalities it is illegal for people to practice trades out of their houses.

4. City ordinances limit the number of garage sales people can have at their homes and restrict the ability to open a small sales or hospitality operation in a home.  This doesn’t show much respect for private property, does it? Shouldn’t conservatives support the rights of homeowners to use and profit from their properties?

5. Laws forbid people from making non-hazardous foods (like jams, pickles, and baked goods) at home and selling them to the public.  Many states are passing cottage food industry laws that allow people to make and sell these kinds of foods in their home kitchens.

6. Poor people who own cars can’t drive people around and charge for the service. It would be illegal to use a van to establish a jitney service (a type of transit, common elsewhere, where a van or small bus drives a route that deviates around the route to pick up fares dispatched from a central location). Transportation has serious political barriers to market entry. We have this bizarre idea that only the government can do mass transportation. To prove that, we have enacted so many state and local laws on the subject that yes, in Oklahoma, it is practically illegal to start a private transportation company that drives people around for cash money.

7. It in many cities it is illegal to grow vegetables in your back yard (or your front yard) and sell them from your property.

8. Economic redevelopment programs, using eminent domain, have destroyed entire neighborhoods of poor people, repeatedly forcing people to relocate, paying them cheap prices for their property, and destroying cultural and business resources.   This non-market, politicized process has driven up the price of housing, especially at the low end. It takes property from the poor, cheats them by paying cheap, non-market, court-dictated and politicized prices for the property, and then gives that property at low prices to persons with privileged access to politicians.  If we want to help the poor, we can start by ending the condemnation of neighborhoods simply because “poor people live there and we don’t like poor people so we will destroy the neighborhood with a political due processed pogrom.”

9. Zoning laws prevent people from adding small apartments (garage, attic, basement, back-yard) that could increase the amount of affordable rental housing.

10. In most areas it would be illegal to put a trailer house in your back yard and allow someone to rent it or to put a trailer house or even a manufactured home on an empty lot.  We confine trailer houses to their own legal ghettos.

11. In most areas it is practically impossible to establish a boarding house, which in the past was a traditional place for poor people to live.  All of this combines to artificially drive up housing costs and rents — not based on market factors, but instead on politics.

12.  Minimum lot sizes, minimum house sizes, minimum setbacks, and much of the rest of the building code, create a non-market situation where it is practically illegal to build new housing for the poor.  There is an entire national movement to build “tiny houses” and apartments which is passing Oklahoma City and our other urban areas by because of our byzantine building codes and zoning ordinances that have the (presumably unintentional) impact of segregating the city by economic class.

13. You can’t raise chickens or other small animals in most cities unless you have a large  lot. This inhibits economic activity and prevents people from supporting themselves by their own labor.

14. Taxes and fees extracted from older parts of urban areas subsidize upscale development in newer areas of the city. This constantly drains older neighborhoods of revenue important for maintaining infrastructure and providing services.  A more just system would require new development, statewide, to pay the full cost of its demands for infrastructure expansion.

15. Figuring out what laws and such that you need to comply with is very difficult for anyone starting a new business. Oklahoma City, for example, has a byzantine bureaucracy whose apparent goal is to make it as difficult and confusing as possible to open a business in Oklahoma City. You can ask three employees in a department a question, and you may get three different answers, each contradicting the other, as to what is required. This statement is based on an actual situation related to me by an Oklahoma City entrepreneur trying to start a business.  He said to me, “You would think I was trying to open a meth lab, the way those people treat me downtown.  I’m nothing but dirt to them.”  The situation is even more complicated if you want to start a food business. Each large urban area needs a one-stop-shopping place for entrepreneurs to find the info they need to get started in their business.

The negative cumulative impacts of these prohibitions and persecutions is to –

  • Make people dependent upon government social services,
  • Restrict the number of new business started and the number of new jobs created,
  • Make the lives of poor people more miserable, risky, and unhealthy,
  • Suppress the price of lower-income labor,
  • Keep unemployment higher than it needs to be,
  • Reduce entrepreneurial activity and thus ensure a continued supply of cheap workers, and
  • Increase the number of abortions due to economic distress and psychological despair.

Poverty drives a host of negative consequences for our society, including alcoholism and drug abuse, violence against women and children, family dissolution, abortion, despair, crime, and suicide.

If we want to help the poor, then among other things that need to be done, the government should stop actively persecuting the poor as described herein. It is likely that there will be less need for government programs as people become more able to participate in their own lives by helping themselves by their own efforts.

The huge amount of drug business in low income areas indicates that there is an entrepreneurial streak a hundred miles wide among poor people. Ironically, it is easier and more profitable for poor people to go into the recreational drug business, than it would be for (e.g.) three young people to set up a hot dog stand at a rest stop on a freeway. That would certainly result in a major police and food regulatory bureaucracy response the first day they open for business. These hot dog entrepreneurs would be safer selling crack cocaine on the streets of a low income neighborhood than they would be selling hot dogs at a turnpike rest stop.

That’s a pretty sad commentary on the morality of our present system of laws.

So what’s it to be, Conservatives of Oklahoma?

Do you want to continue the present system of  rigged, politicized markets?

Do you want to continue with the laws  that oppress the poor and grind their faces into the dust by suppressing wages, increasing rents, promoting political and economic dependency, and discouraging personal and family and community responsibility?

Do I need to remind you of what economists like Ludvig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman et al have to say about the effects of politicized marketplaces on economic prosperity?

So if you want to think big, Conservatives of Oklahoma, my suggestion is to start right here, with the basic rights to work and to create your own job, even if it is a small part-time job with dreams of getting bigger. This could change this state for the better.  It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing, and economic freedom for all in this state is the right thing to do and this is the right time.

Posted in Good and Frugal Government, Economic Prosperity, Financial Crisis, food, Oklahoma Living, Social Justice | Tagged , , | 5 Comments