Wednesday, October 30, 2002
IN MY OPINION (Column)
The More Things Change...
By RAY HAYNES
(The writer represents the 36th Senate District, which includes western Riverside County and northern San Diego County. He is also the Senate Republican whip.)
I used to think I was a genius.
I admit it was a flash of ego, but I thought I had hit upon the most unique insight during my time in the legislature. After about six years there, I began to notice something about the way we did business. No one else seemed to notice it, so I thought it was a brilliant insight.
The insight was simple. It seemed that most of what we did in the Legislature was to fix the very problems we created. We would pass some law or regulation. That law or regulation would create another problem, usually unanticipated at the time we passed the first law. We would then pass another law or regulation to fix that problem. The fix would cause more problems, and so on and so on.
The problems in California today are easy to chronicle. Our houses and apartments cost too much, our freeways are overcrowded, our budget is seriously out of balance, and we are running out of water, electricity, and gasoline. All of these problems are caused by too much government. Each of the solutions proposed by the Sacramento politicians for these problems is more government.
Take, for instance, our current housing crisis. It is caused directly by a crazy system of government regulations and controls, all instituted in the name of government “planning.” It is supposed to make sure we have enough houses in the right places so that we have enough water, sewers, schools and roads to service those houses. But we don’t have enough water, sewers, schools or roads because government is responsible for building roads, sewers, water, and schools, and it doesn’t build enough. As a result, the government “approves” fewer homes, and the price of each of the homes approved continues to skyrocket, creating a crisis for Californians.
In 2001, the number of low-income renter households exceeded the number of low-income rentals by 651,000. Between 1979 and 1991, the share of homes headed by individuals in their twenties dropped by 29%, in their thirties by 17%. In 1974, 70% of Californians could afford a median-priced home. Today, only 17% of Californians can afford a median-priced home. In 1974, California passed laws to require cities to “plan” for development, and do environmental studies before a house can be built. Those two laws, more than any other, have cut the supply of houses so much that prices have gone through the roof. Government “planning” created the crisis.
What is the politicians’ idea for solving the crisis? A crazy idea they call “smart growth,” which basically gives the “planners” who have already screwed up our housing market more power, so that they can screw it up even more.
So what has this got to do with me being a genius? Obviously, I thought that I had figured out that government was creating more government to fix a problem government created. Except that, in 1851, Herbert Spencer, a philosopher in England, saw “that the increasing need for administrative compulsions and restraints, results from the unforeseen evils and shortcomings of preceding compulsions and restraints.” Spencer saw and wrote about the problem I discovered in 1998 147 years ago.
Spencer was a genius. I am not. It is interesting how something that was so obvious in 1851 is still a problem today. Unfortunately, our schools in California are so bad that even the politicians don’t know about history. It seems that the more things have changed from Spencer’s time and place to California today, the more things stay the same. Perhaps one reason is that what I see as a problem, too many of my colleagues see as job security. Big government begets big government which begets big government. You’d think we would learn.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company