Science, Common-sense and Reasonableness

Dennis Linthicum

Science, Common-sense and Reasonableness.

In 1862 the Homestead Act was passed by Congress. This was the first time the United States government made free land available to western settlers. In that same year a Bureau of Agriculture was created.

There is a lesson here – if you are ever tempted to accept a gift from the government, know that what the government gives one day, can be taken the next.

Throughout history whenever the power and economic resources of the government are pitched against the people – the people lose. Not least because governments use revenue collected from taxes to fund the very policies that are becoming more and more burdensome. This is especially true in fields of agriculture, food production, natural resource extraction, high-end precision technologies and material manufacturing.

Government authority becomes concentrated in structures of command and control because government is duty-bound to regulate existing environments and processes. Government organizations receive their regulatory mandates through a single method – political power. Therefore, political factions, with their rival interpretations of law and jurisprudence, are engaged in constant struggle and turmoil. This is the nature of government.

Legislators, like kids with a shoebox full of Lego’s, get to guide and organize the tools of government to create and implement policies that will achieve their goals.

James Madison, wrote in Federalist No. 51 (1788), “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”

Government organizations, even those filled with good people and great administrators, are subject to Madison’s observation. No angels create, manage or administer government programs.

The tools of administration, on the surface appear simple, convenient and straight-forward. Yet, they form a complicated, multi-faceted, unavoidable and intricately woven snare. There is only one way to successfully navigate through the modern labyrinth. The path is actually the same for rule administrators (enforcers) or rule followers. For all participants, successfully navigating the maze only requires rejecting one’s common-sense and reasonableness. Then, with those two items out of the way, the rest is easy.

The organizations wielding this power can’t even be charged with illegal activity, because their activities are sanctified in law. Aside from civil lawsuits which help to corral regulators back into their legally defined roles or correct administrative blunders, how does one “oblige government to control itself?” Or, how do you stop a freight-train?

A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article noted, “Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency jammed through an average of 565 new rules each year during the Obama Presidency, imposing the highest regulatory costs of any agency.” This vast expansion of the sphere of government is clearly beyond the traditional areas of responsibility laid out by our nation’s founders.

Obama Administration EPA

Obama’s EPA illustrates that regulatory power is really political power. The regulations were engineered for political usefulness even though they were scientifically imprecise, economically facetious and morally vacuous.

Under the surface, this is really a contest of ideas. The conflict is between support for bigger, larger, more controlling government, or the establishment and preservation of a society of free individuals complete with their unalienable rights.

Newsweek Cover

However, as the cover of Newsweek magazine proclaimed, back in 2009, "We are all socialists now.” The government we experience today is a reflection of the progressive left’s ideological predisposition which has become the dominant force of government. This vision of a centrally-managed utopia, imposed by regulatory mandate, regardless of science, common-sense or reasonableness is pervasive in Oregon policy.

For example, last month, Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) shut-down ag-wells that are within 1 mile of the Sprague River. Their stated intention is to increase flow in the Sprague river due to a surface water call by the Klamath Tribes. This Departmental policy initiative will force 140 businesses, families and employees off their land because their groundwater wells were drilled nearly 50 years ago and happen to be within 1 mile of the river.

There is little evidence to justify the Department’s model assertion that groundwater wells negatively impact in-stream surface water. Given the low aquifer transmissivity, varying thicknesses in real-world geologic layers, and varying horizontal hydraulic conductivities this would obviously result in a futile call for water. Following OWRD’s own rules they should be regularly assessing conditions to determine if the call is futile and allow junior water right holders access to their groundwater allotments. Oregon law requires OWRD to demonstrate the use of a well is causing substantial and timely interference with one or more priority water rights before the department can regulate-off any particular well.

Yet, they don’t appear to be following these guidelines – water remains shut-off because of the model's basic assertions. Aside from irrigation and stock-watering wells, three municipalities in Klamath County are also threatened with regulatory enforcement due to the artificial one-mile proximity range, but not due to substantial and timely interference.

All Oregon water users may expect the Department to employ similar computer modelling technology to force water shut-offs in other areas of the state. Given the complex technical nature of much scientific data, computer models, applications, assumptions and extrapolations, OWRD must address departmental weaknesses in identifying, disclosing, and resolving issues with conflict-of-interest and scientific-integrity, while ensuring the quality of the evidentiary findings used during enforcement actions.

To eliminate these unnecessary and politically contrived water shortages, we need to provide realistic problem-solving leadership and embrace strategies designed to increase water supplies. We should be recharging aquifers and building new water reservoirs and dams. This is especially true if weather patterns lower the water volume stored in our winter snowpack.

The legislature must select projects that yield the best return on investment while taking a hard look at costs, science and improved technology. Oregon’s ample runoff water-flows provide a unique source for water-storage efforts and are the proper way to eliminate water scarcity.

We should promote, not restrict, the ingenious free-market problem solver, the all-around engineer, and the entrepreneurs in our communities. Builders, bakers, family farmers and ranchers all provide the daily necessities of life and these are the hardworking Oregonians that should be our heroes.

Without these realistic, common-sense changes the state’s dysfunctional political culture will savage agriculture, just as it did Oregon’s timber industry, and along with it, Oregon’s overall economy.

Remember, if we don't stand for rural-Oregon values and common-sense – No one will.

Senator Dennis Linthicum signature

Dennis Linthicum

Oregon State Senate 28

  Two meetings that everyone should attend:

June 12, 2018, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Oregon Institute of Technology College Union, Auditorium / 3201 Campus Drive Klamath Falls, OR 97601

June 14 & 15, 2018

City of Redmond - Public Works Department Training Room East and West
243 E. Antler Avenue
Redmond, Oregon 97756

Capitol Phone: 503-986-1728

Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, S-305, Salem, Oregon 97301