Updates for Wednesday, May 19th [2004]

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will never be dear to you.


Dear Friends,

I was walking along the street earlier today, when I was confronted with a person who sought my signature for a petition. It was a petition to prevent the clearcutting of the forests, intrigued, I enquired further.

Petitioner: Excuse me sir, are you a registered Oregon voter?

Me: Registered? Must I do that as well? Why do you ask?

Petitioner: Well, Oregon forests are under threat of clearcutting. Logging corporations are going to destroy our forests, if you are a registered voter I can have you sign this petition to get it on our next ballot.

Me: Hmm, the next ballot? Why is it the state's matter what is done with the forests, or the public's interest?

Petitioner: Well, the forest is owned by us, the public. Our state wants to rent it out to the big corporations who will destroy it.

Me: Wait, it's owned by us? Why?

Petitioner: Well, if we sold it to the big corporations we wouldn't be able to preserve anything, now would we?

Me: Why would it be my duty to preserve a forest for you or anyone? You said they are just rented out and destroyed anyways, right?

Petitioner: Well that's just my point, if you sign my petition, they can't do anything. We'll divide it up between state-approved parks, reserves and state-selected private businesses to do approved cutting. It'll also set aside part of the state budget to help clean up the forests, from the popularity of our free state campsite services, and expand several key features of the parks to make it accomodate the growing public tourism... if we don't buy up and secure the remaining forests now, then it won't be free for us to use in the future.

Me: Well I don't see that as much of a solution. If they can't cut, then the forest does little good for producing any wood, and then it really is little better than something to see. If the land is rented from the government, then business will have no incentive to practice good cutting. Yet if those entrepreneurs owned it privately you would get upset for the loss of a public preserve or parkland. If it's so important to preserve, then why not have a private person do just that? Perhaps with him managing it he could allow those who are responsible to visit, or those willing to pay a small fee for it's maintenance, and it wouldn't get so overcrowded that you need to spend tax money to clean it up. It'll never be very dear to anyone if everyone can have it for free.

Petitioner: Well that's no good solution! We can't trust the big corporations to do that! They'll just destroy the trees! Don't you know the plight of the rainforests?

Me: Rainforests? I'm afraid I just don't know. I do know that I've never heard of a company that destroyed it's own land; perhaps the land of others, but not land they own themselves. You must trust someone to do it regardless, and selecting who will do that only seems more confusing once you make that someone, well, everyone.

Petitioner: Well, we own the land! Not them! If you disagree then please sign my ballot anyways, you can always vote "no". That's only fair.

Me: Well it simply seems silly to me. A politician by trade is never good at managing his own property, let alone the taxpayer's. If you would encourage them to manage the land continously, then you will upon yourself and the poor trees the problems that go with it. A forest a sole man owned was never destroyed by his own hand, but the hand of others or of God, and when it was destroyed it was only to his own ruin, not the ruin of others. If the public owns these trees, then really no one is responsible and destruction will only come to everyone's ruin, by God's hand, if not our own. I know this for I have, once, owned a large estate. I preserved what I saw fit and it was home to one of the finest expanses there was, with over 160 different species of trees. I planted entire rows of white pines and hemlock all about. I wish I was a despot that I might save the noble, beautiful trees that are daily falling sacrifice to the cupidity of their owners, or the necessity of the poor. The unnecessary felling of a tree, perhaps the growth of centuries, seems to me a crime little short of murder.

But I am not a despot. It's because I am not that I know the best way to grow and encourage growth is to never make what was mine yours and everyone else's. If your complaint is that the trees are tended to poorly, then I say it is because everyone owns them, and in that situation no single person can be truly responsible for taking care of them or using the land properly.

Petitioner: Well, will you just please take this and sign? I get money for signatures. It's only fair.

Me: No, I'm afraid it would be against my conscience.

Petitioner: Well screw you buddy!

It was rather an awkward situation. He did however storm off and begin to bother others. Is this how politics works today?

My friends, please accept my great assurances of respect and esteem.

- TH. Jefferson

Editor's Notes:

This update was another quick one I threw down, taken from a real life scene I had with a petition signer (as which has become more frequent with the increase of petitions in the downtown locales), when I had a little lecture with the petitioner like the kind described here (over the same issue). I do wish I had TeeJ's incisive prose in dealing with situations like that, so when I got home I decided I'd put TeeJ in my shoes and see how he stands up to the petitioner.

Jefferson did sincerely care about forestry and trees, and the logic I put forth here is the prevailing logic I sincerely believe Jefferson would have towards modern government efforts to "protect" and "preserve" forests, through vast federal/state subsidy, regulation and taxation. "I wish I was a despot that I might save the noble, beautiful trees that are daily falling sacrifice to the cupidity of their owners, or the necessity of the poor. The unnecessary felling of a tree, perhaps the growth of centuries, seems to me a crime little short of murder." is an original Jefferson quote, from an alleged White House dinner conversation he had over the subject of the new Federal city of Washington D.C. being developed, when poorer residents cut some finer trees for firewood. During the conversation, when asked if he did have the authority as President to save the trees on the public grounds, he exclaimed "No!" before wishing he was that despot who could. His sincerity for standing on the right of limitations of powers is bold in this stance, illustrating how he really felt about his authority. He had a history with forestry at his estate on Monticello, sometimes even being called the "Founder of American Forestry" for his promotion of seed-trading and tree-planting. He planted trees even into the late days of his life. In a letter written to Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1822), he thanked him for the sample of seeds and added "Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity." The one thing I've learned about writing this journal is that Jefferson was a truely diverse intellectual, perhaps the breadth of this stances here as diverse as any other.

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