Alborn: Conservatives Love the Environment
– September 22, 2013 8:00 am
I spent three plus days hanging out with a diverse group of outdoor communicators. There were a lot of published authors in every medium, photographers, videographers, and advocates of the outdoors. I came home with a number of interesting ideas to advance my personal worldview as a conservationist.
On the last day of the conference, I listened to the president of a respected conservation advocacy group bemoan the loss of federal funding for parks and recreation.
The speaker waxed eloquently about the Federal Government’s reductions in spending on outdoor recreation. He came from the position that it was the government’s responsibility to provide for every form of hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor related activities.
I sat there wondering why this gentleman, or anyone else, expected the Federal Government to be in the business of entertaining us?
While many of my friends walk around expecting the Government to do all kinds of things for the American public, Conservatives always ask the following question regarding public policy and the Federal Government:
Where in the Constitution does it say we should do this?
In all fairness, people of good will disagree on how to interpret the Constitution.
Many people view it as something of a guide or perhaps an irrelevant historical artifact to be ignored. Most conservatives view it as a strict rule set designed to constrain government’s growth and intrusion into our lives.
Back to the speaker at the conference. Realizing that I was in a room perhaps full of folks sympathetic to the speaker, I crafted my question carefully. I simply asked if his organization had considered going to the states, businesses, and private groups to fund the recreational projects that the Federal Government is cutting back on.
The frame of reference to understand my question, or why I asked it, was definitely lacking. The conversation about those obstructing Federal funding for outdoor recreation continued.
When Conservatives are approached by folks who want to fund something, or question why funding to some program they favor is being cut they always silently ask the same question of themselves:
Where in the Constitution does it say we should do that?
Their context is simple. The 10th Amendment is rather clear.
AMENDMENT X – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
I use the presentation at the OWAA Conference as an analog for many discussions going on in and about our Congress these days. My friends used to a Federal Government that funds all kinds of things are bemoaning the defunding of long established programs and causes. They are lamenting visions of a smaller government, and lobbying for continued support of things about conservatives question the very existence.
That’s the disconnect.
Conservatives love the environment, like to fish, hunt, bird watch, take pictures, and do all sorts of things outdoors. They also want to feed the hungry, see people in comfortable homes, help out those folks who are unemployed, etc., etc., etc.
Conservatives just don’t understand, from a constitutional perspective, why the Federal Government should be involved in any of these things. If it’s not enumerated in the Constitution as a power or responsibility of the Federal Government, these folks should be talking to their state government, businesses that profit from outdoor recreation, or private groups.
The point of this column. Things will never be the same.
The Federal Government is shrinking not necessarily because of any particular philosophical considerations, but simply because it no longer afford to support all of the things it signed up to. Conservatives in Congress are taking advantage of this to reduce the size of Government wherever they can.
Medicare or outdoor recreation? Social Security or funding for places to hunt and fish?
Medicare and Social Security are not going away. The Federal Government has made promises, and these promises must now be fulfilled. That being said, the future of these programs may change over time for future generations.
These are but two examples.
When faced with these “tough choices”, there will be winners and losers. When you start listing government programs on a whiteboard, and then prioritizing them, the losers become rather obvious.
Those folks should change their focus to look for new revenue streams outside of the Federal Government now.
Conservatives see this as an opportunity for state governments to assume their rightful 10th Amendment role in deciding how they want to address anything not covered in the United States Constitution.
Lobbyist and special interest groups are perhaps wasting their time lobbying conservatives in government facing the current fiscal environment and future financial challenges for new or continued funding for things that have no constitutional foundation.
When some in the audience protested, I pointed out that the Commonwealth of Virginia’s states that “it shall be the Commonwealth’s policy to protect its atmosphere, lands and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction…” and that ““The people have a right to hunt, fish, and harvest game, subject to such regulations and restrictions as the General Assembly may prescribe by general law.”
My point was simple. If it’s not in the Constitution, and you believe that the majority of Americans believe that the Federal Government should be involved in some endeavor not enumerated therein, the correct way to add it to the Federal Government’s plate is through the Amendment process.
Then, “It’s in there”!
I view the Constitution as a rule set to be strictly enforced to manage the size and growth of fovernment and its intrusion into our lives. I also believe that if enough people don’t agree with “what’s in there”, it’s ok to add Amendments as long as you can get 35 states to agree.
If it’s “not in there”, we shouldn’t take it on as a new mission, and we should be cautious in supporting those existing Government programs that lack any Constitutional mandate.
If you are lobbying for any group, the first question to ask yourself before opening a conversation with a Conservative lawmaker is, “Where in the Constitution does it say we should be doing whatever it is that I am about to ask for?” If you don’t have a good answer, perhaps you should reconsider which level of Government you are talking to, and start visiting State capitals.
I find folks on both sides of the aisle that I like. I wouldn’t want to live under a Government dominated by either party for long.
I purposely mix up my voting habits to prevent any one party or philosophy from dominating public policy at all levels for too long. That natural, cyclic change from liberal to conservative will, IMHO, eventually level out into a steady state with which we all may live.
I don’t expect to see that “steady state” in my lifetime; however, I will continue to weigh in to try and make Government a little smaller every chance I get.
You will see a lot more of a Conservationist flavor in future columns. Among other things, I am an outdoor communicator interested in Conservation issues. I may not be here every week as I am working on a book and several other projects. If you are interested in what I’m up to, you may keep up at my new website, Virginia Trout Bum, and my outdoor sports blog.