Of Coercion and Tree Planting

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I first noticed
the blue marks on the grassy verge last week. That's odd.
Is it just us? Nope. Blue lines and crosses had been carefully
painted at selected points in several streets. The marks seemed
to target spots free of underground electricity cables. Very strange.
As householders, we don't own the footpath or verge bordering the
road, as local government claims that bit. So I rang them and they
(of course) had no idea, but faithfully promised to find out. (They
rang back a few days later, and professed not to know.)

A day or two
later, cheery flyers and leaflets appeared. Another obscure branch
of the very same local government (that still didn't know what the
blue marks were) was organising a "free" tree planting.
The blue crosses marked where they would go. The idea was to create
beautiful "shadeways" along our streets, where people
could walk in the peace, harmony, and carbon-absorbing shade of
gloriously tree-lined boulevards. Our trees would inhale all the
noxious CO2 we humans selfishly exhale into Gaia's beloved atmosphere.

I was a bit
confused. These messages of "free" and "voluntary"
greening were from the same
elected body
that reminds us to trim trees. Other
bodies
tell us they will actually remove trees if they see fit.
There even is, amazingly, an Australian
standard
on Tree Pruning, AS 4373, "Pruning of Amenity
Trees."

So whilst it
didn't make much sense, I was now better informed of my obligations
under AS 4373.

Come the joyful
day of planet-worship, I was away for most of the morning with other
commitments. I returned to find the doubtless cheerful volunteers
had dug a hole, planted something (there was no tag attached), and
tied it to stakes six feet high. It was less than 2 feet from the
gutter, very close to the road. But I didn't ask for this. I didn't
want it. It looks really ridiculous. It would be churlish to be
grumpy. Wouldn't it?

I spent an
entire day wondering what to do with it. If today we are lumbered
with tree planting (in our best interests, and paid for through
taxes), what will governments foist on us tomorrow?

I have to conclude
that we are deceived if we believe the State acts in our best interests.
The chaos on Wall Street is just the latest example of socialising
costs and privatising profits. Whether it is greening our neighbourhoods,
the rising cost of living or the money and credit crisis, the grubby
hands of the State and its closest friends will destroy incentive,
invade property rights, negate liberty and hand you the bill.

But back to
the coercive tree planters. Did they ask residents if they wanted
these? No. Our mail deliverers ride small motorcycles along footpaths.
Did someone ask them about their feelings? No. If we all objected,
would they have done it anyway? Probably. But this is the principle
of force. Government is all about coercion, and using force. Unfortunately,
we have come to believe that coercion is acceptable, when done in
the name of the state.

Planting trees
where they aren't wanted is a populist policy response to pseudo-scientific
tree-huggers, who'd prefer to wipe most
of us
out. Maybe our governments will get around to that next
week, after which it will be duly reported
on the national broadcaster
. But don't hang around your letterbox
awaiting an announcement, as local governments don't always know
in advance what they will do next. It's a bit disappointing really;
even the Vogons
gave fair warning.

Personally,
I think we deserve better.

September
26, 2008

Darren
Tulk [send him mail]
currently schlepps for Leviathan.

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