Attack on Private Property Institutionalized

Posted on Freedom Advocates on November 24th 2003

In a powerful 50 minute presentation, abundance ecologist Michael Shaw described the nature, origin, structure and pace of the implementation of Sustainable Development/Agenda 21 in Santa Cruz and across the nation to residents of Auburn, California. The presentation incorporated examples from the Sierras, including a proposed Auburn City Tree Ordinance that dictates what a homeowner can do with trees on their own two acre lot. A report from this event (from the Auburn Journal) follows, with annotation by Freedom 21 Santa Cruz [now Freedom Advocates].


(Adapted from Ryan McCarthy, “Proposed tree law is too radical, group says,” Auburn Journal [With editorial comments in brackets by Freedom 21 Santa Cruz [now Freedom Advocates]])

Auburn’s proposed tree ordinance represents Santa Cruz-style [political] environmentalism [an Auburn citizen’s group] heard in early July.”I can see an example of Santa Cruz right here in Auburn,” Michael Shaw, [co-]founder of Freedom 21 Santa Cruz [now Freedom Advocates], told Auburn area residents.

He cited the Auburn tree ordinance applying to landowners of two or more acres as an effort to isolate some property owners from others. “When we abandon our neighbor’s right to private property we have lost our own freedom,” Shaw said.

[For property to be private, the owner must be free to put the property to the use that he or she designs, whether the property is one’s land, car, tree… or person and provided that the equal rights of another are not violated in the process.]

If government can control plants,” he added, “We become government’s chattel.”

The group Shaw [co-]founded (Freedom 21 Santa Cruz [now Freedom Advocates]) is critical of what it sees as environmental over-regulation and celebrates the self-governance and individual liberty that inspired the U.S. Constitution.

Many environmental measures are promoted with warm and fuzzy words but are the antitheses of liberty, he said. Auburn could be less than 10 years away from Santa Cruz-style measures and politics, Shaw said after his talk. Auburn City Council-woman Alice Dowden said that, “The city is working diligently to balance the need for growth and development with the need to protect our trees.”

[Councilwoman Dowden seems to not understand the essential nature of liberty, responds Shaw. In determining who can cut down a tree on their own property, she seems to presume that her knowledge exceeds the combined understanding of everyone else. Liberty requires that government protect the lives and the rights of people. Fundamental rights include the right to the free use of your property as long as you don’t infringe on the rights of others. A collectivist movement seeks to strip people of the use of private property; in this case under the guise of protecting trees, he said.]

“In drafting the ordinance the council has made several allowances to ensure that it can be implemented on a fair and equitable basis,” Dowdin said. The updated tree ordinance is targeted at larger scale development rather than a homeowner who wants to cut down a tree to put in a swimming pool, she added.

[Does Ms. Dowden assume that because she was elected she has a special capacity to be equitable in allocating rewards and takings? Shaw asks. Does the Constitutional administration of government provide such power to an elected person?

Tyranny occurs when those who direct the force of government presume such omnipotence – just like becoming drunk after consuming too much alcohol. Lord Acton put it this way: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he adds.

Methods for government to assume control of land include gaining direct or indirect authority of the plants and/or the water, Shaw continues. When government controls a nation’s land or the land’s resources, that nation is no longer a “land of the free” people. Government control of the land is necessary for – and a precursor of – state collectivism. This is why the Auburn City attack on private property begins the process of eliminating private property and the freedom that private property supports, he says.

Ms. Dowden speaks as though she can get away with taking away the unalienable rights of a few because she presumes the support of an unrestrained majority, Shaw says. Today, she seeks to control reasonable use of land by landowners of two or more acres. Tomorrow she may target another minority group – or even you. Will someone be there to protect you?

A rapid expansion of government control of the American landscape is occurring. The adoption of the Auburn tree ordinance is one small new chip in the battered ideal of private property and individual liberty, he adds.]

Auburn resident Ken Menzer, a consulting arborist, said the City Council asked for a revised tree measure after a developer in 2000 removed all but two trees out of 700 to 800 when building a subdivision.

[The issue is not about a shortage of trees in the Sierras! The real issue is who decides the fate of individual human action – the individual or the state? One response leads to a raising human condition in a nation or world of increasing abundance and the other leads to a declining human condition in a world of increasing shortages. The City of Auburn seeks to ‘protect trees’ by taking control over that which is not theirs. These ideas are not new. History shows that left alone, a government will routinely attempt to expand its power and control over people, he says.]

Menzer said he is a pro-business Republican who doesn’t want someone to come into the community and replace hundreds of trees with twigs. “It will take generations to restore the lost trees,” he said. “I won’t live that long; none of us will.”

[The logic behind the objection to replacing trees with family homes because “twigs” will arise ignores the individual, commercial, societal, and environmental benefits that come with the provision of market housing, Shaw responds. Increasingly, to be pro-business does not mean that one is pro-private property. After all, some businesses support the idea of partnering with government. Government/private partnerships make it easier to control the action of the rest of us because these partnerships expand the use of government force by favoring the compliant businessman who, in return, often receives protection against free enterprise. There is an increasing occurrence of “consensus” between the “pro-environment” and “pro-business” factions. These agreements routinely take away reasonable uses of someone else’s property and or place limitations on other people’s reasonable actions.Citizens at large have detected a newly identified syndrome affecting many elected officials and recipients of government largesse – The Twig-Logic Deficit Disorder! Those who seek to control others with such reasoning are being discovered in alarming numbers. The attack on private property is becoming institutionalized. And with it, the attack on freedom itself. As George Washington said, “Private Property and freedom are inseparable,” he says.]

Freedom 21 Santa Cruz [now Freedom Advocates] [co-]founder Shaw said that in the city of Capitola in Santa Cruz County, anyone in the community can designate anyone else’s tree as a heritage tree. once so designated, an environmental review is required before the landowner can even prune the tree, he said.

He also criticized efforts in the state to create what he termed a “phony water shortage”.

“If you control the water you control the people,” Shaw said.

Michael Shaw is an Abundance Ecologist. He can be reached at

The Journal’s Ryan McCarthy can be reached at

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