Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Initiative 75 will wreck Colorado’s economy
Election season has barely begun, and we are already presented with evidence of the Colorado Left’s inclination to economic wrecking, its inability to think clearly about simple questions and its love of the moneyed elite. Take Initiative 75, a melding of ideas from the “Build Nothing Anywhere, Ever” environmentalist fringe and the inchoate corporation-haters of the far Left, masquerading as a “local control” movement funded by our very own billionaire U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder.
For those of us not keeping up on the process of making Colorado’s constitution irrelevant through self-contradiction, Initiative 75 is one of a group of 15 anti-fracking measures proposed for the 2014 ballot. Chief among those behind the measures is “Coloradans for Local Control,” one of Polis’ cutouts: They have put $1.45 million into the effort through donations to “Coloradans for Clean and Safe Energy.” Approximately 60 percent of that money came from the congressman. One of the downstream beneficiaries is the “Colorado Community Rights Network,” created to push Initiative 75.
The initiative is worth reading because even a perfunctory analysis will reveal the true agenda behind it, and thereby both the fatal misconceptions and loopy populism of its creators. Its title, “Colorado Community Rights Amendment,” is appealing to the unthinking, but contains an error. The introduction elaborates, and deepens, the flaws: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a right to local self-government, and, in connection therewith, declaring that the people have an inherent right to local self-government in counties and municipalities, including the power to enact laws to establish and protect fundamental rights of individuals, communities and nature and the power to define or eliminate the rights and powers of corporations or business entities to prevent them from interfering with those fundamental rights; and declaring that such local laws are not subject to preemption by any federal, state or international laws?”
The initiative’s economic impact would be profound. Why would any business person in his or her right mind locate in a community which could on a whim declare activities or contracts, or any provision thereof, null and void — without recourse? Given plentiful options in other states where due process and protections of private property rights still exist, the uncertainties Initiative 75 would create are bound to cause businesses and jobs to flee the state.
The initiative’s introduction also contains two false premises. First, it claims “rights” where there are none, however fervently the sponsors wish it. In our constitutional republic, neither “communities” or “nature” have “fundamental rights.” No law, however well-meaning, can establish these. It is an enduring error of Progressivism to treat people as members of “communities,” and to imbue nature with certain spiritual qualities, but neither belief agrees with a basic understanding of our constitutional principles. Individuals have rights in these United States. Nature, while it should be respected and even conserved, does not.
Second, and loonier, is the “not subject to” provision. Remember, this was the argument of Cliven Bundy, the infamous Utah rancher the Left loved to hate. Initiative 75, like Bundy, neglects the supremacy clause of the federal Constitution, state law and the orderly hierarchy of government. What happens when two of Colorado’s local governments with overlapping jurisdictions enact conflicting statutes, civil war? Since the initiative was not written by idiots, one assumes this clause was inserted as a political stunt to attract easily distracted voters. Consider: if Boulder institutes an absolute ban on the sale of chocolate — entirely possible, given the loose construction of the initiative — what “international law” would the solons of San Francisco in the Rockies be worried about preempting their efforts?
A deeper problem with the initiative — and with others like it — is that it is based on a lie: that we are a democracy, and a nation of democracies. The initiative leaps from the Jeffersonian adage that “all political power is vested in and derived from the people” to local government thereby having unlimited power to regulate, limit and to deprive of rights those it sees fit; to protect “health, safety and welfare,” and to ensure the supremacy of “locally enacted fundamental rights of individuals, their communities and nature.”
This is not the reasoning of Jefferson’s republic, or even Hamilton’s. This is the language of Robespierre’s Committee for Public Safety; of the Terrorist government of the French Revolution. Evidence to the contrary, it embraces the century-old Progressive vision of the wise, benign, protective state. It is dangerous, because it dreams of what has never been, and what can never be.
And there is no place for it in Colorado. This November, tell Jared Polis to invest in the Keystone Pipeline, not in further efforts to cripple Colorado’s economy.
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County.
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