Albemarle County: Whom are you going to vote off the island?

Neatly wrapped in the politically correct banter of sustainability, local human population control is gathering steam in Albemarle County. This charge is being led by a vocal minority “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) tying population control concepts to environmental preservation or sustainability. The elitist NIMBY vision of economic freedom is now that I own my piece of Albemarle County, I am empowered to remove that opportunity for others.

The no growth citizen group, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP), has proposed spending $25,000 of Albemarle County’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) money to study an optimal population number. Surprisingly, the Board of Supervisors is seriously considering the proposal. The Free Enterprise Forum is opposed to this expenditure and believes this CIP money could be better spent on much needed infrastructure.

ASAP’s short term goal is to determine the number of humans that can be sustained in Albemarle County without impacting the ecological systems and natural heritage. The longer term goal is to create a government cap on the population of Albemarle County. This cap could create targeted birth rates and effectively build a moat around Albemarle County.

The concept of government population control is not new. One example of modern population control is China’s one-child policy. This policy requires payment of a “social compensation fee” for couples having more than one child in urban areas. The Chinese policy recognizes the significant costs associated with the education of children (a refrain heard often in Albemarle) and seeks to recoup that investment from parents with more than one child. This creates a clear economic disadvantage for, and social disapproval of, families with multiple children.

Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” (which can be found on ASAP’s website www.stopgrowthasap.org) proposed that society must relinquish the “freedom to breed” through “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon.”

A review of the Weldon Cooper Center’s population numbers for Albemarle County (2000-2006) shows that 33 percent of all growth is natural growth (births over deaths). This is a positive trend as we have both a lower birth mortality rate and we are living longer. If this trend continues and ASAP is successful in their government population-control cap, eventually we will be forced to either relinquish the “freedom to breed” and/or we will have to decide whom to force out of Albemarle County (vote off the island).

The Free Enterprise Forum promotes housing affordability, economic freedom and economic vitality and thus we are opposed to government population control. ASAP (and related organizations) see economic growth as a threat to economic sustainability, national security and international stability.

The human race has an impact on the environment. Every successful species has an impact on the environment. Just as the physical environment we live in today is very different (better) than that of just 20 years ago, I anticipate the world in 2027 will be improved. If our environment is always changing, why is it necessary to evoke ecological preservation at any point?

Rather than focus on government population control, the Free Enterprise Forum suggests developing market driven solutions to the issues related to population growth (traffic, schools, etc.). In a recent Charlottesville speech, Portland Economist Randal O’Toole highlighted congestion pricing on privately owned toll roads and privately owned transit as two innovative concepts that may assist in relieving gridlock.

Regardless of how many environmental, ecological buzz words surround the ASAP proposal, it is clearly about government population control. The Free Enterprise Forum is diametrically opposed to Albemarle County government wasting $25,000 of CIP funds. Rather than funding a biased study to determine when ASAP is going to start digging its moat, CIP funds should be used to build infrastructure for citizens who live here today and tomorrow.

Neil Williamson is the executive director of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy think tank. For more information on the Free Enterprise Forum vist their website www.freeenterpriseforum.org.

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