I’m Accused of Missing the Big Picture

I made a few comments this morning behind Russ Steele’s blog posting, Let’s hope the BOS has more brains and …….. than the Planning Commission.” In my remarks, I defended as rational and fact-based the Planning Commission’s decision two days ago to deny “vested right to mine” to Blue Lead LLC.

I made my comments primarily in response to this assertion by another commenter to Russ’s post:

… it is apparent that there are people amongst us that care very little about “sustainability” of our community but instead push their personal agendas. Nevada County has lost a significant business tax base in the past 5 years due to narcissistic souls hell bent on their strange agendas and beliefs. Such individual extremism has a drastic and long lasting impact on a community.

From the allusion to “sustainability,” I assume the commenter was saying that environmentalists were the driving force behind the Planning Commission’s decision, and that they are all a bunch of narcissists.

After I pointed out that the case for vesting was weak and primarily opposed by Blue Lead’s neighbors, whose own property rights were being trampled, and invited  the participants in Russ Steele’s blog to check the facts for themselves by reading the copious documentation publicly available on the county website (and I cited the appropriate link), I was politely told:

Don, you’re looking through the wrong end of the binoculars and missing the point. It’s the bigger picture.

Now this is definitely the sort of criticism I pay attention to, because it can be very constructive when it’s true. I love the big picture, and I don’t mind having it pointed out to me when I’ve missed it.

So I went back through Russ Steele’s blog posting and tried to find that bigger picture. I’m not sure, but I think most of the participants would probably accept these other comments there as expressing the bigger picture:

Yes, it is a property and resource rights issue and frankly they should be able to do what they want within guidelines of the law.

… these issues always remind me of people that come in and buy a house next to – a race track – outdoor concert venue – airport, then complain about the noise.

… Maybe the problem up there is you have too many people that are independently wealthy and would just as soon have everybody else move away.

Aside from the manner in which these comments are obviously unconnected to the actual facts of the case, which copiously document the absence of evidence for vesting and the egregious disregard of Blue Lead for the property rights of its neighbors, some of whom have been there over forty years, some of whom are pro-mine, most of whom are not affluent and are not especially environmentalists, and aside from the sad but telling fact that all this documentation is apparently too much hard work to actually look at for many of the Planning Commission critics, there still does remain the interesting question:

What exactly is the big picture?

To boil it down, it sounds as though the Planning Commission critics see the big picture as the primacy of “property and resource rights.” Yes, the commenter did say “within guidelines of the law,” but the rhetoric is usually heavily weighted in favor of the property owner, and not much focused on the interests of others or of the community at large.

I see it a bit differently and suggest that my big picture is even bigger than their big picture.

Here’s my big picture:


No right is absolute. No right has primacy over all others.  Every right operates somewhat uneasily and conditionally within the entire sphere of individual rights enjoyed by all members of the community.

For instance, if I want to start a business on my property, I don’t automatically thereby have the right to cut down my neighbors trees or widen roads on his property without his permission. So, my right to pursue my business activity is limited somewhat by my obligation to respect the rights of others.

All rights have this quality of “constraint by other rights.”

Government regulations (“guidelines of the law”) exist to keep peace within this sphere of individual rights. Without these guidelines, lawlessness would reign (which was somewhat the case early in our Gold Rush history, and appears to be the sensibility of a minority of those who wish to pursue mining now).

If there’s a bigger relevant picture than this, I’ll gladly accept a correction from anyone.

By the way, within the context of this sphere of individual rights, I would now define the narcissist as one who is so focused on the pursuit of his own self-interest that he believes his own right to profit is unconstrained and trumphs the  rights of everyone else in his community.

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2 Responses to “I’m Accused of Missing the Big Picture”
  1. jeff pelline says:

    thanks for reiterating the big picture, one that most of us get. russ was irrelevant until jeff ackerman invited him to write a column w/o counterbalance. time for the rest of us to move on .

  2. Anna Haynes says:

    I love this –
    (rightwing commenter says) “Maybe the problem up there is you have too many people that are independently wealthy and would just as soon have everybody else move away.”

    Alas, it doesn’t mesh so well with this (Jeff Pelline reporting):

    “One of the biggest myths in our small, rural county is that the conservatives here are wealthy and generous and the “lefties” are poor and cheap.
    (quote)“The Union appeals to many local residents, maybe the ones who actually pay the annual subscription price, or place the big ads, and don’t just read it for free on the web, which I assume is the way the ‘lefties’ get access to The Union,” is a typical comment, this one in an after-dinner rant on this blog.(end quote)
    I’ve (Jeff) heard the same argument — verbatim, in fact — from the ranks of many supposed “powers that be” in our county too.”

    It’s hard to get those story lines straight, I guess – the only constant is that the non-rightwing folk are “the undesirable Other”.
    Xenophobia is alive and well in some corners of Nevada County.

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