Jun 26th 2012, 13:58 by J.F.
Source: The Economist
ON JULY 31st, Georgia’s voters will decide whether to impose upon themselves a one-cent sales tax for the next ten years to fund transportation projects. Voters in each of Georgia’s 12 regions will have seen (or at least, will have had the opportunity to see) the list of projects their tax will fund; money collected in that region will be spent in that region. Of the $18 billion the tax will raise, a plurality will be spent in metro Atlanta, a region increasingly being strangled by traffic congestion. The vote raises important questions: what does metro Atlanta want to look like ten years from now? What government functions do citizens believe important enough to voluntarily tax themselves to fund?
It also raises an insane question: are Atlanta’s Democratic mayor, Kasim Reed, and Republican attorney-general, Sam Olens, both agents of the United Nations determined to advance the cause of one-world government and outlaw private property? Before you laugh (well, okay, after you finish laughing), this is not a joke. Such concerns come not from the LaRouchey fringe, but from mainstream Georgia Republicans. Bill Heath, a Georgia state senator, warned earlier this month that advocates of Agenda 21—a turgid, vapid, self-satisfied and of course non-binding statement of principles on development adopted 20 years ago at the Rio Conference—want to “essentially conquer the world through limiting everything we do, incrementally taking our liberties away from us.” Agenda 21 was rousingly condemned at the state Republican conference last month as “an encroachment on our sovereignty” (which it might be if it were enforceable, binding, or actually did anything). And a former candidate for governor now running for commissioner of Cobb County, just north of Atlanta, condemned plans to build a jogging and biking trail alongside a highway because, “That’s Agenda 21. Bicycles and pedestrian traffic as an alternative form of transportation to the automobile.” Hear that, hippies? Every time you walk or bike somewhere instead of driving your car, U Thant wins.
Anti-Agenda 21 paranoia is not restricted to Georgia, either: it’s national, stealthily advancing with the aid of a “cold-war mind-control technique known as Delphi”, and if freedom-loving Americans do not take a stand against it now, then“they can come into New York City or wherever a raindrop falls and tell us what to do.” The “they” in that sentence is, believe it or not, the Environmental Protection Agency: the forecast calls for thunderstorms today in New York; I trust a helpful reader will let me know if the first drop brings EPA agents rappelling out of helicopters. Over at WND a columnist warns that Agenda 21 may be non-binding now, but “few people understand it is standard operating procedure for the U.N. to issue a massive non-binding policy document to test the water and make adjustments to its plans before introducing the real, legally binding treaty.” As an example, he cites (apparently with a straight face!) the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights leading to two 1966 UN covenants on human rights. We know how effective those covenants, whatever they are, have been, at binding the American government’s behaviour, but that is apparently what we have to fear if we fail to oppose the spreading tyranny of bike paths.
Cut through the nonsense and we are left with two questions. First, should Americans support mass transit, denser urban development, bike paths and the like because the UN wants them to? Of course not. Spittle-flecked Bircherism notwithstanding, America’s scepticism of top-down internationalism is on balance a good thing, better by far than ceding national sovereignty to people unelected by that nation’s voters. But there is a more important question: should Americans oppose mass transit, denser urban development, bike paths and the like because a document published 20 years ago by the UN supports such measures? Again, of course not. Slavish opposition is just as liberty-sapping as slavish endorsement. Some things are a good idea even if a UN document says they are a good idea. Sure, “sustainable development” has become a weaselly, empty phrase, and even with increased density American cities will probably remain far more auto-centric than European cities and than some greenies might like. But biking and walking save money, promote better health than sitting in a car, and ease traffic congestion, which makes the city more livable for everyone. Opponents of bike and walking paths are going to have come up with a better reason than an ominously named UN document.
(Photo credit: Alamy)