EPA Official’s Admitted Philosophy – “Crucify”

This really is quite remarkable.  Once in a while, an enforcer for the law-passing goons of the state, who are too cowardly to carry out their own decrees, is caught off guard admitting the real impetus behind thrusting his jackboot of compulsion on the throat of civil society.  If, and it’s always a big if, the candid remarks go viral, what comes next is a series of apologies and a promised investigation of some sort.  In reality, nothing changes as the portion of the public caught off guard by the offending statement forgets soon after; believing that their elected rulers will remedy the issue.  What really happens is that these instances of clarity serve as a warning to the rest of the badge wearing slavedrivers to do a better job keeping their traps shut in front of the camera.  And also to give a pink slip to whatever overconfident dolt had the nerve to drop the ball on video.

Environmental Protection Agency administer Al Armendariz is currently that dolt.

At a local Texas government meeting back in 2010, Armendariz, of the Region 6 Dallas office, made the following remarks (Update- the video has been taken down):

“But as I said, oil and gas is an enforcement priority, it’s one of seven, so we are going to spend a fair amount of time looking at oil and gas production. And I gave, I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I said. It was kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there. And, companies that are smart see that, they don’t want to play that game, and they decide at that point that it’s time to clean up. And, that won’t happen unless you have somebody out there making examples of people. So you go out, you look at an industry, you find people violating the law, you go aggressively after them. And we do have some pretty effective enforcement tools. Compliance can get very high, very, very quickly. That’s what these companies respond to is both their public image but also financial pressure. So you put some financial pressure on a company, you get other people in that industry to clean up very quickly. So, that’s our general philosophy.”

First off, Mr. Armendariz is wrong on the appropriateness of the analogy.  He couldn’t have been more accurate.

But when Armendariz refers to “crucify” he is not just speaking of a lack of worship to the EPA.  The EPA is, after all, just another alphabet soup bureaucracy used to bring economic progress to a standstill so that authoritarian supervision can be better administered.  Those who fail to bow down to the might of the EPA are really disrespecting the state.  The same goes for tax evaders and currency counterfeiters.  That’s why examples need to be made through levying expensive fines and heavy press coverage of arrests.  Their insubordination can’t be tolerated as it could give way to more widespread defiance.  The only exception is those who pony up enough dough to political campaigns so they will be granted exceptions.  Or if you run a banking system which finances government pork schemes.

Like barbarians in the days of the Bible that impaled dismembered heads on a stakes as a grotesque lesson in unquestioned obedience; Mr. Armendariz utilized the same crude method of symbolism while dressed in a suit and tie.  In light of this video, he has since come out and apologized.  Republican Senator James Inhofe, who actually released the footage, is promising an investigation.  In an election year, government investigations of itself are cheap kabuki theater and used to score political points in the minds of the fools who still wear the jersey of their favorite elephant or jackass.

To be clear, this isn’t a ringing endorsement of pollution.  Critics of the EPA are often lampooned as shrills for corporations that dump toxic waste into an elementary school’s water supply and build smoke stacks next to orphanages.  What these watermelons fail to understand is that government by in large is responsible for pollution.  In For a New Liberty: A Libertarian Manifesto, Murray Rothbard succinctly lays out how pollution, as an affront on private property, used to be handled under the restrictions of English Common Law and how the state has made a mockery of protecting private land to the boon of big business.  He writes:

As factories began to arise and emit smoke, blighting the orchards of neighboring farmers, the farmers would take the manufacturers to court, asking for damages and injunctions against further invasion of their property. But the judges said, in effect, “Sorry. We know that industrial smoke (i.e., air pollution) invades and interferes with your property rights. But there is something more important than mere property rights: and that is public policy, the ‘common good.’ And the common good decrees that industry is a good thing, industrial progress is a good thing, and therefore your mere private property rights must be overridden on behalf of the general welfare.” And now all of us are paying the bitter price for this overriding of private property, in the form of lung disease and countless other ailments. And all for the “common good”

That this principle has guided the courts during the air age as well may be seen by a decision of the Ohio courts in Antonik v. Chamberlain (1947). The residents of a suburban area near Akron sued to enjoin the defendants from operating a privately owned airport. The grounds were invasion of property rights through excessive noise. Refusing the injunction, the court declared:

“In our business of judging in this case, while sitting as a court of equity, we must not only weigh the conflict of interests between the airport owner and the nearby landowners, but we must further recognize the public policy of the generation in which we live. We must recognize that the establishment of an airport … is of great concern to the public, and if such an airport is abated, or its establishment prevented, the consequences will be not only a serious injury to the owner of the port property but may be a serious loss of a valuable asset to the entire community.”

To cap the crimes of the judges, legislatures, federal and state, moved in to cement the aggression by prohibiting victims of air pollution from engaging in “class action” suits against polluters. Obviously, if a factory pollutes the atmosphere of a city where there are tens of thousands of victims, it is impractical for each victim to sue to collect his particular damages from the polluter (although an injunction could be used effectively by one small victim). The common law, therefore, recognizes the validity of “class action” suits, in which one or a few victims can sue the aggressor not only on their own behalf, but on behalf of the entire class of similar victims. But the legislatures systematically outlawed such class action suits in pollution cases. For this reason, a victim may successfully sue a polluter who injures him individually, in a one-to-one “private nuisance” suit. But he is prohibited by law from acting against a mass polluter who is injuring a large number of people in a given area! As Frank Bubb writes, “It is as if the government were to tell you that it will (attempt to) protect you from a thief who steals only from you, but it will not protect you if the thief also steals from everyone else in the neighborhood.”

Had the state maintained its practice of protecting life and property, pollution would not be an issue much to the degree that it is today.  Since power centers attract and breed unscrupulous behavior, deep pockets end up chiseling away at basic checks upon coercion.  History has shown the state will always become a tool by which certain elites can manipulate and use its authority in predation to their liking.  The result is what despotic tactics thugs like Armendariz resort to in order to ensure submission.

While Armendariz’s admission may just be another brief instance of the clothes-less emperor, enough of these candid moments will eventually discredit the political establishment.  One example can be dismissed as an outlier.  Too many will start to open eyes.  Gary North elaborates:

No bureaucracy ever suffers long from incidents like these. Governments do not stop spending. High-level heads rarely roll. Most important, high-level heads just below appointed level do not roll. Senior bureaucrats who do not serve at the pleasure of a politician are safe.

Then what good is a video on YouTube? It undermines voters’ respect for bad government. It chips away at the confidence instilled by years of tax-funded schooling. One video can undermine what I call “trust the textbook.”

Over time, the drip, drip, drip of revelatory YouTube videos will undermine the most precious asset of any government: legitimacy.

Without legitimacy, the state is just another finely dressed mob.  And that is what libertarians, or anyone who truly longs for freedom, should aim at degrading.

One Youtube video at a time.

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2 Responses to “EPA Official’s Admitted Philosophy – “Crucify””

  1. Roger says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. That opening paragraph, wow!

  2. Ryan says:

    Occasionally in Ottawa I run into bureaucrats in social settings who say the most profoundly insightful things. One recent example was a civil servant who told me that "the fun part" of working is "stomping on those" who raise prices above what her particular agency felt was appropriate.

    When I hear these sorts of comments, I ask a lot of follow-up questions. I try to give these people every possible opportunity to express some kind of reservation about the things they say. But they never do. They enjoy stomping. It's a simple matter of fact. They admit it.

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