Hope and Chains: Many Affirmative Cases Will Collide or Fail
Many of the federal government’s current marine natural resource policies are failures. That is, they have failed to achieve the goals stated when current policies and legislation was first proposed or amended. This reality provides plenty of case opportunities for affirmatives debating this year’s national topic.
The good news for negatives is that most proposed reforms are likely to make federal policies even worse. Current federal marine natural resource policy is based on the premise that the state and federal governments should own and manage natural resources. From national forests, national parks, national rangelands (BLM), and marine reserves, top-down planning, regulation, and management is the rule rather than the exception. State and federal governments own forests, parks, and rangelands outright, plus have hundreds of thousands of pages of regulations across dozens of agencies attempting to govern how other lands and marine natural resources are to be used.
Government ownership of marine natural resources lets the camel’s nose in the tent. The White House invites the entire camel into the tent with Executive Order 13547, the astonishingly expansive National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes.
To translate all these new Executive Branch policies into “on-the-ground actions to benefit the American people” we have more nationalism: the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan.
A question negative debaters can ask of affirmative debaters: “How does your plan fit into President Obama’s National Ocean Policy?” Is it likely the affirmative team’s plan can be implemented alongside or under the new Executive Order 13547 federal bureaucracy? Doc Hastings of the House Committee on Natural Resources notes:
This Executive Order is a unilateral, back-door maneuver by an army of bureaucrats to zone the Nation’s oceans and coastal regions. At a time of tight Federal budgets, this Executive Order has created a new bureaucracy including a 27-member National Ocean Council that involves more than a dozen Federal government agencies, an 18-member Governance Coordinating Committee, 9 Regional Planning Bodies, and requires all federal agencies to meet new policy directives that have no basis in law – while costing untold millions in taxpayer dollars. [Source]
This makes many MNR debate cases like affirmatives on a federal health care reform topic that does not mention the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), or on federal education reform not mentioning Common Core. Executive branch agencies of federal government are expanding their top-down planning process for marine natural resources. Most affirmation MNR cases will face this flood of new federal regulations.
Consider the language of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan:
• The Implementation Plan describes specific actions Federal agencies will take to address key ocean challenges… Comment: So the executive branch of the federal government is defining key ocean challenges (without Congress involved), then deciding specific actions Federal agencies will take.
• …give states and communities greater input in Federal decisions… Comment: So Congress gets zero input, but states and communities get some? How do states gain leverage to influence federal policies if not through their Congressional representatives? The greater input will come from organized special interest groups including well-funded environmental groups and larger fishing firms. What does it mean exactly when your parents offer you greater input on family vacations or what’s for dinner? It’s okay in families if parents make the final decisions. But for societies it’s called paternalism when the state acts like parents and treats citizens like children telling them what that can and can’t do (after sometimes listening to their input).
• streamline Federal operations, save taxpayer dollars, and promote economic growth. Comment: As a negative debater might respond to an affirmative making such a claim in cross-examination: “Interesting.”
Incentives, Information, New Federal Fact Sheets
Apart from these general comments on challenges for any affirmative plan avoiding being subsumed under the Obama Administration’s National Ocean Policy, are further reasons for likely failure.
Central to successful social organization are incentives and information. An example often cited is the production and distribution of food to any city, town, or community. Every community in America is only a few days from food riots. Who is in charge of making sure enough food arrives at local grocery stores to feed the hundreds or thousands of people who show up hungry each week. How do grocery stores know what people what to buy? How do they respond to occasional shortages of rice, wheat, honey, bananas or limes? This complex and crucial process has no state or federal planning agencies directing decisions. Instead, food is grown on private property, processed and delivered by private firms to private grocery stores.
Marine national resource policies by contrast are distorted by paternalistic state and federal government agencies. The natural development of private ownership and community management of fisheries and coastal shellfish property has been distorted or blocked outright by top-down regulatory agencies. Seventy-five previous posts examine the various ways federal planning and regulation have slowed or stop development of America’s marine natural resources.
No number of meetings by federal planning agencies, even with states and communities greater input, will generate the incentives or information needed to coordinate marine natural resource producers and consumers. Entrepreneurs and new enterprises protect and develop marine natural resources. Their research applies new insights, discoveries, and technologies to expand the quality and quantity of farmed and wild fisheries, and well as recreation opportunities. Prices, property rights, and voluntary cooperation are central to this coordinating process.
By contrast, students can review the various “Fact Sheets” to lean how the executive branch of the federal government intends to unilaterally expand planning and control. Also most Fact Sheet pages include taking account of “climate change” in expanding regulations.
- The Implementation Plan
- Marine Planning
- Coastal Communities
- Recreational Fishing and Boating
- Commercial Fishing
- Offshore Renewable Energy
- Offshore Oil and Gas
- Shipping and Ports
The image above right is from the Commercial Fishing page, one of the few not mentioning climate change. It mentions ocean acidification though, which is an step-child of climate change. The climate seems not to be changing from CO2 emissions and increased CO2 in the atmosphere. But if increasing atmospheric CO2 causes ocean acidification (a big if), then reducing CO2 emissions becomes part of this federal commercial fishing policy.
A Final Note on Failure Standards In a classic Yes, Minister episode called “The Challenge” the Jim Hacker talks to Dr. Cartwright, an economist who suggests adopting a policy successful in the private sector. Any government agency proposing a new policy would have to also list criteria for evaluating whether the new policy succeeds or fails. Both the U.S. and U.K. continue to fund and enforce thousands of outdated and outright failed federal policies. Once passed these policies, agencies, and programs continue and usually expand, and even with episodic amending legislation and agency “clarification” policies, continue to disrupt and distort social coordination, interfere with voluntary enterprise, and waste taxpayers’ money. (Yes, Minister episodes stream free to Amazon Prime members.)
Far better if new policies and affirmative cases include failure standards so those that misfire can be swiftly discontinued. Private firms regularly close down, merge with new firms, dramatically shift produces and services, or go bankrupt. Federal policies proposed by affirmative debaters should have in their enabling legislation a means to measure success or failure, and if judged to fail, to quickly and easily cease to exist.
Society is burdened enough from the weight of failed past legislation. New policy failures will walk into debaters’ nightmares, wailing and clanking their chains. Students who forge new chains add this legislative weight to future generations.