A half a century ago in rural areas of North Carolina, there used to be billboards with strong and aggressive messages. I remember one that advocated: “U.S. Out of the United Nations.”
The sign was from the John Birch Society, an ultra-conservative organization founded in 1958 that hated communists, pushed U.S. unilateralism and purported to uphold so-called “American” values.
Now, in Virginia, Tea Partiers and other hard-right types are extending decades-old U.N. paranoia to down-in-the-weeds smart-growth policies that set up limits related to lot sizes, where growth should go and how services can be matched to growth.
In an intriguing article in this Sunday’s Richmond Times Dispatch, reporter Rex Springston outlines how activists based in the Richmond area and in the watery Middle Neck have targeted the smart growth campaign. They have helped delay comprehensive plans in Henrico and Chesterfield Counties and oppose such things as the use of “smart” electric meters, bike paths and even cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
Their rallying cry is the so-called “Agenda 21,” which is a policy established by the United Nations back in the early 1990s promoting the ideals of “sustainable development.” Given that the document came from an international group representing countries of all income and development levels, it pushes such guidelines as grouping housing for the sake of efficient resource use.
Some in the anti-Agenda 21 crowd claim that the plan would undermine home ownership. It would supposedly end private farming and would apparently push people into Stalin-style collective farms, or somesuch. Placing smart electric meters in houses for more efficient use of electricity is seen as a part of a plot for mass surveillance by Big Government. Naturally, George Soros, the billionaire, left-leaning financier, has to be behind this. Even the Republican National Committee and Next Gingrich have embraced getting rid of Agenda 21.
Close to my home in Chesterfield County, anti-Agenda 21 types have helped delay adoption of a new comprehensive plan that had been designed more or less around smart-growth policies. Growth would be concentrated around highway and commercial areas and not allowed to hopscotch hither and yon. A “green zone” in southwestern Chesterfield, where I live, would be kept green. Tea Party activists threw a wrench into that one, saying it would take property rights away from owners.
One wonders where these people were 20 years ago when Chesterfield’s growth-happy board of supervisors gave into every idea any developer had. That is why schools are overcrowded and police and fire services are shortchanged. My small subdivision has shifted school districts three times in 10 years to help the county rectify its disastrous planning.
The Tea Party people like such bad planning because it represents “freedom,” I would guess. It seems extremely odd that they would drag in a sleepy, two-decades-old U.N. proposal as their whipping boy. Their claims that it is fostering global socialism are as out there as the John Birch Society itself.
One wonders, with the global economy deciding where jobs go more and more, how such people deal with the 21st-century world. Their solution seems to be to dress up like Patrick Henry in colonial garb, wave their rattlesnake flags and tell the rest of the world where to go. And the rest of us end paying for the consequences.