Appendix Pages 3, 4 and 4a
Having laid down the problem, in the remainder of this paper I want to examine some of the more compelling societal issues raised by this type of behavior. One can be certain this is not the only time this has happened and the phenomena must certainly exist to some degree in other counties as well. For, when viewed in the context of this Nation's past and future, it strikes me as a most injudicious time for it.
As we all know, many if not most social, political and economic components of our country are deteriorating. Education is losing ground. Fewer people vote. Crime is increasing. We have a growing underclass of people who do not respect life or our democratic institutions.
All of these things have happened to nations before. However compounding these problems is a new problem; the human race is no longer able to spend environmental capital at will. The Everglades. The soils. The forests. The rivers, bays, oceans. Depleted mineral wealth. The Lee County incinerator. In the past we just moved on without paying the tab. Now we've run out of places to move on to and are stuck with the tab, very often with most of the previous tabs added in.
The result of all these competing demands is that the money is going to get spread thinner and thinner in the U.S. and worldwide as time goes on. Average disposable real income per capita worldwide has probably already peaked and may be permanently headed down.
In our country, we depend on our market economy to deal with it by allocating scarce resources through millions of decisions in the market place and government; so we assume laws defining the structure of economic society are designed to optimize the functioning of the market system as best possible in balance with various other societal and equitable requirements.
Therefore it is most important, not just on equitable grounds, that laws be predictable and evenly applied. For, in the affairs of nations, when there is a serious breakdown of these elements there is generally a serious and debilitating breakdown in the economic sphere. For it engenders a very poor allocation of resources, drives capital away, seriously discourages risk taking and significantly lowers business ethics in both the public and private sector; all of which are mainstays of a market economy.
Of course Lee County Government, and therefore the County Attorney's Office, is the administrator and arbiter of many such laws. Thus, for example, when the person in the MSBU section makes a decision on personal grounds as to whether or not to take my MSBU before the County Commission, it may defeat the economic intent of the law (in effect randomizing it), and may convince me to find a better run county in which to live, do business, and invest. This might suit the personal tastes of the County Attorney staff, but remains an example of many of the serious problems pointed out in the previous paragraph.
In my case, the course the person in the MSBU section has chosen will materially affect the ownership, development plans and thus economic allocation of over $4,000,000 in assets for the three parcels. If she makes professional decisions based on personal criteria regarding the same amount of assets once a month, then $48,000,000 in assets are subject to the same problems.
Now if every staff member in County Government let their personal interests dictate their professional decisions you would have massive waste and misallocation of resources and a very visible flight of business and capital our of the County. And a high percentage of business remaining would be oriented toward shady practices, influence pedaling and the like.
Thus when the County Attorney's Office does not apply the laws equally to various members of the public but does so selectively or unethically in some way, this by its nature will attract business people into the community who perceive they can benefit through corrupt dealing and favoritism and drive out those who feel uncomfortable with it. For it is a very short step from doing something for your own personal advantage or gain and doing it for the personal advantage or gain of another person as a "favor". And it is a short step from doing something as a "favor" and doing something for a material reward of some kind.
further, when otherwise competent and honest business people perceive, rightly or wrongly, that dishonesty and favoritism is a necessity in doing business with County Government, they become corrupted and the general level of honesty in the business community suffers further.
Thus as I see it, honest business people perceive honest government as providing them with an even playing field whereas dishonest business people perceive dishonest government as providing them with an uneven playing field to their advantage; and honest business working with respected government promotes a vastly better allocation of scarce economic resources in both the public and private sector, which gets back to my original point about the dire need to conserve these resources, now, and even more so in the future.
Further when laws are selectively applied to the public this tends to benefit a small minority to the detriment of the majority thus tending to diminish the middle class. On the other hand, evenly applied laws and competent government is a mainstay of the middle class, which, it may be added is diminishing in the United States.
Aristotle, The Politics:
Wherefore the city which is composed of middle class citizens is necessarily best constituted in respect of the elements of which we say the fabric of the state naturally consists. And this is the class of citizens which is most secure in a state, for they do not, like the poor, covet their neighbor's goods; nor do others covet theirs, as the poor covet the goods of the rich; and as they neither plot against others, nor are themselves plotted against, they pass through life safely.-- For when there is no middle class, and the poor greatly exceed in number, troubles arise, and the state soon comes to an end."
Another problem associated with institutionalized corruption is that citizens feel powerless to change it, leading in turn, to voter apathy, and the feeling that no matter who is voted in, government waste and corruption will continue. Conversely, is it not possible honest respected government might inspire citizens of the County to do their best on election day? Niccolo Machiavelli was if anything an astute observer of the political process. Compare, for instance, his depiction of the Roman electoral process with the Lee County electoral process.
Machiavelli, The Discourses:
"I claim that the populace is more prudent, more stable, and of sounder judgment than the prince. Not without good reason is the voice of the populace likened to that of God: for public opinion is remarkably accurate in its prognostications, so much so that it seems as if the populace by some hidden power discerned the good and the evil that was to befall it."
"With regard to its judgment, when two speakers of equal skill are heard advocating different alternatives, very rarely does one find the populace failing to adopt the better view or incapable of appreciating the truth of what it hears."
"It is found too, that in the election of magistrates the populace makes a far better choice than does the prince; nor can the populace ever be persuaded that it is good to appoint to such an office a man of infamous life of corrupt habits."
"I shall content myself with the evidence afforded by the Roman populace, which in the course of so many hundreds of years and so many elections of consuls and tribunes did not make four elections of which it had to repent."
We have recently witnessed the violent death of one public official in Lee County so I would like to suggest the kind of motivation and reasoning that could potentially lead to another.
When an attorney in the County Attorney's Office knowingly commits an unethical act seriously damaging the interests of a citizen he is assuming that, either the citizen's morals and regard for his fellow man are higher than the attorney's so he will not retaliate, or on the other hand, should he be inclined to retaliate, then he will be dissuaded by laws and the police from doing so. It should be added that should the citizen choose to retaliate, violence is increasingly the modality of choice.
For his part, the citizen might well entertain the argument that his morals would still be higher than the attorney's if he retaliated with violence, because the attorney started it, employing state power and his superior knowledge as an attorney in the bargain, knowing the citizen had no practical means of recourse.
Moreover the citizen would argue that he had the moral right if not duty to retaliate with violence, which in his view might be the only available modality, because the attorney's act is both a private and civil wrong that will not be addressed unless he does so.
Providing a citizen with cause to entertain this line of reasoning is destructive both to the individual and the fabric of society, not to mention increasingly dangerous, and leads from what John Locke calls a state of "political society" to a state of "nature".
John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government:
"---there and there only is political society where every one of the members hath quitted this natural power, resigned it up into the hands of the community in all cases that exclude him not from appealing for protection to the law established by it. And thus all private judgments of every particular member being excluded, the community comes to be umpire, by settled standing rules, indifferent, and the same to all parties; and by men having authority from the community, for the execution of those rules, decides all the differences that may happen between any members---."
"---but those who have no such common appeal, I mean on earth, are still in the state of nature, each being, where there is no other, judge for himself, and executioner, which is, as I have before shewed it, the perfect state of nature."
I am a Florida cracker. I was brought up with palmettoes, pine trees, scrub oak, chickens, ducks, goats and horses.
I knew, as did most of my friends, how to make "zingers" out of gunpowder from 22 or shotgun shells. You just placed the gunpowder in a straw and lit the end. I experimented with making gunpowder for the same purpose with mixed results. I learned from my father how to place a quarter stick of dynamite under a slow growing fruit tree to break up the coral rock under it to improve its growth.
So let me relate how easily I could apply my talents to blow up the Lee County Attorney's Office. Assuming I could not get dynamite or gunpowder for reloading shotgun shells (which I could probably get) I would remove the powder from up to 1,000 shotgun shells. I would then get one foot long pieces of 2 inch and 4 inch water pipe with pipe caps for both ends of both pipes. I would then drill an eighth inch hole in one of the two inch pipe caps and one of the four inch pipe caps.
I would then fill the two inch pipe with gunpowder, placing the caps on both ends. I would then put a homemade fuse (easy to make) in the eighth hole of the pipe cap. I would then place the two inch pipe down the center of the four inch pipe. I would then fill the empty space between the two inch and four inch pipes with shot from the shotgun shells. Dandy shrapnel. I would then feed the homemade fuse through the hole in the four inch pipe cap and screw on the four inch pipe.
I would then buy the cheapest briefcase I could get, place my creation in it, take the elevator to the floor with the county attorney offices, light the fuse, set the briefcase down and exit briskly down the stairs.
No big deal. It took me all of five minutes to think up the bomb. Many people, I'm sure, could do the same thing. Fortunately for the Lee County Attorney's Office, the people they have "done in" have so far, been too decent to take this option. Indeed, now that Florida has the distinction of having the Nation's highest crime rate I am amazed that a bomb hasn't gone off somewhere in County Government. And one must keep in mind, the published crime rate does not even include the unrecorded crime of County Attorneys.
When the County Attorney's Office presents an image of corruption it also reflects on the legal profession, which already is not in the best of favor with a sizable segment of the public. In the French Revolution the French people killed the lawyers and then simplified the laws so that they could read and understand them. The idea might tempt many today. How many people are capable of their own legal research today? How many middle class people can afford the legal system or attorneys today?
Keep in mind also, that when the County Attorney's Office presents an image of corruption the image spreads beyond the members of the public that might be directly affected and into the psyche of much of the County population where it will remain, very difficult to dislodge.
Moreover, citizens may not distinguish between actions of the County Attorney's Office and the democratic institutions which it so carelessly represents thus casting the institutions themselves in a bad light.
If these troublesome indices of the health of the Country, such as crime and education, continue in the wrong direction, the possibility of revolution is not entirely far fetched. Consider three of the most recent major revolutions: American, French and Bolshevik. All of these revolutions were started by dissatisfied minorities, in most instances the majority did not recognize the gravity of affairs until events were irreversible, and in all of them the existing form of government was drastically altered. A dysfunctional or corrupt democracy might be just as susceptible to revolution as any other kind of dysfunctional or corrupt government.
On the other hand, it is worth thinking about what our County and Country, with their democratic traditions, have the potential to be.
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (410 BC):
"Athens, alone of the states we know comes to her testing time in a greatness that surpasses what was imagined of her. In her case and in her case alone, no invading enemy is ashamed of being defeated, and no subject can complain of being governed by people unfit for their responsibilities. Mighty indeed are the marks and monuments of our empire which we have left. Future ages will wonder at us, as the present age wonders at us now."
To this point I have not presented any personal problems occasioned by the County Attorney's Office although there have been many, affecting seriously my financial resources, time and interests. Thus I will discuss one such problem:
About six months ago I read an article about Dormouse Week in Great Britain, where this little mouse, brought to England by the Romans, featured prominently in Alice in Wonderland, and now in serious decline, is the front piece of a substantial British government environmental restoration effort. Since only WW II, England and Wales have lost 45% of their principal forests, the broadleaf forests, home to this little mouse.
Since the British Fair was coming up at the Alliance of the Arts, I decided to see if some teachers would like to initiate a pen pal project between their classes and some classes in Britain concerning the dormouse and other environmental issues of their respective countries. I contacted many organizations in Britain and through one of them was given the name of a school in Hampshire County where we set up the project with three classes at Heights Elementary. The project has gone well, the children making every conceivable kind of dormouse "house" to display at the fair, and they continue to write to each other.
Since teachers on both ends have limited time, there is much in the way of support that can help keep the exchange alive and interesting for both the teachers and the children. I have furnished maps to both sides and newspaper articles about the Everglades and manatees, among other things to the other side. I intend to set up a computer database of geographic, environmental and cultural information about both sides, raised in the children's letters.
I have also designed a game where each "play" is a toss of dice which randomly determines the genetic make up in the next generation of a family of mice. The game includes habitats for three different kinds of mice and ten mutations of inherited characteristics. For instance in a toss of the dice the generation might have a mutation in their legs so that they now are better at walking in trees whereas previously they were better at walking on the ground.
Through the game the child learns the concepts of random numbers, mutation, natural selection, mendelian inheritance, origin of species, habitat preservation, and maybe a few other things.
In my correspondence with the various British environmental organizations that deal with children, of which there are many, there seems more than enough interest to set up pen pal classes in Britain for any teachers in Lee County that might be interested.
However instead of being able to proceed with this project I have had to spend my time concerned with trying to understand how to deal with the County Attorney's office and the financial problems it has engendered because I had no road to my property.
Thus the database has not been started, the game is only in the design phase and I have not attempted to expand the project to other teachers or schools all of which I would like to have done because it is of great interest to me.