By Tim Head and Jim Kallinger
Last summer at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, James Cameron, the director of “Avatar” and “Titanic,” showed a five-minute climate-change video that featured cameo appearances by such silver screen luminaries as Sigourney Weaver, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Black, and South Miami mayor, Phillip Stoddard.
In the piece, titled “Not Reality TV,” Black says, “Eventually Miami will be under water — it’s just a matter of when,” as the camera shows shots of the glistening shores of Miami Beach. “The sea level is gonna rise,” Stoddard agrees, “and Miami won’t be here when it rises.”
Fast forward a year and Mayor Stoddard is still forging his climate change crusade. The quandary is, he needs the rest of South Miami’s compliance to make his crusade come closer to reality.
On Wednesday, the South Miami City Commission is scheduled to vote on a proposed ordinance that would require solar photovoltaic systems to be installed on all newly constructed homes. Older homes would also be subjected to this requirement if more than 50 percent of its square footage is renovated.
The great Nobel Prize winner in economics, Milton Friedman, once noted on government propped up mandates or subsidies: “If the government is paying for it or mandating it, then it is by definition economically infeasible.” Because they are not economically feasible or sustainable, government enforced concepts always fail and ultimately degrade the services that bureaucrats are attempting to improve.
Friedman also wrote: “There is a sure-fire way to predict the consequences of a government social program adopted to achieve worthy ends. Find out what the well-meaning, public-interested persons who advocated its adoption expected it to accomplish. Then reverse those expectations. You will have an accurate prediction of actual results.”
Recently, Seattle imposed a $15-per-hour minimum wage. It is revealing a new and disturbing channel by which minimum wages could hurt the very workers they’re created to help by reducing working hours. Or how about the U.S. housing hiccup in 2008 that ultimately caused the entire global economy to collapse? It was the result of government mandating banks make ill-advised mortgage loans. And then having government-run Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae buy the loans they mandated the banks originate.
After decades spent building this house of cards — reality finally set in. As it is prone to do. And the world came tumbling down.
Now South Miami is trying its hand at energy and the environment. With solar, the problem originated with the billions of dollars government has wasted on the production of solar power. Government takes a lot of money via taxes from actual, profitable energy sources — like oil, natural gas and coal and gives it to money-draining, non-energy sources, like solar. South Miami now is debating whether to double down on these losing bets.
Cities, counties, states, and the federal government have been willing to subsidize alternative energy sources for a while. But the inexorable next step after government mandating we subsidize a thing, is mandating we buy that thing. And this is where South Miami climate change crusader Phillip Stoddard is trying to take us.
Installing solar devices should be a choice, not a government-enforced mandate. Mandating their installation is unfair to those who are unready or unwilling to buy into this technology. The South Miami government might as well mandate that all drivers in the city drive electric cars, or ban the sale of sodas or alcohol or cigarettes within the city, all in the name of health and safety.
Legally forcing an alternative power source on all new construction will have a negative effect on the South Miami economy, increasing the cost of acquiring new and renovated properties and driving the middle class away from obtaining the American dream.
Today, there is nothing preventing anyone from choosing to install solar energy devices. But while the cost of solar is decreasing, it still is out-of-reach for many homeowners.
South Miami is facing an affordable-housing crisis and rising home prices are already shutting out many residents. Businesses, hospitals, and schools will have a hard time attracting and retaining employees who will not be able to afford to live in the city where they work.
The greatest limit to the mandates of government, however, is the awareness and action of the electorate. If a sliver of the electorate encourages the commission to vote for this, or if the voters stay silent, the inactive and unaware residents and voters will be subject to the will of what actually is a minority of eligible voters.
So it is critical that residents of South Miami actually make their voices heard on this.No matter how much the proponents of this solar ordinance claim it will benefit the health, safety, and welfare of South Miami, this proposed ordinance is simply an attempt to strip homeowners of their fundamental rights.
At its core, this isn’t about taking on the power company, Florida Power & Light, and it’s not really about caring for the environment. It’s about the individual rights of residents in South Miami. And for Phillip Stoddard, it’s about the next step in his and James Cameron’s and Sigourney Weaver’s climate change crusade. This ordinance crosses the line from bad public policy into outright forced government coercion. And that is just what the South Miami City Commission must decide today.
Jim Kallinger is chairman of Florida Faith & Freedom. Tim Head is executive director of Faith & Freedom Coalition.