On Good Intentions
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Ever heard that expression? It’s a reminder to all of us that we are not in control – and that oftentimes our best efforts to take control (however well-intentioned) do more harm than good. I was reminded of this expression during a sermon preached earlier this week by Pastor Paul Sizemore of Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Irmo, S.C.
In discussing the importance of faith, Sizemore recalled the famous Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park. Some of the trees in this grove tower well above 250 feet – and are more than 3,000 years old. They are built to last – surviving lightning strikes, insect infestation, bacteria, you name it. Yet after overcoming all manner of threats over the centuries, the future of these mighty Sequoias was placed in jeopardy beginning in the mid nineteenth century by … you guessed it … humans.
Well-intentioned humans at that …
A century of aggressive fire prevention efforts created an accumulation of unnatural brush beneath the Sequoias, which prevented seeds from taking root in the ground below. Not only did this keep new Sequoia saplings from developing, it created a serious fire hazard for the existing tree population.
“Had lightning ignited a fire under these unnatural conditions, an intense crown fire could have occurred, possibly killing even the largest trees,” a former park ranger noted.
In other words efforts to protect a natural treasure nearly destroyed it …
“Fire appears to be essential to the life cycle of the giant sequoia, and as such, to the whole ecosystem,” American biologist Bruce Kilgore noted four decades ago. “Through our fire suppression programs, we have slowed this cycle and allowed the buildup of perhaps the highest degree of fire hazard ever observed in sequoia communities.”
Kilgore concluded that “fire must be restored, as nearly as possible, to that natural role if we are to continue to have sequoias through the next many millenniums.”
While Sizemore used the anecdote to make a point about having faith in God, many of you can guess where I’m headed with it – seeing as this website has previously embraced the concept of creative destruction first extolled by Austrian economist Joseph Alois Schumpeter.
The Mariposa Grove is a perfect metaphor for this country – in which (presumably) well-intentioned government interventionists are choking off new economic growth and creating pernicious hazards for all of us. In fact it was a spectacular failure of “good intentions” – specifically a desire to put more low income, mostly minority residents into “affordable houses” – which directly led to the most recent financial collapse.
In fact virtually everything government does in the name of benevolence – welfare statism, crony capitalism, global interventionism – has unintended consequences which create more harm than good for our people.
Fortunately for the giant Sequoias, common sense prevailed. Prescribed burns were initiated to manage the unnatural brush, and biologists have resolved to once again permit intermittent lightning strikes and the small fires which result from them.
Will America be so lucky?
It certainly doesn’t seem so. By now, the data attesting to the inefficacy of government intervention in our economy is indisputable – yet our government continues to print and spend money it doesn’t have to subsidize a host of non-core functions. In fact rather than acknowledging its failure and having “faith” in the private sector to correct the damage, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama (like George W. Bush before him) is accelerating government intervention.
The only question now is what’s going to spark the inevitable fire …
It’s not too late for this country. I fervently believe that to be the case or I wouldn’t wake up every day and publish this website. But for America to survive, an immediate and radical reorientation of its governing philosophy is needed.