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As Long as We Remember...

May 10, 2007

The Kobayashi Maru Test

Chris Cavey

Our forefathers were more advanced and truly beyond our modern scope of thought when it came to the importance of freedoms, liberty and the rights of individual citizens. They understood that government, meaning any government, is its own worst enemy.

Citizens - when banded together - can be incited for either good or for evil depending on the direction they take from their perceived leader at that time. This is the reason for honest and trustworthy leaders in government, especially the smaller and more localized the form of government.

Here is an example.

A conundrum facing a small town mayor is this. His town is in need of water. The town has spent over $100,000 in citizen tax dollars drilling dry wells. Property owners within the town limits, but not on public water, have wells with huge yields. Is this a use for eminent domain?

Eminent domain refers to the power possessed by a governmental jurisdiction over all property within that jurisdiction; specifically it is the power to take through a legal process property for a specific public use - say thirsty citizens. The process generally involves public forums, elected officials pontificating, plenty of stress from private citizens and an army of attorneys.

What leadership lessons can the mayor look to in his time of need? What questions must he be asking himself? Does he spend more tax dollars hunting for water when he knows already where good wells are? What is a fair price for water? How does he triage a community? Does he raise taxes to pay for or to supplement finding more water?

Go to your local video store and rent the first six Star Trek movies.

Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one? This is a question posed by Mr. Spock in the movie "Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn" as he explains his reasons for sacrificing his life to save the ship to his friend, Captain James T. Kirk.

Captain Kirk had always overcome the odds and won; with his friend dying before his eyes, he realizes the reason for the Kobayashi Maru (the test with the no-win scenario): "How we face death is at least as important as how we face life." In other words, maintain and uphold your principles through to the bitter end no matter what.

This is a story of principle, a story of self-sacrificial leadership that upholds the rules and does not go about changing them for the sake of convenience.

The answer to this problem is age old; you do not need a flock of attorneys to figure it out. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not covet. Our Founding Fathers later codified these principles within the Constitution and many heroes have since died defending the liberties and rights of individuals.

Supposedly eminent domain has never been used in Maryland to acquire water for the use of citizens. Government taking of privately owned real estate is a slippery slope that has been consistently abused. The taking of a specific possession, such as your water, is beyond the known boundaries of stretching that law to suit mob rule.

Mr. Mayor, continue to hunt, divine, spirit and drill in search of new water sources. Limit development opportunities until you have adequate facilities to match. Stick-up for the principles of individual liberties, or you will be like Captain Kirk when he finally realized his shortcomings and said, "I've cheated death, tricked my way out of death, and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing."

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