Crab Island, it seems, is now in the sights of the Destin City Council.
According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell said that the island-that-is-not-an-island is “…dirty. There’s feces in the water. There’s lewdness.” She’s on record for greater regulation of the water recreation spot, and the Destin City Council is thinking about making it part of the city to supposedly combat the bad behavior. Representative Matt Gaetz is also involved and will hold a “brainstorming session” town meeting on 16 January. True to form with just about every aspect of life in the USA today, the shadow of government intervention is creeping its way across the Destin inlet.
That’s a pity. It seems to me the desire to “regulate” Crab Island clearly threatens something that is unique to Destin. Crab Island is a testament to what used to be the normal way of life in America. Years (decades?) ago a bunch of boaters found a pleasant sand bar, and through word-of-mouth, white sand, emerald water, and a common desire for fun, this place became a popular summer rendezvous. No government was required. On its own, it became famous, and it is actually listed as a vacation attraction in tourist guides even though it is nothing more than a spot in the water. To top it off, all those people spend money. Crab Island helped make the Destin of today.
But to some, especially those in government, Crab Island has to be targeted because it is a raucous party haven. The personal freedom it offers threatens the sense of security of many folks. These people would rather that a government entity, by force, impose new controls on people in a place that lives in the spirit of volunteer, non-violent cooperation. Dirty water and lewd behavior are valid concerns, but ultimately are red herrings. The law already prosecutes violent behavior between people even if they are on the water. If people are dumping sewage or behaving in a publicly lewd fashion, the law covers these crimes too. To me, simple police law enforcement is a better option than the bigger government caused by annexing the area to the city.
It also seems to me this action stems more from a knee-jerk desire by some government officials for control than it does from a respect for people and their rights. Sometimes that means leaving them alone even when they do non-violent things you do not approve of, which may include partying on the water. One of the hardest things for government officials to do is just mind their business. Government is here to protect your rights, not to assume more powers for itself. Government mission creep is scary.
Still, like a vengeful parent, Ms. Ramswell is leading the charge to make that sand bar a part of Destin and bring its denizens to heel. I speculate, if the idea passes, that before you know it, there will be additional special city permits for businesses to service the Crab Islanders (all at a city fee of course), special requirements over and above normal boating regulations to those who visit the Island (no on-board toilet, no anchoring, for example), calls for new taxation to cover the costs of services, and Crab Island will be made, in general, more the way Ms. Ramswell thinks outdoor events should be like. How special. This will be at the expense of the vast majority who do not soil the water or exceed the limits of propriety, but still like to live the way they want to. You can also bet that Crab Island will be less popular with the public. This will have predictably bad follow on effects for the Destin business community as a whole.
Milton Friedman once said “If you put government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there would be a shortage of sand.”
Anyone care to guess what Destin is going to get when the City Council is in charge of Crab Island?
Pete Blome is a retired military officer and Chairman of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party