PROPERTY RIGHTS DIED YESTERDAY
Freedom died yesterday.
The freedom understood and fought for by the Founding Fathers collapsed in a heap, its throat slit by big-government liberals on the Supreme Court.
It was the case of Kelo v. City of New London. It threw the notion of property ownership on the bonfire of history.
And we and our children will live to mourn the day.
It's a simple concept to explain: The government can take away your land and give it to someone else.
That's what it's about. The five liberal members of the Supreme Court have decided that you have no fundamental right to own property, you may only do so at the whim of the mayor. Or town board or village trustees or county executive. If at any time your local municipal leaders decide that they want your land to be used by someone else, you can kiss it good bye.
The case in question involved a neighborhood in Connecticut. People had lived there a long time, a real long time. It was where they'd been raised and where they'd raised their families. But somebody with big money came in and wanted to bulldoze the homes and put up a hotel. A real swanky hotel. Big, big money.
But the homeowners didn't want to sell.
So the developer went to the city and mentioned how much more tax money would flow in if he had his hotel in place of those homes and the city -- suddenly a fan of big development -- told the homeowners they had to sell. The city used the power of eminent domain -- previously only used to make way for public projects -- to condemn land and evict homeowners so that the developer could get the land.
And the Supreme Court yesterday said that is OK.
The Supreme Court said that the municipal interest in making more money was more important than the private interest in owning property. Government growth is more important than personal liberty.
That declaration, by that court, is a milestone in the decline of American freedom. This is a dramatic and fatal leap into the abyss of governmental oppression.
And it is a repudiation of the Founding Fathers and their belief in the essential nature of property ownership. They believed that the only truly free person was the person who was free to own and bequeth property. It was essential to their understanding and definition of freedom. This was based in the experience of generations in Europe, often in situations where property was only used with the permission of a prince or king.
One of the appeals of emigration to America was the ability to own land -- not just because it was available, but because it was allowed. In America, anyone who could pay a mortgage or stake a claim could be a landowner -- he could create his own little kingdom, him home could be his castle.
But that is over now. At any point a majority of members of your village board or city council -- or the mayor -- decide that they want to use your land for something, you're gone. Period. If they decide -- on criterion of their own selection -- that the government would be better off if you were displaced, you are displaced.
Think this through.
Say your family has had a little cottage on a lake for years and years. Just a tiny thing your grandfather built for summer weekends. Let's say a developer comes in and wants to put up some giant rich-guy mansion on that land. All that developer has to do is go to the town board and explain that his development will pay far more in taxes and be far better for economic development than your family cottage. At that point your land is condemned, you will be paid a "market rate" and the bulldozers will come in.
And to hell with your right to own land.
Same thing happens if you're a farmer and some developer wants to put in a sub-division on your land. You don't want to sell, you want to keep farming, your family's owned this land for generations. Well, you're screwed. A sub-division pays much more in taxes, and helps economic growth, and the local idiots on the city council can take your farm without blinking an eye.
Say you've had a little gas station on the corner of a busy intersection for years. It's how you make your living. All the traffic supplies you a steady stream of customers. You've got a good location. Under this new ruling, some other business can come in and have you thrown off. Say it's a bigger gas station, or a nicer one, or if it's an office complex or a big restaurant, or anything city hall thinks is better or more lucrative than your business. You can, against your will, have your property taken from you. Sure, you get paid, what they decide is fair, but your business goes out of business. Your livelihood is gone.
Your neighborhood could be wiped out by plans for a shopping mall, your old home could be demolished to make way for someone else's new home, your dream could be destroyed to further the government's profit.
Your village or town board, your city council, your county executive or city mayor, controls the ownership of all the property in your town. So you better not tick them off, and you better hope that no screwballs run for office and win. You better hope that the developers don't pack the boards and you better hope that these "smart growth" people don't take over.
Smart growth? That's the thing where Democrats want to control all development centrally, limiting where people can live and how many roads will be built. It is a subversion of live-where-you-want-to-live into live-where-we-tell-you. This ruling gives those central planners the authority to impose smart growth, not just going forward through zoning, but retroactively through the condemning of property.
Simply put, your home is your home only as long as the government says its your home.
But the moment somebody with pull covets your home, business or property, it's gone.
You do not have the right to own property. Not after yesterday.
It went away.
The Fifth Amendment says "Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Nowhere in there does it authorize the taking of private property for private use. The Constitution doesn't authorize it, but now the Supreme Court does.
Which makes two things very important: Who gets appointed to the Supreme Court.
And the Second Amendment.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2005