If it could ever have been said before that property rights were alive and well in America, it can most definitely be said now that they are dead. While the government has long taken the private property of tax dollars and redistributed it for corrupt and wasteful reasons, the recent Supreme Court decision has essentially given its backing to city governments becoming tyrants – unrestrained power in allowing municipalities to seize private property to make way for commercial development.
Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority decision: “Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government. Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose.”
The lines have become blurred in the Court as the idol for city governments has become economic development and its purposes are deemed much more important than the right of citizens to simply own land without threat. The community – or at least the greedy interests of politicians – is now much more important than the individual, and any business or home that has found itself on the wrong end of favor by the powers that be is now under threat to be replaced by a beachfront hotel or resort.
The implications of this decision are simply staggering, because the essence of America was founded upon the right of the individual to own and keep private property. The Supreme Court of the United States has thrown all original intent to the wind and endorsed not a constitutional republic, but a lawless form of government reminiscent of fascism. Justice Stevens may as well have had a copy of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” on his desk while writing his opinion, because his redefinition of the term “public use” has superseded the rights of the private individual.
Beyond the legalities, the greater heart problem at hand in all of this discussion is how cozy Americans have become with government. Despite what the president may say, the role of the government is not to help people. Rather, the government is not supposed to be trusted. In the words of George Washington, “Government is not reason, nor eloquence. It is force. And like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master.”
Yet, this reality is not found in the opinion of Supreme Court. The ruling ridiculously trusts that local governments are generally good-natured and will do what is best for the community at all times. Today, I heard on the radio a talking head from Washington essentially say that there’s nothing to be afraid of in this ruling because, according to him, we rely on the review process of city governments to do the right thing. This is wrong – completely wrong – but it is a view that I fear is held by too many.
Already, in Freeport, Texas, local officials have instructed attorneys to begin preparing legal documents to seize three properties from local seafood companies to make way for an $8 million boat marina. The city manager of Freeport made a statement not unlike Justice Stevens to the Houston Chronicle, saying, “This will be the engine that will drive redevelopment in the city.” Indeed, the engine of tyranny will soon be driving economic development in a city near you, but at what cost? Are tax revenues worth such an attack on freedom? Surely not.
Hopefully, this landmark will be a catalyst for change in Congress to quit grandstanding about flags and return attention to what truly matters. If anything, this decision further emphasizes the importance of good judges, and that promises to be the primary issue for 2006 and 2008.
The resounding message here is that government is not our friend. In the words of Reagan, government is the problem.