Occasionally people are curious why I hate government so much.
You can imagine how it works: A group of folks hanging out at a friend’s house, having a few beers, chatting. “Joel, tell me again why you hate government so much,” someone will say. “I can’t remember why you do, exactly.”
Here’s why: “Cypress invokes eminent domain to seize church land.” So reads the headline in the May 29 Orange County Register.
“Cypress on Tuesday became the first Orange County city to use eminent domain to seize church property to make way for a shopping center,” writes Register reporter Paige Austin. The city’s “redevelopment agency” is using the law to strong-arm Cottonwood Christian Center to sell some 18 acres for $14.6 million.
As I write this, leaders of the church are working to get a federal injunction to fend off the seizure.
Whether they get it or not is, however, immaterial in answering the question of why Joel hates government. We don’t feel better about the rapist because the victim prevents the rape. Whether Cypress gets what it wants or not doesn’t change the fact that the city’s tactic is ethically abhorrent and morally wrong – and not just because the victim is a church.
Using eminent domain to seize a strip club’s property would be just as offensive. That’s because the operative word is “seize.”
There are two ways to seize something. Let’s say you nab my camera; then let’s say I kick you in the knee and take it back. Two seizures have happened. The first is what Cypress is doing. It does not rightfully own the land and is trying to take it, regardless.
What’s particularly evil about eminent domain laws, however, can be seen by revisiting the second seizure. Let’s say I cannot wrest my camera back — I can still go to the police. They will press for my rights to my property and try to seize the camera for me. But the trouble with eminent domain is that the polis is what’s pilfering your property. The police won’t arrest the city council.
They should, of course, but they won’t.
Eminent domain is legal stealing. Most everyone quoted in the Register article missed this point. They talked about First Amendment issues, separation of church and state, discrimination, things like that.
One guy with a sign outside City Hall had the right idea, however:
- Thou Shall Not Covet God’s Property
More to the point, thou shall not covet anybody’s property. Government is covetousness in concentrate. It’s a tool for folks to get things they don’t deserve by sometimes noble-looking, but usually nefarious means – i.e., coercion.
You can couch it in all of the grand and high-sounding lingo you desire (“Sometimes you have to make some difficult decisions and you have to get down to the bottom line,” said one city councilor. “We’ve never denied that it’s a great church. The problem is a land-use issue.”), but it still boils down to a group of folks who don’t own something using the government to get it for them by threat of force.
The Fifth Amendment does guarantee the church will get some remuneration, but it doesn’t deal with the more basic issue: The church, as owner of the property, should decide the conditions of the sale with a willing buyer. Eminent domain robs the church of this right “for the good of the community.”
Listen to the words of this pitiful poacher, Pete Kinnahan, who has been actively pushing for the shopping center: “There is no comparison between the benefits of a Costco and the cost of a church.”
“Given the behavior of the church,” by which he means protesting and lobbying to keep its land safe from the city thugs, “we’re not seeing its spiritual value. I’m not sure we want them in town.” But for all his wants matter, Mr. Kinnahan should find the nearest bridge and take a flying leap.
Unless laws have been broken, using coercion to get what you want is wrong. No laws have been broken. The city just wants more tax revenue – the church won’t give it that; Costco will – and Mr. Kinnahan doesn’t want to drive far to shop.
If the average citizen tried robbing his fellows for more revenue and the sake of convenience, he’d be jailed, and rightly so. Government does it in one form or another every day of the week.
That’s why I hate government.
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