A few weeks ago, I wrote about private-property rights. I wrote about the clash between the rights of individual Americans to their property, and the never-ending quest by politicians for more money to spend on their various vote-buying schemes. That previous column didn’t generate enough of an outrage, so I’m back to try again. How about listening up this time?
Maybe it would help if I could be more concise. This time, maybe I can make you understand that the very foundation of liberty is under attack.
Just what is the basic foundation of human liberty? Self ownership. It’s just that simple. You own your life. If you don’t believe that you own your life, then you are admitting that some other person or entity claims that ownership – either in whole or in part.
You will spend part of this life that you own earning money. You will then exchange that money for property. That property, then, represents a part of your life. To deny you that property is to deny you that portion of your life you expended to acquire that property.
Simple, right? Yeah … so simple even a Democrat could follow it.
Free societies recognize freedom can’t exist unless this right to self ownership is recognized. When you are denied your right to your own life, and that which you produce, you are denied your basic liberty.
To protect your liberties, and your right to your life, laws in free societies have always placed strict limitations on the power of government to deprive you of your property. While the law has long recognized the right of the state to seize property, our Constitution limits that power to the taking of private property for public use, and then only with just compensation.
Now, here’s the rub. While you might think that a “public use” would be something like a school, a fire or police station or roads and bridges, politicians are developing a completely different definition. In many states a “public use” is defined as nothing more than maximizing the taxes that can be collected on a particular piece of property.
In other words, if a politician figures out your property would generate more tax revenue for government if it was owned by someone other than you, it would then be perfectly OK to use force to seize that property from you and give it to the party who is going to generate the higher tax revenues. You will then be paid for your property based on a bureaucrat’s decision on what it is worth, rather than a price negotiated between a willing seller and purchaser.
I first brought this new excuse for the seizure of private property to your attention a few weeks ago writing about Alabaster, Ala. The politicians running this town of 24,000 have decided a new shopping center with a Wal-Mart would be such a wonderful thing for their community … and especially for sales tax revenues. So, the Alabaster City Council is in the process of seizing the homes of about 11 private individuals so the property can be handed over to the developer for the shopping center.
Today, I bring this up again to tell you about Duncanville, Texas, and the unbridled arrogance of one particular city official. In Duncanville, the politicians have decided to seize the property of Deborah Hodge. They want her house, the pasture, the swimming pool – all of it. They want to hand over the property to a private developer for a Costco. Why? More tax money. The Costco will pay more in taxes than Deborah Hodge and her husband.
Now … listen to this. Kent Cagle is the city manager of Duncanville, Texas. How does Kent Cagle feel about government seizing private homes and then handing the property over to developers who will, in turn, hand over more tax money? Well, apparently Kent Cagle rather likes the idea. Here is what he had to say about the Hodges. Just feeeeel the arrogance: “They don’t have the option to say no to us. We have made it clear we want that property. The only thing that will be settled in court is how much we have to pay for it.”
That just about says it all, doesn’t it? The state of private-property rights in America in 2003. If the government wants another, richer private entity to own your property, you have no option but to say “OK!”
Freedom cannot survive in a society that does not protect property rights. So now you know where the greatest threat to our freedoms resides. Just visit your local city hall.