"Planned International Corridor is a giant step towards the complete destruction of property rights in America."
THE POWER OF EMINENT DOMAIN
By: Tom Rose
Now that early reaction to the property-threatening 5/4 decision of Kelo v. City of New London has somewhat abated, it is time to start considering long-range steps for restoring our inherent right to own and control property.
I have refrained from speaking up until now because most reactions offered so far have not really cut to the heart of the matter. Rather, they have only offered short-term "band aid" solutions which will not change the long-continued trend in our country from gradually usurping and undermining peoples’ inherent right to be in control of the property they supposedly own. This is an exceedingly important issue to consider because the ultimate owner of property is in the powerful position of being able to control the destiny of every family, every business firm, and every voluntary organization throughout our nation. The question to be answered, then, is who is to emerge as the true or ultimate owner of property? The individual citizen? or some level of civil government?
At this moment, the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision of Kelo v. City of New London appears to be the last word in stating that civil rulers are indeed the true owners of property and that citizens only hold a fragile and temporary title to property until some unit of "civil servants" (who live on our tax dollars) decide that they want to usurp our rightful ownership. Ultimately the very concept of property is at risk, and the future of our nation is in question. Will we end up reconstituted as a constitutional republic as originally designed by our founding fathers? Or will our political destiny ultimately implode into a tyrannical morass of statist control wielded by dictatorial cabals at every level of society? The trend is already well established along the path towards statist control, so it can be reversed only by thinking and acting on basic principles rather than upon reflexive reactions.
In stating this I do not in the least intend to impugn some brilliant reactions like that of patriot L. D. Clements who came up with the idea of "taking" Justice David Souter’s home in New Hampshire for private use via the power of eminent domain, just as Souter ruled could be done in the case of property owned by ordinary citizens. Three cheers! It is high time that our "honorable" high and mighty civil servants who live in tax-payer provided cocoons are forced to "eat the same cake" that their unconstitutional court rulings force upon ordinary citizens. This same agenda should be applied to the homes of the other concurring judges who have, through their joint ruling, proven their inability or refusal to be bound by "the chains of our constitution!" But the board of selectmen in Weare, N.H., have already rejected Mr. Clements’ proposal. Good try! But it was not a long-term solution that would really solve our problem of a runaway and arrogant Supreme Court.
I will propose some long-term solutions to the problem of unconstitutional court rulings, the power of eminent domain, and American citizens’ fundamental right to own and enjoy their property in part two of this essay, but first let us turn to some other matters that we should consider first.
1. Civil Rulers: Friends? or Potential Enemies?
In America we as citizens have tended to regard the people who work in civil government as our friendly neighbors and trustworthy protectors. What a mistake! I can remember when the policeman on the beat and the local judge or local politician were highly regarded as tax-paid benefactors to society. Indeed, some such individuals no doubt still strive to serve in that capacity. But it is absolutely foolhardy, if we believe in preserving freedom for our posterity, not to carefully bind all tax-paid civil servants with the "chains of the Constitution" that Thomas Jefferson so eloquently wrote about! There are always exceptions to any rule, but seemingly "good guys" can easily turn into "bad guys" on very short notice, given the right opportunity or temptation. Every person whom we place in a position of political power must always be regarded as a potential enemy of the people (as most of the Supreme Court judges have proven to be in some of their rulings). We must not, and cannot safely entrust anything but very limited power in the hands of civil "servants" at every level of government.
Widespread proof of the fact that wielders of political power are potential enemies of the people is evidenced by the ubiquitous response of local governments to the Kelo v. City of New London throughout our nation. I have been amazed at the large number of local zoning and planning commissions and boards of supervisors that have suddenly taken overt steps to steal citizens’ property under the power of eminent domain. The people who wield such dictatorial power are not friendly towards citizens. They can too easily wield brute political power to wrest effective control of honestly acquired property from law-abiding citizens. Such wielders of power should be recognized as the political thieves they actually are; they truly are enemies of law-abiding citizens!
A man in our neighborhood made a meager living by collecting other people’s junk, storing it on his property along the road, and then selling it off piece by piece as the opportunity arose. You can imagine the unsightly mess! Some neighbors wanted to pass a planning and zoning ordinance to solve the "neighborhood problem" this man created. I resisted the effort with these words:
I agree that Mr. ____’s property presents an unsightly mess and is a blight in the neighborhood. And I have urged him to clean up the premises to little avail. But I will defend to the end his right to use his property as he sees fit without outside interference. Who are we to impose our will on how he uses his property?
In God’s good time He took the gentleman, and his widow soon sold off most of the accumulated junk. The eyesore is now gone, for which I am glad. But I would never have interfered with his right to control the use of his own property.
As a young man I spent some years in Chamber of Commerce management. I observed that it is always the high-level "movers and shakers" in communities who end up pushing for planning and zoning boards. Such people become active in "community development" programs in which they usually have a contingent personal economic interest. They send in hired "facilitators" who "butter up" inexperienced "little people" in whom the facilitators implant illusions of grandeur and self-importance. The "little people," of course, are simply used as vehicles to put stamps of approval on the plans of various behind-the-scene special interest entities who manipulate the planning boards.
These official boards, in turn, are then used to pass ordinances that force the will of the high-placed individuals and special economic interests regarding property use onto the general public. Somehow, the populace always seems ready to succumb to the unproven idea that official boards and political edicts produce better community development rather than allowing the impersonal forces of the competitive marketplace take their normal course. Thus, we follow the coercive path of relying on the very expensive practice of government "takings" through the power of eminent domain. This coercive practice drastically infringes on people’s ability to alter the use of their property in response to competitive market forces while, at the same time, it artificially enriches the wealth of hidden individuals in the upper economic stratum of society. This is not a friendly process that benefits society as a whole; rather, it is a vicious scheme that all too often is used "legally" to rob ordinary citizens of their property and forcibly transfer it into the hands of the more politically adept leaders in the community.
The Ultimate Play in Eminent Domain!
In researching information for this article I came across an article by Phyllis Spivey entitled "Internationalizing U.S. Roads," dated June 6, 2005. She reveals that eight state governments are collaborating to build a national highway (Interstate #69) that will connect Canada, the United States, and Mexico. It is to run from Port Huron, Michigan, south to the Texas/Mexico border as part of what is being called the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), a 4,000-mile network of existing and new toll roads. Interstate 35 will be developed as part of the TTC. Eight states are involved in the project. The network is to be managed by foreign operators (who will be conveniently "out of touch" to local citizens).
Plans are for the TTC to be a corridor 1,200 feet wide with 10 vehicle lanes and six rail lines running north and south. The corridor is to include a 200-foot wide right-of-way for oil, gas, electric, and water lines.
In 2003 the Texas Department of Transportation sent emissaries to Europe in search of "partners" for building the massive corridor. In 2004 Texas selected a Spanish firm to finance and build the first segment of the TTC. And in March, 2005, Texas signed a 342-page contract with the foreign company. According to Corridor Watch, a Texas group that opposes the TTC, the planned corridor will consume 584,000 acres of land and will massively impact the environment, land owners, farms, ranches, wildlife, water rights, towns, local economies, and especially citizens’ right to own and manage their own property.
This planned international corridor, to be owned and operated by foreign entities, is a giant step towards the complete destruction of the very semblance of property rights in America. Can you imagine the salivating for other people’s property that is being generated throughout our land? Think of the vast sums of money to be paid in attorney fees by the resulting condemnation procedures, and the billions of dollars of potential "windfall profits" that speculators and developers will suddenly hunger after!
In 1849 Frederic Bastiat authored a book entitled The Law. In it he pointed out how government often uses the law as a vehicle to foster legalized theft, that is, how the law can be used as a means of legalized plunder. He fearlessly fought the socialists in France until he died in 1850. We need hundreds of thousands of modern-day Frederic Bastiats in America today if we have any hope of preserving our once-upon-a-time Republic. For an historical perspective and suggestions (all "politically incorrect," of course) of what freedom-loving Americans must do, watch for Part Two of "A Judiciary Call to Arms."
"Published originally at EtherZone.com:
Tom Rose is retired professor of Economics at Grove City College, PA. He is author of eight books and hundreds of articles on free-market economics. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.
We invite you to visit his website at: www.biblicaleconomics.com.
Published in the August 18, 2005 issue of Ether Zone.
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