This originally started as a blog entry, but the more I read about it, the madder I get.
Good reader, I like that computer you are using to read this. In my opinion, however, you aren’t really using it to the maximum potential for the good of everyone. You use it for games, and for net surfing, and little else of consequence. I, on the other hand, could use it in a variety of ways to generate jobs, income, and taxes for the betterment of all.
So, nice guy that I am, I am going to take your computer. Don’t worry, though. I will give you “fair market value” for the system. Of course, I will be the arbiter of fair market value, and the point of appeal if you don’t like it.
Now, I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts (Unless you are one of those spineless arch-lefties who read me because you love the abuse) that if I showed up on your doorstep with such a spiel and a writ of confiscation that I’d be leaving with more than I bargained for, namely, a fat lip. I know if my abode and castle were set upon by the federales in the name of more taxes for them, I’d be tempted to leave them a little present (A breeder reactor) as a last great act of defiance and a way of saying “F**k your canoe!”*
But this is precisely the reasoning that the tyrants who are in control of many of our esteemed governmental institutions use when they decide that Megamart or the International Widget Factory could generate more money for their coffers than you with your simple home. They decide on a “fair market value” (Which always seems to be within the budgeted amounts – strange.) and assign it to you, then evict you at gunpoint and level your home in favor of putting up some development, or Superstore, or factory. Never mind that you may be a fourth generation owner of that property, or it may contain many memories for you or your children. You don’t need it anymore. Big Brother says so. And surely Brutus is an honorable man….
Today, Tuesday, the 22nd of February 2005, the United States Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in the case of Kelo et al. vs. City of New London. In this case, as in many others since the infamous Michigan Poletown decision, the land is being seized for private development, as opposed to public use, with the specious rationale that more tax dollars into the city coffers is “for the good of all.”
Poletown, for those not in the know, was a landmark eminent domain decision by the Michigan Supreme Court that allowed a massive government thieving of private property in Detroit during the 1981-1982 recession. The outcome of that case resulted in the government condemnation, seizure, and bulldozing of 1,400+ homes, 144 businesses, and 16 churches in the Poletown neighborhood on Detroit's Lower East Side so General Motors could build an assembly plant. This was enacted because GM threatened to pull up stakes and move that operation out of Detroit if the city didn’t capitulate to their demands. This little piece of government sanctioned corporate extortion has since been overturned, but it has provided for years many states and municipalities with the ammo to steal homes and businesses and turn around and transfer that land to bloated and moneyed developers in the name of providing “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Money!” for their unbalanced budgets, and short-sighted, harebrained legislation and boondoggles.
It’s cases like this that underline why I am not a capitalist, but a free-marketer; while I perfectly support the right of people to make money and even (gasp!) keep the fruits of their labor, the middle-class schmoe has as much right to his small slice of the pie as some mega-corporation, and deserves the right to extend an abrupt upward thrust of his middle finger to any such corporation trying to pressure him out of his house and land. Eminent Domain is one thing when used to build a needed military installation, or to create an easement for utilities and such, but such things fall under public use. The ostensible reason for private money is so that a big company like General Motors can upgrade an existing piece of land, run utilities to it, and thus make it theirs, and all the profits deriving from it as well. It’s not to let them attach like a lamprey to the public teat so Da Gubbmint can pay pennies on the dollar for private land and turn around and resell it to GM at bargain basement prices.
It’s crap. Pure crap.
Make no mistake, folks. When your ancestral home can be descended on by bean counters; a home which is not a pig-sty, is lived in, and which you do so lawfully and with title, when you are made an “offer” for someone else’s definition of fair market value, when you can be forced to take it, and run out by the sheriff so that the city fathers can sell it off to Gadgets-R-Us for the sake of enriching the city coffers, you have no property rights. It becomes tyranny. It’s intolerable, and is a make-or break single issue that should decide your vote every fall.
One of the few legitimate functions of government is to secure the rights of property, and furthermore it is the most fundamental of the rights in a free society; without the right to the fruits of your labors the rest of your liberty is in dire peril. This is the same attitude by which your property can be seized for a crime even without due process, without an indictment, and without a conviction. This is the same attitude by which the government mandates the breakup of families. This is the same attitude by which busybodies in their ivory towers tell you who you must or may not associate with, hire, fire, or let into your private clubs. And if let unchecked, it will not become smaller. This is what leads to being told what you are forbidden or are compelled to read, to watch, to learn, or to be employed at.
Since Poletown, this has been used by companies across American to leverage economic blackmail across the country. Once it is made clear that if the local government does not act, an established company will go elsewhere, municipalities have slavishly complied and driven thousand from their homes and businesses, often given a pittance of compensation for the sake of mandating sales to that company because the company is unwilling to pay a fair market value for prime real estate. The right thing for the SCOTUS to do would be to empower cities and towns to stand up to such extortion by removing the capability for them to deprive citizens of their property, and to correct the grave imbalance of power which they have abused and proven themselves unworthy of.
Turn a jaundiced eye eastward this day to Washington, my friends, and watch; and let your elected representatives know that they are being watched, and that if the Supreme Court refuses to act, you will in turn expect them to act.
For all you know, your house is next.
*Okay, for those who don’t know the joke, it’s a 3 missionaries captured by cannibals who tell them they will kill them, eat them, and make canoes out of their skins - but they get a last wish. The first two are conventional: Gourmet meal, night with a gorgeous woman, but the last wants a fork, whereupon receiving it he begins stabbing himself while shouting “F**k your canoe!!!”