Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tyranny and Eminent Domain

In honor of Earth Day, Michael Kazanivsky and his family are donating a parcel of land to the city of Auburn, New York so it can be transformed into an $11 million, 88 room hotel. My mistake, the city of Auburn is forcing Michael Kazanivsky and his family to either sell their land to the private venture putting up the 88 room hotel or have it taken under eminent domain, all for the good of the community.

“But it is Auburn’s current land dispute that has caused so much controversy here, as Mayor Quill and other officials contend the benefits of the hotel project simply outweigh the concerns of the property owners. “We have a responsibility to the entire community,” Mayor Quill explains, saying “we do not want to hurt an individual property owner or business owner, but we have to look at the long range for the entire community.”

Listen up, Mayor Quill, the good of the people are not served by ignoring property rights of any one individual; not for any supposed improvement elsewhere. I should get the folks at the Supreme Court a copy of that line after their botched job on the Kelo decision.

“The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government.” (Ezra Taft Benson – The Proper Role of Government 1968)

Benson went on:

“In a primitive state, there is no doubt that each man would be justified in using force, if necessary, to defend himself against physical harm, against theft of the fruits of his labor, and against enslavement of another. This principle was clearly explained by Bastiat:

“Each of us has a natural right – from God – to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but and extension of our faculties?”’ (The Law, p.6)

“Indeed, the early pioneers found that a great deal of their time and energy was being spent doing all three – defending themselves, their property and their liberty – in what properly was called the “Lawless West.” In order for man to prosper, he cannot afford to spend his time constantly guarding his family, his fields, and his property against attach (k?) and theft, so he joins together with his neighbors and hires a sheriff. At this precise moment, government is born. The individual citizens delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves – nothing more. Quoting again from Bastiat:

“If every person has the right to defend – even by force – his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right -–its reason for existing, its lawfulness -- is based on individual right.”’ (The Law, p. 6)

Let that sink in for a moment and give your eyes a visual break.

“So far so good. But now we come to the moment of truth. Suppose pioneer “A” wants another horse for his wagon, He doesn’t have the money to buy one, but since pioneer “B” has an extra horse, he decides that he is entitled to share in his neighbor’s good fortune, Is he entitled to take his neighbor’s horse? Obviously not! If his neighbor wishes to give it or lend it, that is another question. But so long as pioneer “B” wishes to keep his property, pioneer “A” has no just claim to it.”

If “A” has no proper power to take “B’s” property, can he delegate any such power to the sheriff? No. Even if everyone in the community desires that “B” give his extra horse to “A”, they have no right individually or collectively to force him to do it. They cannot delegate a power they themselves do not have. This important principle was clearly understood and explained by John Locke nearly 300 years ago:”

Big climax in the next paragraph; drum roll and sit up straight, please…

For nobody can transfer to another more power than he has in himself, and nobody has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life of property of another.” (Two Treatises of Civil Government, II, 135; P.P.N.S. p. 93) emphasis added

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are the foundations of our established nation, a reason to separate from Europe at the cost of personal fortunes and the lives of many patriots.  Good people of Auburn, Mayor Quill and those learned folks on the Supreme Court, how is it these principles, principles which were used in founding this great nation; how is it they can be so easily set aside?  What gives you or anyone else an implied authority to violate these principles?

“A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government;and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must be either delegated, or assumed. There are not other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.” (Thomas Paine 1737-1809)

I almost forgot, happy Earth Day. Here’s a novel idea, instead of parading around for a socialist a cause which will destroy property rights through environmental mandates enforced by the EPA; let’s stand up for individual property rights, starting with the good people of Auburn, New York.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.


MK said...

I'm all for the good of the community and there are many instances where individuals can get in the way of needy and worthwhile projects.

But i have to say, forcibly taking property from people for whatever reason by government or anyone else is a no-no.

The reason why the western world has been the dominant and superior culture on this planet for millennia can be traced back to individuals having the right to own property and that no one, not even a king could just take what they own because he/she feels like it.

The probligo said...

TF, the big argument in NZ at present concerns the "right" of the Government to force landowners to accept the construction of HT powerlines over their properties, and the "right" of landowners to prevent the distribution of power from generator to a city such as Auckland.

Your article recalls a cartoon of a high rise office block with a notch in it, at the bottom of which lived a little old man in a run-down shack.

T. F. Stern said...

MK, The idea of private property separates civilized society from chaos.

Probligo, The proper use of eminent domain is to secure passage of exactly that kind of utility, one which serves the greater good as long as the property owners are compensated with a realistic return for their loss or use of their property.

This deal in Auburn has non of those ear marks and is based entirely on greed and corruption.

David said...

The key abuse in Kelo-like "takings" is that in this country legitimate exercise of eminent domain had ALWAYS been--prior to Kelo--exercised ONLY as a taking of private land for public use benefitting the community as a whole, NOT, as in Kelo and following takings, the taking of private land from one party to give (or even sell) to another private party.

My personal view is that public officials who use Kelo-like takings to benefit one private party at the expense of another should be subject to another sort of taking--at the end of a rope. Sadly, the outlaws inhabiting the SCOTUS have left their morals and ethics somewhere in the sewers of D.C. and don't see it that way, so the only even semi-realistic way to defeat Kelo is at the ballot box... and that's getting less realistic every year, what with leftist election fraud and efforts to commit the ultimate election fraud--amnesty for alien invaders.

T. F. Stern said...

David, On this point we are in total agreement.