Friday, June 24, 2005

Life, Liberty and Property

The title of this blog was the original phrase for the "inalienable rights" of humankind that governments must honor and protect. For a variety of reasons, including concern for the poor, Jefferson chose the broader phrase, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Legally secure property ownership is the economic and social foundation of freedom. The freest nations in the world - Cannda, England, the USA and several in Europe - provide protection for their citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. Today over 60% of Americans enjoy home ownership; In Russia the figure has just climbed to 6%!

The June 23, 2005 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Kelo, et. al. v. the City of New London, CT. is a monumental break with Constitutional tradition. Expanding the rights of local governments to claim "eminent domain" and allow the property to go to new private owners without significant public use guarantees is a reckless ruling that will open the door to the exploitation of the poor by the politically-connected.

Until this ruling, eminent domain was reserved for things such as roads, parks, environmental restoration or publc/private partnerships that directly benefitted a large number of citizens. The 5th Amendment calls for proper compensation for those who are displaced, but history tells us that planning commissions and powerful interests will find was to "distress" land they desire.

My fear is that this will open the door to the seizure of more homes and - and I am not being paranoid, just cautious - the condemnation of churches and other non-profits who do not generate the tax revenue of condos or a strip mall.

Hopefully this ruling will stay limited; however, we must be vigilant and prepared to fight city by city and county by county. Ownership is NOT something bestowed by the government. It is a right protected by the government!

If we are not careful, we will end up with a new form of fascism, with powerful private interests in collusion with a corrupt government. Such alliances are not new, but until now we enjoyed reasonable protection for legally-titled land. Now we must battle to protect the foundation of our freedom.

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