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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Turnabout is fair play

When thinking and talking about liberty, many people place great emphasis on civil liberties. My study of economics, law and political science has lead me to place greater emphasis on economic and political liberties as well as freedom of beliefs. The recent Supreme Court decision in the Kelo case has shocked some people into realizing that perhaps property right are important. This article, excerpted below, makes this point.

The Framers understood that almost all personal liberties depend on security in property. You cannot have freedom of religion if you cannot build and keep a church; free expression is repressed if you live in fear for your place of work; a free press cannot exist if you cannot own the tools of the trade and a place to use them.

In 1782, James Madison wrote: “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his.”

In just the last week, the United States Supreme Court pummeled the Framers’ cherished ideals not once, but twice, in property rights decisions that squarely put the interests of the government ahead of the governed.

In one decision involving homeowners in New London, Connecticut, the Court allowed the government to confiscate perfectly good and occupied homes simply because it wanted to give the property to a corporation that claimed it could make the property more valuable and thus put more tax dollars in the government coffer.

Indeed, the Court’s decisions are disturbingly candid about its desire to make private property subservient to the whim of government decision-making. This deferential view of the government’s power to appropriate property without meaningful constitutional restraint has little in common with the understanding of the Framers.

The Court is, in fact, very close to having more in common with Lenin, when it comes to private property, than it does with Madison. And Madison’s ideological heirs may have legitimate cause to wonder whether the Framers made a mistake in creating such a powerful and autonomous judicial branch.

As Dr.Thomas Sowell points out:

What the latest Supreme Court decision does with verbal sleight-of-hand is change the Constitution's requirement of "public use" to a more expansive power to confiscate private property for whatever is called "public purpose" -- including turning that property over to some other private party.

Dr. Walter Williams emphasizes the same clarification:
The framers of our Constitution gave us the Fifth Amendment in order to protect us from government property confiscation. The Amendment reads in part: "[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Which one of those 12 words is difficult to understand? The framers recognized there might be a need for government to acquire private property to build a road, bridge, dam or fort. That is a clear public use that requires just compensation, but is taking one person's private property to make it available for another's private use a public purpose? Justice John Paul Stevens says yes, arguing, "Promoting economic development is a traditional and long-accepted function of government."
"Avoiding Tyranny 101" teaches that people in power should live by the same laws as the governed. Logan Darrow Clements thinks that this is a good idea.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."

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