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Friday, May 27, 2016

Private property rights are different 240 years later


In 1776 private property rights were one of the founding principles of our nation. They were one of the freedoms that set our nation apart from the rest of the world. During the time of the Declaration of Independence citizens had the unalienable right to acquire, possess, protect and dispose of property. One of the purposes of our early government was to protect those unalienable private property rights.
            Fast forward 240 years to 2016, and the idea of unalienable private property rights has been turned on its ear!   Today’s mentality is not that the government must protect our property rights at all costs.  Rather, in today’s world any rights to property that a person has may be regulated, limited or revoked by government in order to satisfy something which the government tells us is a “public purpose.”
            Every day I read at least one article from somewhere in the United States where some governmental body is commandeering  the private property of the citizens it is supposed to be serving, all in the name of a “public purpose”.
            For instance, today it was an article bemoaning the fact Congress can't reign in EPA's assault on property rights with the new "waters of the United States" rules.  Yesterday it was an article about municipalities seizing beach front property for a "public purpose".  Before that it was an article detailing how the Dallas City Council was removing a small business owner from his own private property where had operated his business for 30 years.  
It is happening here in Martin County as well.  Sometime this summer the Martin County Board of County Commissioners is poised to approve a set of changes to the Martin County Comprehensive Plan which will further erode the private property rights of our citizens under the guise of furthering a “public purpose” (or as the catch phrase goes in Martin County, “maintaining our quality of life”).
Unless you are one of the unlucky few who are adversely affected by the “public purpose” du jour, most of us in this crazy hectic world we live in simply accept government’s spin as to why we should support a further erosion of our property rights.  We nod out heads in agreement, feeling content we are selflessly supporting a good and altruistic cause.  We rationalize the “good” being done thinking it won’t really affect that many of our neighbors or it’s not so bad to burden a few for the good of the many.
Then………..one day……….out of the blue………..WE become one of those adversely affected by a good and noble “public purpose” getting cross ways with the government.  Then, and only then, do we become indignant with a government trying to separate us from our property rights.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “we have property rights in this country how can the government get away with this!” or “since when does the government have the right to take my private property?”  
This seems to be the rub with property rights.  In today’s society the mindset is as long as it doesn’t affect me, I don’t really care what the government does.  I know far too many highly educated, kind and compassionate folks who, for whatever reason, cannot bring themselves to honestly ask the question “how would I like it if I was subjected to this particular governmental burden?”  If they ever did ask the question, and honestly answer it I surmise they would not be so complacent in their acceptance of these supposed good and noble causes. 
Absent a societal shift in the public’s expectations of government, there is no reason to believe the governmental property rights grab will stop any time soon.  The further away we move from the roots of our colonial heritage, the closer we get to a more feudalistic system where the sovereign (ie. government) controls all the land it surveys.  With good reason, colonial America rejected feudalism.  Perhaps we are coming full circle.  I hear Mars will available for colonization by 2020!