Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Way Bullies Think

Tibor R. Machan

It is nearly impossible these days to escape the bullies who are set to run everyone's life. I thought I would visit friends on the Central California Coast to get away from it all for a day but no such luck. No sooner did I settle in with my friends to drink a glass or two of some very fine wine from their and some other cellars, I encountered yet another horror story about the demise of private property rights in the United States of America.

This time it isn't the eminent domain bullies who have been popping up everywhere, insisting on misconstruing the Fifth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution as authorizing transfer of private property by government edict to preferred private concerns. (That is what the outrageous Supreme Court Ruling in 2005, Kelo v. City of New London Connecticut sanctioned.) This time the excuse is a legal fiction called "Smart Growth," whereby powerful politicians everywhere are forcibly imposing their vision of how people should live and use their own land.

In San Luis Obispo and Grover Beach two elected blokes, John Shoals and Bruce Gibson, actually laid out their ill conceived idea in an Op Ed piece for the local newspaper. In it they announce that "As elected representatives … we have spent countless hours considering and planning for the future of our communities."

We can just stop here before continuing with this because already the two politicians manage to show their dirty hands. In a free society it isn't elected representatives who plan for the future of any community. (It isn't, by the way, "their" community, although I guess that is how such bullies like to understand matters.) In a free society it is individual citizens, who have unalienable rights to their lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness--which includes private property rights--who make those plans, alone or in various voluntary associations. It is those who have honestly acquired land, for example, who decide what happens to the land, barring only such actions that violate others' rights. What gave America its unique character and reputation as a free country is just that politicians here are duty bound to "secure our rights," not to plan how we will exercise them.

Smart planners--which, of course, is a grossly question begging label to being with--do not want to acknowledge the fact that they are would be dictators who aren't concerned about the rights of members of the communities in which they serve as public officials. No, smart planners view the community as theirs to order about, as a playground for their own experiments, following their agenda instead of making it possible, as honest public servants in a free society should, for the citizenry to carry out its highly diverse peaceful objectives.

Misters Shoal and Gibson go on to demonstrate how ignorant they are about the principles of a free society when they say, "We believe that smart growth principles are not just fashionable ideas; they are essential values that we must implement to remain a vital and functional place to live [sic]." It isn't smart growth principles that are essential in a free society but the principles identified and laid out by the American Founders and Framers. Among these is the right to private property which, as the Fifth Amendment makes clear, prohibits the taking of land from individuals except if some bona fide public purpose is involved, such as building a court house or police station or military base.

Carving up other people's property so as to suit the vision of a few "elected representatives" is not among the tasks of politicians in a free society! It is decidedly not a public purposes but one imposed on the public by a few zealots who think they have some divine right to make others conform to their ideas and ideals.

Basically, those who have a vision pertaining to the way land should be used in a community have several peaceful, civilized options in a free country: They are free to buy the land themselves. They can form a corporation with others and purchase the land that way. They can persuade the owners of the land they are interested in fashioning after their own vision.

Of course, choosing any of these options will be more difficult than simply forcibly taking the land from others. But then all criminals think that way, don't they--earning what they are after is troublesome, so coercively taking it from those who own it is their easy path to achieving their objectives.

Sadly these days such legally perpetrated crimes are beginning to be a norm. But this is a vicious undermining of the principles--the true essential ones--of a country in which all citizens are supposed to have their rights safeguarded. And especially so when those sworn to do the safeguarding are the perpetrators of the crimes.

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