I remember when Bob Dole, then a recently defeated Presidential candidate, gained more national notoriety than he did in his Presidential bid by participating in an ad campaign against ED, Erectile Dysfunction. The first blend of ED and politics, it would not be the last. A few years later, a New ED garnered national attention. Eminent Domain.
Old ED may be inoffensively described as the inability of an unhappy man to erect a structure for his own use on his own property. This unfortunate situation was a private matter and left to the man and his family to correct. Senator Dole was hawking new construction options for our property owner to consider. New ED is similar but there are serious differences. New ED features government unhappy with structures a man is erecting (or not) for his own use on his own property. This unfortunate situation is being made public as government attempts to seize said property in the name of the People.
For years, the little talked about problems associated with Old ED remained unaddressed and anonymous. No one knew which of their family or friends may have suffered from the condition’s real and unfortunate side effects. Consequences such as depression and lowered self esteem led to all manner of attempts to fix the problem. In some cases, the problems led to divorce. Thus, the very institution designed to address man’s need to erect his structure was destroyed by his inability to do so. Eventually, in a serendipitous accident, a solution to many of the problems presented by Old ED was discovered. This has resulted in the widespread prescription of a little blue pill for millions of property owners around the world and interesting new career options for retired politicians.
This is where New ED and Old ED part company. New ED is exactly that – new! The problems associated with New ED are also new and they are anything but anonymous and unaddressed. For the 225+ years that our nation has been in existence, the issue of ownership of private property and the rights of property owners to use their property as they see fit were clear and established. People owned their property and the government had no authority over it. In fact, government was often the tool used by property owners to defend their property rights. Government, however, is a dubious partner in any enterprise and the issue of private property is no exception. Eventually, as it always does, government sought to expand its scope and authority in the matter.
It starts innocently enough. Governmental expansion may appear reasonable and even beneficial. For instance, if government helps people defend their property rights, it’s reasonable government needs to know who owns the property and what the property’s boundaries are. Thus plot maps and mortgages are born. If government provides these services, it cannot do so for free. Fees for registering said documents are also a reasonable thing. As communities grow, government must know which properties it is responsible for and which are serviced by other governments. City limits, township boundaries and other demarcations spring up. These aren’t free services either so property taxes, local sales taxes, excise taxes and fees spring up to fund government. It is about here, however, where property ownership passes from citizen to government. It’s the tipping point where people alone stop owning property and government becomes a joint owner.
It’s tempting to think otherwise. However, if you think you alone own your property and you are free to do with it what you will, try any of the following and see what happens. Try selling your property without paying taxes on the sale. Try not paying the annual property tax levied by the government on your property based on its value. Try denying the government Assessor access to your property when he comes to see if it’s worth more to you and thus qualifies for a government revenue (read tax) increase, too. Try making improvements to your property without paying for building permits, codes inspections and the like. There’s more but you get the point. Still think you own your own property?
Government’s expansion of its role in the ownership of private property has grown to the point it is not even pretending Americans own their own property anymore. The Constitution’s framers, knowing there may arise situations in which government might need the use of property owned by individuals, provided for that in the original language of the Constitution. Now known as ‘the Takings Clause’, the 5th Amendment states in part, “Private property shall not be taken for a public use, without just compensation.” This has traditionally meant government can buy, at a fair market price, property owned by a person, for public use, and the person cannot refuse to sell. This has been used to acquire property for Interstate Highways, government buildings and the like. While it is easy to disagree with the government’s decision that this or that property should be the one selected for such a purpose, it is pretty easy to agree that the purpose for which the property is being purchased by government is, indeed, one that will benefit most or even all citizens. The matter of price is also open to discussion but there are market guidelines that make that task much easier.
That situation applies no longer. The recent Supreme Court Kelo v New London, CT decision destroyed any pretense that Executive or Judicial branches of government would abide by Constitutional constraints. New London, CT did not argue government had a better use for the property than the owners. The government did not argue there was a use for the property providing a specific benefit for its citizens. The government argued the property owners’ taxes were low based on their use of the property. It argued that deflating the property’s value by condemning it; seizing it from the Kelo family and giving it to private developers for $1 with a 99 year lease would increase tax revenues by putting the land to a different use. Since those taxes would be spent on the community, this seizure of property was justified under the Takings Clause.
Many governments have passed legislation specifically preventing this unconstitutional seizing of private property but it is unclear such laws will stand if challenged based on the Kelo precedent. Despite some governments behaving well, others have not. In truth, no American is safe from government ordering him to move because it wants his property for itself. The New ED creates the scenario wherein the institution designed to protect a man’s right to erect his structure is now a weapon used against him. The protector has become a plunderer.
Unlike Old ED, there will be no accidental scientific fix. New ED will be eradicated when Americans choose to reclaim their constitutional rights and responsibilities. We must trust ourselves and our neighbors more than those in government when making decisions about our property. We must reject the idea government is our source and reclaim the notion we are responsible for ourselves and have specific rights, including to own property. And we must be willing to defend our Right to private property ownership by exercising our other Rights as needed. The Right to Free Speech, to Assemble, of the Press and perhaps even to Keep and Bear Arms will be needed to stem the encroachment of government on our Rights.
One can only hope a new politician will rise up (pun intended), like Bob Dole did, with a solution that returns the power and authority to solve the problem to the individual. If not, the New ED will lead to the same result failure to fix Old ED would have led to; the disappearance of Citizens. In the case of Old ED, citizens would have disappeared as fewer new citizens were born. In the case of New ED it will be that our citizens disappear as they are transformed into slaves.