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
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
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.