"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so." ~ Douglas Adams
Today the gangsters on the Supreme Court did a wonderful job of ruling atop a house of cards of previous rulings. In a case involving the town of New London, Connecticut, the Supreme Court ruled that "cities may bulldoze people's homes to make way for shopping malls or other private development, giving local governments broad power to seize private property to generate tax revenue." This ruling supposedly derives from the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." It's truly amazing how "public use" now means anything that generates tax revenue. Such doublespeak reminds us that we're 20+ years past 1984. Simply put, the new ruling is all about government greed.
Local governments (including my home town) use the word blight to justify their greed. They characterize an area as economically depressed, and suggest that government can save the day by condemning these blighted areas.
North Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs is an older strip of road that hosts a number of long-established and often low-end businesses. Trailer park sales, lawnmower repair shops, and inexpensive restaurants characterize this avenue. The neighboring University of Colorado (Colorado Springs campus) pushed the city for an "urban renewal" plan. City council is going along with it, and their lackey in the local paper writes puff pieces about how great things will be when Costco and Lowes stores box out the competition, quite literally. Never mind that we already have two monster strip boulevards in Colorado Springs. Legitimate, respectable, long-standing businesses will be destroyed as part of this urban renewal. The Colorado Springs city council apparently has no belief in the capitalist system. Their arrogance leads them to instead believe that they will be our heroes by bringing us more box stores. If a few lives are destroyed in the process, so be it. How dare we try to stop progress? The hubris of this socialist line of thinking is that central planning can solve problems better than the economically proven science of the free market.
From where I sit, the Supreme Court and the Colorado Springs city council are no different than organized crime. The only distinction is that government gets away with their crimes because they make the laws. Eminent domain is like the mob hijacking your truck and giving the goods to someone paying protection.
When I visited the Yahoo news site to read word on the ruling, I wasn't at all shocked by the decision. I had exchanged emails with a colleague a few weeks ago, explaining to him what the New London case was all about. In our exchange I told him that it wouldn't surprise me if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of property theft. In fact, I wrote the majority of this column (and its conclusion) at that time.
I'm not sure exactly why I was so confident, but here's my guess: Once upon a time I believed in this idea of limited government as a proud Republican. But as I continued to think about it, I realized that limited government is a virtual impossibility. Government must grow, and with this growth it by definition seizes more power and steals more money. And with the additional power comes very vested interests in manipulating that power. So the progression to outright property theft--by powerful private enterprise using the force of government--is natural.
My journey from idealistic child to liberal to conservative to libertarian to capitalist anarchist didn't happen overnight, but I sure moved a lot faster at the tail end. I'm now convinced that government isn't the root of all evil--humans themselves are--but it certainly is the chief expediter and accommodator of evil. Government fosters far more evil than any other force on the planet.
I poked at a few responses to the Yahoo story. As usual, illiterate rants account for the majority of postings. What saddens me more is how the masses view the ruling. Each "side" in the battles blames the other side, and there are even a few trying to justify the ruling. There are accusations that it's the fault of a mostly conservative court, to which the other side responds that it's the liberal majority who voted for this.
Through government growth, the stakes have gotten so high that no one is willing to back down from their opinions. A true believer feels that every vote, every ounce of support is sacred, and he thus cannot budge. A close family member says it's all the Republicans' fault. A close friend curses the Democrats for the ruling. None of the Yahoo posters will admit their side is complicit in this abomination of a ruling.
So, while most of us will agree that this ruling is plain wrong, we see the solution as putting "our side" in power. This is the sickness of the belief in democracy.
I keep returning to one sentence in the Declaration of Independence. "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." Thomas Jefferson knew of this tendency of governments to grow in power. In the Constitution, he and others defined what they thought were clear rules to prevent the abuses of government that he feared and had seen too often. But ultimately his solution was to accept that revolutions are inevitable, that the cycle of minimal government to overthrown government was continual.
Perhaps government is inevitable. My idealism says no, but my realism says yes. In my lifetime, I keep hoping that enough people will read Jefferson's words and know what has to be done. The only problem is, no one believes in revolt any more. They believe that getting their guy in power will solve all their problems. Sadly, even though we're all fed up, we've all but given up.