"One's first step in wisdom is to question everything--and one's last is to come to terms with everything." ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
The War on Property
Americans who tune in to TV news daily are treated to a unhealthy dose of war, with scenes that include tanks rolling down an Iraqi street or helicopter gunships firing at the 'enemy.' Most citizens of the United States view war as something that happens someplace else and to someone else. With the exception of Pearl Harbor , that's usually been the case. Yet there is War being waged within our borders, a stealth and insidious war that goes unnoticed by most Americans until they find themselves engulfed, entangled and tormented by it.Property ownership is the backbone of any free and capitalist society (The American Dream). Laws that properly define and defend property rights are essential to any society that claims to be liberated. The United States prides itself on the reputation of being a free and capitalistic society, but with each passing day, the rights of property owners violated and the laws governing property rights grow ever more intrusive. This creates an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and plain old tyranny in many communities of this once 'free country.'Most municipalities in our country have Code Enforcement Boards or Nuisance Abatement Boards. These boards are comprised of individuals who are appointed by elected officials (Mayor, or Commissioners). The function of these boards is to enforce ordinances and statutes by imposing fines on the 'violators,' forcing them to make improvements, or in some cases condemning their property.Attending Code Enforcement or Nuisance abatement hearings can be enlightening and frightening at the same time. You would probably learn that to cut a tree that sits on your property, you would have to obtain permission from your local government in the form of a permit (that will set you back a few bucks). Getting a permit is not necessarily easy; in the case of cutting a tree, your local code enforcement officer may want to know how big a tree it is as well as what type of tree and why you are so determined to hastily chop down the tree. Never mind that the plant sits on property you paid for and maintain and perhaps even live on. Cutting the tree without the permission of your local government will, if detected, trigger fines, hearings and liens. In addition, you must remedy the situation to 'their' liking (plant three new trees).Thinking of adding a pool? Installing a fence? Or putting in a new driveway? Don't forget to ask for permission. Attempting to make any of these improvements to your property without the consent and blessing of the proper authorities will land you in a legal entanglement any former Russian commissar could only dream about. Not only are you forced to pay for the permit, you must subject yourself to inspections by government bureaucrats on the work being done on 'your' property. Makes you wonder who really won the Cold War.Nuisance Abatement Ordinances and the boards they create often deal with vices like drugs and prostitution that take place on 'private' property. The cause sounds noble and righteous, but upon closer examination, it becomes obvious that ignorance, power lust and the American moral crusade have all become the real nuisance in almost every property owner's life. In most cases, the violators brought before these boards of inquiry are poor or elderly.Old age, poverty and bad progeny will more than likely get your property condemned. A large number of cases dragged in front of these boards are grandparents with unruly children and grandchildren, who have chosen to conduct illegal activities on their property. The police and prosecutors find it almost impossible to deal with these thugs, so they toss the responsibility for keeping order on granny's lap. The elderly grandmother who in no way resembles Arnold Schwartzenegger or Clint Eastwood, usually loses the battle for control of the property with her descendants, and in many cases is forced by the Board to "shut down" her property which she either lives in or depends on the income to make ends meet.Eminent Domain is defined as the power the government has to take your property for a 'public purpose' as long as it provides 'just compensation.' This leaves a lot of wiggle room for politicians with a penchant for abusing power (one man's just compensation is another man's rip off). Defining 'public purpose' is no easy task; roads, parks and schools may be easily accepted by those who believe that these are all functions of government, but condemnation by governments that benefit private parties is the latest trend. Land grabs by developers who contribute heavily to local candidates are becoming more and more prevalent, at the expense of smaller businesses or homeowners who don't write fat campaign checks or hire a powerful lobbyist. Laws that govern morality and individual choice also infringe on our rights to private property. Zero Tolerance laws allow law enforcement officers to seize property--be it real estate, an automobile or other personal property--without the benefit of due process. In some cities, the cars of those caught soliciting prostitutes are impounded and the accused must pay up to $1,000 to retrieve them without having been convicted of any crime. The War on Drugs also serves to drive down property values in lower income and inner city areas by creating incentives for thugs to terrorize neighborhoods while they sell drugs on the streets and in buildings. Property rights are not served in a free-for-all environment, either. The only way to ensure that rights are respected is not by granting the government more power, but rather by ensuring that there is more private ownership. Property owners should not be allowed to violate the rights of their neighbors. Disputes and differences between owners and or tenants should be settled in court, not on the floor of the legislature or in the chamber of the county commission. These are just a few of the examples of how government here in the United States tramples on property rights. There are many more ways in which the government imposes itself on us. Property taxes that are used for dubious expenditures by local, county and state government is another example of the abuse. School board property taxes used to maintain large and inefficient bureaucracies, which fail to provide adequate education or protection for our children in school. Zoning laws subject to change at the whim of a politician, cumbersome building codes that require volumes of paperwork plus endless scrutiny by bureaucrats, and exorbitant fines that render properties useless for decades are other ways in which the government not only emasculates our property rights, but also makes our acquisition of it (property) more difficult and expensive. Unlike the vaunted 'American Dream,' abusive and draconian laws are turning property ownership into an 'American Nightmare.'