Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Free Country?

To anyone who thinks Americans live in a free country, or that something like the battle over the expulsion of Jewish settlers from Gaza and the West Bank couldn't happen here, take a look at this. Not only has this case shown that the government can take your property in order to give it to a company so the company can profit from it, but also that, if you fight to retain rights to your own property, the government will still get your property, pay the market value from five years ago, and then charge you rent for living on your own property for five years.

What, exactly, rights do citizens have if the government can just utterly destroy a person financially for the crime of owning property the government wants to give to someone else? I mean, it's bad enough when the IRS ruins someone's life because they unknowingly signed a tax return his or her spouse cheated on. Even though the person being blamed wasn't at fault, at least someone did something wrong there. But here, these homeowners did absolutely nothing wrong! They fought the government to keep the government from giving their property to someone else so someone else could profit from it, and in the end, they end up getting shafted on the value of their property, losing the property anyway, and being charged rent.

If the system punishes you for trying to protect your property rights to the point of ruin if you lose, then the deterrent to using the system is so great that there may as well be no system at all. In effect, this case shows that the government can take your property at will, as it pleases, for any reason, both because the Supreme Court ruled it can, but also because it is prohibitively dangerous to fight the government, and therefore citizens have no choice but to cave in.

Think about if it worked this way in terms of criminal justice. If that were so, it would work like this: if you get accused of stealing, they cut your hand off. You can go to court to try prove your innocence, but if you lose, they cut your head off instead, and also execute your wife and children. Would you say that there is any such thing as the "protection of the law" under a system like that? Of course not. Well, what's happening in New London is the tort equivalent of that.

This is why you never, ever, ever give the government any power to violate the rights of citizens even in a limited way. Because power always grows and expands, and soon a good idea becomes a vast power that the government can wield like a hammer against the citizens. Social Security numbers weren't going to become national ID numbers. Right. National ID cards won't be used to keep track of your private business. Right. The government will never look at your library records just to find out if you don't like the government's policies and watch you. Right.



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