Thursday, October 25, 2007


Belief in the Absolute Right to own and use Property

I've lived a long time and I've known many individuals who chafed and complained about restrictions on the use of their property as well as on the taxes levied against it. As a child I heard a local business man complain in Kent City, Michigan, about government interference and regulation of his lumber business. He complained that "government should leave business alone." I remember, years ago at a cocktail party, a man who complained about the high taxes on his house. It was a nice house and he was a well-clad, affluent man, at least by all appearances. I wasn't very sympathetic about his complaint; I told him that he should be happy that he had the means to pay the taxes.

I have a friend who owned a tract of land in California that he couldn't get to except by hiking. His land was surrounded on one side by part of a national forest and on the other side by mountains. He wanted to farm the land but couldn't because government policy wouldn't permit building a road through the national forest to his land. I don't know how he got the land in the first place. Perhaps he'd bought it before the intervening land became part of the national forest. Perhaps he'd bought it during an administration that was more friendly than the Clinton administration to building additional roads through national forests. Naturally my friend complained about the government regulation that prohibited building the road he needed to exploit his piece of land.

I've never met any of them as far as I know, but I've read about a group of people here in the West who advocate "wise use" of property. These people chafe under restrictions on the use of property intended to protect the environment, endangered species, and fragile ecological systems. I realize as well as anyone that such limitations on absolute property rights can not exist very long unless the local people affected support them. The limitations usually effect developers who can make fortunes by changing the use of a piece of land from pristine wilderness to human residences. The developers have political cash available to support congressmen and other officials who will agree with their "wise use" of the property.

The same individuals who adhere strongly to a belief in the unlimited right to exploit land for profit are the same individuals who object strongly to any popular resistance to their projects for exploitation. They insist that the local sheriff and police departments see to it that any such demonstrators are intimidated and locked up. The same mentality is often found in the officers of a large corporation devoted to processing iron ore into steel. Steel workers should be complaisant; strikers should be beaten and sent to jail. Workers who organize and conduct strikes and other public actions in support of improved wages and working conditions are no better than traitors, for they are trampling on the right of the owner of a company to do whatever he wishes with his property.

In a way, since they seek to destroy property and to change public policy, terrorists are no better than other groups who seek to interfere with the rights of property owners. They, too, must be intimidated and put out of business. A good government is one that does everything physically possible to destroy the terrorists. Destroying those who would interfere with their property rights is more important to the property owners than maintaining a democratic government. A dictator is more efficient than a democracy in marshalling resources to destroy the terrorists.

It is no surprise, then, that the propertied class in this country generally supports the Bush"war" on terror in all its anti-democratic actions.

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