Friday, July 29, 2005

Supreme Court Paves Paradise


It's great to see a picture that so well depicts the recent betrayal of our highest court.

I recently had an op-ed accepted and published in the local newspaper here in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It addresses this same issue and addresses how this issue is being played out at a local level.

Although it doesn't compare to Russmo's genius it does express my thoughts on the matter:

Paradise Lost

Independence Day has passed and with it, the quaint delusion that our government of the people, by the people, and for the people will respect our right to private property.

On June 23rd, Supreme Court Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, decided, in the "Kelo et al. v. City Of New London et al., that local governments may seize property from one property holder and transfer it to a private citizen or firm, if the new use would "promote economic development.” This decision should have ignited fireworks in any freedom loving American.

A few years ago, I purchased a few acres of land to pursue my interests in gardening. I am attempting to transform overgrown weeds and thick brush into a rainbow of perennials and flowering trees along with a water garden to sit beside on warm summer mornings. I hope that my sweat equity plus countless buckets of water will blossom into my own piece of paradise in the Shenandoah Valley.

Now I am threatened, not by another Valley drought, not by terrorists, but by anyone who can convince local government, to take my land in exchange for a tax pumping commercial enterprise who measure success, not in quality of life, but in quantity of dollars.

Joseph Stalin applied this same logic to seize land from Russian citizens in the 1920’s. Soon retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, confirmed this horrible reality could happen here in the USA in her dissenting opinion stating the, "specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

I am no Andre Viete.* With so many new plantings, it looks more like Oliver’s (Eddie Albert) Green Acres. Nonetheless, it is my land; to me it is priceless. Yet the Supreme Court decision reduced me to nothing more than a caretaker until the day some investor applies eminent domain law to confiscate my corner of paradise.

JMU has sent out veiled threats regarding our property rights. Apparently, there are those on the JMU Board of Visitors who believe what is right for JMU will be right for Harrisonburg. To threaten to commandeer the property owned by a longstanding funeral home director strikes against the very principles of their namesake.

In his “Address at the Virginia Convention,” James Madison stated, “It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protections of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated. The personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property, which acquired, a right to protection, as a social right.”

We should therefore wake up, smell my mail-ordered hybrid roses, and oppose those who seek to use the force of government against our property rights. Economist Llewellyn Rockwell warned, "Private property is the real human right, and the foundation of all freedom. If a church can't own its building, there can be no freedom of religion. If a newspaper can't own its newsprint, there can be no freedom of the press. If there is no private land there can be no freedom of speech."

Recently I signed the pledge to pay for a week’s lodging at the Lost Liberty Hotel in Weare, New Hampshire ( Thousands have now signed on requesting the Weare City Council to condemn Justice Souter’s home in preference for a planned hotel that promises the town more revenue compared to his annual property taxes. Indeed all the justices who formed the majority opinion against property rights should feel the pain of losing their home for, say, a hotel, or even a new Wal-Mart.

Sadly, this government birthed on the Fourth of July for a people committed to individual liberties and property rights believes it can now seize our land in preference to corporate greed and as folk artist Joni Mitchell sang, “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”

*Andre Viete: Local yet internationally renowned gardening guru
**JMU: James Madison University