Newspaper logo  
 
 
   Legal Plunder in Alabama

COMMENTARY:

Legal Plunder in Alabama

by Sheldon Richman

How many people would be surprised to learn that the government can take their homes if it decides that some other use of the property - say, a Wal-Mart - will bring in more tax revenue?
Most Americans would take umbrage at the suggestion that they are serfs rather than citizens of the United States. But that just shows how far removed from political reality they are.

How many people would be surprised to learn that the government can take their homes if it decides that some other use of the property - say, a Wal-Mart - will bring in more tax revenue?

"No way!" many people would say. "Not in America."

Well, as they say in Wayne's World, "Way!" Governments are doing this almost regularly.

The most recent case to make the news is from Alabaster, Alabama. A development company wants to build an 800,000-square-foot Wal-Mart shopping center there. Colonial Properties Trust has been buying land from homeowners, but it has run into a problem. Seven residents, occupying 12 acres, either don't like the price offered or don't want to sell at any price.

In a free country this would leave Colonial Properties with two choices: offer more money or find another location.

It's not compensation, but consent, that makes a sale legitimate. In a forced sale there can be no just compensation. Rape is rape even if the perpetrator leaves some money for his victim.

Alas, in unfree America there is a third alternative: get the government to take the land under eminent domain. That's what Colonial Properties requested. And now the city wants to condemn the homes and order the owners out. The government is saying to them: sell at the developer's price or the city will take the homes and pay even less.

To accomplish this, Alabaster has declared the homes "negative and blighted" under its 350-acre Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Project. But according to the Birmingham Post-Herald, "It's not what most people would call a neighborhood threatened by blight."

That doesn't matter. The city's politicians want the land turned over to the developer. Why? Because the shopping center will bring in more revenue than the modest working-class homes do. And what about the property rights of people like Brenda Hall who have lived there so long? To hell with them.

The government doesn't put it that way, but it amounts to the same thing. The city councilmen talk about sacrifice. One said that in our society "there is give and take." Yes, the owners give and the nonowners take. That used to be called theft.

Another councilman said, "Sometimes the good of the many has to outweigh the greed of the few." As radio talk-show host Neal Boortz pointed out, Hitler couldn't have put it better.

Undoubtedly, some people will say that the land is not really being stolen because the government has to pay for it. It is true that under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, government has to pay what is called "just compensation" when it takes private property. But the Fifth Amendment says private property can be taken only for "public use." Private stores and higher tax revenues are not what the Framers meant. (Taking property even for a government road conflicts with individual rights.)

Moreover, it's not compensation, but consent, that makes a sale legitimate. In a forced sale there can be no just compensation. Rape is rape even if the perpetrator leaves some money for his victim.

Another evil that arises from this and similar cases is the bad name given to private enterprise. The free market is based on private property. Morally, Brenda Hall has the same right to her home that the largest corporation has to its buildings. When shopping centers are built on land stolen by politicians, it's not private enterprise - it's a subtle form of fascism. Such government-business conspiracies against property owners must stop. Right now no one is safe.


Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org), author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of Ideas on Liberty magazine.


Copyright © 2003 The Baltimore Chronicle and The Sentinel. All rights reserved. We invite your comments, criticisms and suggestions.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on October 9, 2003.
  
Local Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education

03.14 It's Magic! Betsy DeVos' Department of Education allows Grand Canyon University to call itself non-profit while its parent company reports profit margin of 27 percent

Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

03.18 Energy analysts forecast 'the end of coal' in Asia as Japanese investors back renewables

03.17 Deadly air in our cities: the invisible killer

03.17 Our oceans broke heat records in 2018 and the consequences are catastrophic [Meanwhile, "conservatives" like Trump just make shit up...]

03.15 Rural America is ready for some sort of a New Deal, preferably green [Due to our ignorantly anti-science, capitalism-obsessed government, we have an out-of-control catastrophe]

03.15 Capitalism is destroying the Earth. We need a new human right for future generations [11:04 video]

03.15 US official reveals Atlantic drilling plan while hailing Trump’s ability to distract public [“Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

03.14 New Mexico Jumps At Chance For 100% Clean Electricity

03.14 Whales are dying along East Coast—and scientists are racing to understand why

03.14 Climate study warns of vanishing safety window—here’s why

03.13 Air pollution deaths are double earlier estimates: study

03.13 'Almost certain extinction': 1,200 species under severe threat across world

03.12 Surge in chemical use ‘a threat to health and environment’ [Business as usual KILLS]

03.12 'We won't stop striking': US students taking a stand over climate change

03.12 'Monumental step backwards' – the $1bn gas pipeline project dividing New York

03.11 It's 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change

03.11 Greta Thunberg, schoolgirl climate change warrior: ‘Some people can let things go. I can’t’

03.11 The Other Kind of Climate Denialism

03.09 Trump to Divert Up to $385 Million From Crucial Health Programs To Pay for 'Government-Sanctioned Child Abuse'

03.08 'They chose us because we were rural and poor': when environmental racism and climate change collide

03.08 What the Green New Deal will mean for your hamburger

03.07 Why Do We Need Sleep? Israeli Scientists Solve the Mystery [Might insomnia-caused lack of neuronal DNA repair also cause political extremism and criminality?]

News Media Matters

03.18 Under Pressure, Donald Trump Begs, Cajoles and Threatens Fox News

03.17 Trump's media attacks are an abuse of power. We're holding him to account

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

03.18 ‘One chance at survival’: Jay Inslee is running for president to fight climate change

03.17 Trump is cornered, with violence on his mind. We must be on red alert

03.16 Beto O'Rourke, friend of the fossil fuel industry, is no climate hero

03.15 De Blasio unveils $10bn scheme to build new chunk of Manhattan to combat climate change [Why subsidize the richest companies on the planet? “Stupid is as stupid does.” –Forrest Gump]

03.15 House votes 420-0 for Mueller report to be made public

03.15 When a Bill to Revive Democracy Is Called an Ode to Socialism

03.15 Meritocracy is a myth invented by the rich

03.14 Beto vs. Democrats: Texas Lawmaker Frequently Voted to Help Trump and GOP

03.14 The Real Theft of American Democracy

03.14 'Extraordinary': GOP heads for unprecedented clash with Trump

03.14 Senate passes resolution to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen

03.14 Oakland Teachers Strike Enters Day Seven

03.14 Both Parties Are Addicted to Dark Money. Only One Is Trying to Quit.

03.14 WE NEED A PRESIDENT WHO WILL SUPPORT THE GREEN NEW DEAL | OPINION

03.14 George Conway Urges ‘Serious Inquiry’ Into Trump’s Mental Health After Latest Lie

Justice Matters

03.12 Election Watchdog Hits Jeb Bush’s Super-PAC With Massive Fine for Taking Money From Foreign Nationals [Russia backed Trump & China backed Bush...]

03.12 New York Attorney General Opens Investigation of Trump Projects

High Crimes

03.16 'Change your course!': Pompeo threatens ICC over US war crimes probe [1:55 video]

Economics & Corrupt Capitalism

03.18 Why are millennials burned out? Capitalism.

03.10 Ocasio-Cortez Blasts Capitalism as an ‘Irredeemable’ System

International & Futurism

03.18 US and Saudi Arabia blocking regulation of geoengineering, sources say

03.18 Jacinda Ardern says cabinet agrees New Zealand gun reform 'in principle'

03.16 Global Climate Strike in Pictures: Millions of Students Walk Out to Demand Planetary Transformation

03.16 Pollutionwatch: China shows how political will can take on air pollution

03.16 Who ordered Marielle Franco's murder?

03.16 To prevent another Christchurch we must confront the right’s hate preachers

03.16 Thank you, climate strikers. Your action matters and your power will be felt

03.15 Britain is in crisis – and Theresa May is blocking the only solution

03.15 Youth climate strikes to take place in more than 100 countries

03.15 Irish PM brings partner to meet Mike Pence and delivers pointed remarks on sexuality

03.14 Two Women, Heroes for Our Age

03.14 Who are the private contractors fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan? An inside look at this invisible military force [What could go wrong with for-profit war? Is Erik Prince involved?]

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web

Public Service Ads: