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
Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

06.22 'Washing is a privilege': life on the frontline of India's water crisis

06.21 China Just Handed the World a 111-Million-Ton Trash Problem [we must switch to bioplastics ASAP]

06.21 Some rare good climate news: the fossil fuel industry is weaker than ever

06.20 ALEC’s Deadly Asbestos Agenda Benefits Koch Industries, Nationwide [the sociopaths are at it again]

06.18 Flooding from sea level rise threatens over 300,000 US coastal homes – study

06.16 Delhi's air pollution is now so bad it is literally off the chart [an increasingly deadly problem]

06.16 Former Bank of Canada Head: Pipeline Protesters May Be Killed. So Be It.

06.15 What if Canada had backed wind energy instead of the oil sands? [infographic]

06.14 The rate of Antarctic melting has nearly tripled in the past five years

06.14 The legal fight to leave the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground

06.12 Our plastic pollution crisis is too big for recycling to fix

06.12 Giant African baobab trees die suddenly after thousands of years

News Media Matters

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

06.23 Recognizing the Neoliberal Roots at the Heart of Trump's Cruel and Inhumane Border Policies

06.23 National Suicide Point?

06.22 As 'Wealthiest and Freest Country in the World,' Nikki Haley Tells Bernie Sanders It's 'Ridiculous' to Examine US Poverty [how underregulated capitalism kills people and entire nations]

06.22 50 Years Later, We Still Have a Dream [how underregulated capitalism kills people and entire nations]

06.21 Migrants in Detention Are Suffering Widespread Abuse and Neglect

06.21 James Comey: 'You stare at children crying – what kind of people are we?’ [We have stupidly allowed bribery and greed to corrupt government to the point where morality—and what's best for people is totally ignored...is considered too late.]

Justice Matters
High Crimes?

06.23 Gang raped and set on fire: ICC pushes to investigate Myanmar Rohingya atrocities

06.17 Coalition Ignores Famine Warnings and Continues Assault on Yemen as Critics Question US Complicity [BARBARISM]

Economics, Crony Capitalism

06.22 The Unsurpassed Power Trip by an Insuperable Control Freak: An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos [how underregulated capitalism kills people and entire nations]

06.19 'CEOs don't want this released': US study lays bare extreme pay-ratio problem

06.16 As AT&T-Time Warner Close Deal, Floodgates 'Wide Open' for Corporate Mega-Mergers

06.16 Social mobility in richest countries 'has stalled since 1990s'

International & Futurism

06.23 World to Refugees: Go to Hell

06.23 Top Six Dictators who also Divided Children from Parents like Trump/Sessions [joining the Elite Sociopaths Club]

06.23 North Korea Agreed to Denuclearize, But US Refuses Despite Treaty Obligation

06.23 The Billionaire Class is Not Fit to Rule – Paul Jay [14:31 video]

06.22 SHE NAMED HER CHILD “ENOUGH”

06.22 Europe’s democrats must unite to prevent a far-right takeover [how underregulated capitalism kills people and entire nations]

06.21 Trump’s Astonishing Reversal Is No Solution

06.21 Basic income could work—if you do it Canada-style

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: