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

11.13 What would a smog-free city look like?

11.13 Global report highlights Australia’s renewables potential amid mixed signals for coal

11.13 Interior department whistleblower: Ryan Zinke hollowed out the agency

11.12  This Land is Your Land:  The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.12 Planned Parenthood's new president warns of 'state of emergency' for women's health

11.11 Trump responds to worst fires in California’s history by threatening to withhold federal aid [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.11 Interior department sued for ‘secretive process’ in at-risk species assessment [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.11 Keystone XL pipeline: judge rules government 'jumped the gun' and orders halt [behaving ignorantly again...]

11.09 Rainforest destruction from gold mining hits all-time high in Peru

11.09 A new way to make steel could cut 5% of CO2 emissions at a stroke

11.08 Medicaid’s stunning victory

News Media Matters

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

11.14 The Real Florida Recount Fraud

11.14 Telling NRA #ThisIsOurLane, Doctors' Photos Show Blood-Soaked Reality of America's Gun Madness

11.14 Backed by Ocasio-Cortez, Youth Climate Activists Arrested in Pelosi's Office Demanding Democrats Embrace 'Green New Deal'

11.14 At Freshman Orientation, Young and Growing Progressive Caucus Makes Clear It Will 'Fight Like Hell' for Bold Democratic Agenda

11.13 'You Sound Nervous': Gillum Mocks Trump as President Demands End to Florida Recount

11.13 Kyrsten Sinema wins Arizona Senate race in breakthrough for Democrats

11.12 When Obstruction of Justice Is Glaringly Obvious

Justice Matters

11.09 Trump administration blocks asylum claims by those crossing border illegally [Making America Less Great Again...]

High Crimes?

11.14 The Guardian view on Yemen’s misery: the west is complicit [WAR CRIMES]

11.10 US stops refuelling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen war [But there are a few children still alive. It's too soon!]

Economics, Crony Capitalism

11.14 Brexit: May tells her cabinet, this is the deal – now back me

11.11 Tax reform: down with the ‘stepped-up basis’

11.08 Canada is richer than the US, according to a new wealth ranking — in fact, the US doesn't even make the top 10 [Graph of richest countries based on median wealth per adult]

11.05 Under Trump, Corporate Giants See Massive Drop in Penalties: NYT [Mafia-government...]

11.02 Los Angeles’ Measure B Is a Moonshot Aimed at Creating a Public Bank [Could save the public $Billions if setup smartly]

International & Futurism

11.14 'Appalling' Khashoggi audio shocked Saudi intelligence – Erdogan [Exposing a psychopath?]

11.14 Israel and Hamas launch hundreds of attacks in Gaza clash

11.14 Mueller seeking more details on Nigel Farage, key Russia inquiry target says

11.13 Austin's Fix for Homelessness: Tiny Houses, and Lots of Neighbors

11.13 Portugal Dared to Cast Aside Austerity. It’s Having a Major Revival.

11.13 Caravan marks one month on the road: ‘We keep on going, laughing or crying’

11.13 Letter Shows Einstein’s Prescient Concerns About ‘Dark Times’ in Germany

11.12 With Trump sitting nearby, Macron calls nationalism a betrayal [Trump was confused...; video]

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: