Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Private Property

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, March 3, 2006

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

“Rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are equivalent to the rights of life, liberty, and property. These are the fundamental rights which can only be taken sway by due process of law . . . and these rights . . . belong to the citizens of every free government.” The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36, 116

The fifth amendment to the constitution states that "No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Huh? What is this guy talking about?

How about Senator Allan Kittleman's proposal to limit the County's power regarding eminent domain, which has killed by our delegation and lacked support from Jim Robey.

The story "At the Statehouse" appears in the Howard County Times.

Kittleman said;

his intent was to prevent Howard County from condemning property owned by private citizens, particularly those owning homes that might be considered blight or slum properties, then turn that property over to private developers for the purposes of urban renewal.

Very reasonable if you ask me.

Delegate Bobo said;

"I am reluctant to have an amendment to the Constitution that deals with eminent domain,"

Jim Robey said;

that the county needs the power of eminent domain when it becomes stalled in price negotiations with a property owner

Perhaps one of the greatest understatements in the article comes from the sponsor himself, Sen. Allan Kittleman.

"I think private property should be so sacred that it should be a constitutional amendment."

Well of course Kittleman is correct. Private property has been a guarenteed right in English Common law for centuries. The Maryland Constitution is based upon English Common Law. To suggest that one is reluctant to amend the State Constitution to ensure protection of private property is incredible. It is a Constitutional issue and if it is going to be protected what better place…

I am not a constitutional lawyer so let me direct you to a site that explains the history of Private Property in Anglo-American Laws, its influence on the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitutional Congress. This will help one to understand the intent of our founding fathers. LDS LAW

Through their emphasis on natural rights in defense of England’s Glorious Revolution, John Locke’s Treatises played a paramount role in the American founding. Following Grotius and Pufendorf, as well as other natural rights theorists, Locke first reaffirmed the natural rights of life and liberty. Then Locke conflated these rights with the right to property, defining the latter as “Life, Liberty and Estate.”[8] In short, Locke “tried to prove that property is natural, that the right to property is a natural right, and that private ownership is an institution, not of man, but of nature.”[9] In this way, the Lockean natural rights triumvirate of “life, liberty, and property” came into being.

Just to dismass Kittleman's legislation because of the Constitutional implications is just outrageous and shows a complete lack of committment to property rights. Isn't it Governments role to ensure property rights?

From an economic perspective the protection of individual property rights has been the foundation of our prosperity. If property rights can't be guarenteed then chaos ensues.

Look at Russia as an example. When the USSR collapsed the Government owned it all. They sold off property and the trouble began when various parties came forward to claim "historic" family property, or Government reconfiscated property it had previously privitized, bribery, influence, cronyism, and corruption ruled the day and the process. Why would Exxon-Mobile agree to spend millions of dollars exploring and extractin oil in Siberia if they had now guarentee of the oil rights? (Come on in with your equipment, extract the oil, but you have to give it to the Russian government – sorry it doesn't work). During this time Russia could not get meaningful international investment because those investors insisted upon the certainty of property rights – which couldn't be guarenteed in the current environment. Not until property rights were ensured did Russia start seeing meaningful international investment. (Then Yukos happened and the investors grew skitish again – so by no means is it a settled issue). Now I speak about Russia with some direct experience. Their is a huge building boom taking place all over that country – I witnessed it myself. Old Soviet style buildings are crumbling, are not adequate to meet the needs of today's business environment, and are not worth renovating. The introduction of western contruction methods and materials have transformed the skylines of Moscow and other major cities in Russia, created thousands of jobs, spurring the economy, and sparking a huge housing boom which is influenced by western styles and materials. This could not have happened without the guarentee of property rights. After all why build an apartment or office building or even a home if the Government is just going to take it away? Anyone know of a Russian REIT I can invest in? I have been looking and can't find one.

Are we in that situation? No, of course not. We are not even close. That is because traditionally we protect those rights rather jealously. Given recent events it is not unreasonable to revisit the issue and even strengthen our rights.

What about that Ms. Bobo and Mr. Robey? Are Government's rights to private property more important than an individuals? Can Government threaten our liberty through the erosion of private property rights?

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