Private property zoning, regulations, erodes freedom and individuality

TRACKSIDE © by John DíAloia Jr.

November 26, 2002

Freedom is eroded in many ways. The idea that freedom is more important than a beautiful and orderly city lasted for a long time in our country. People, and the courts, retained an understanding for almost 200 years of why the Founders so valued private property and why they crafted the Vth Amendment to protect the right to private property. Not so today.

While coercive zoning takes away freedom and individuality, when we let The Clerks exercise the power of eminent domain under broad theories of applicability, we are letting them steal property outright, cloaked in the mantle of the law. Eminent domain has a place in government operations, a narrow place limited strictly to absolute needs for a specific tract of land for an abiding public purpose. Such restraints drive The Clerks crazy. Without the ability to confiscate land, they have to convince people that their ideas are sound and they are subject to market place discipline. Why subject yourself to such constraints when with creative definitions and an obliging legislature, you can define just about any project as having an abiding public purpose.

Kansans have to look no further than Wyandotte County, where the state confiscated 150 plus tracts for the benefit of the private entity that built and operates the NASCAR race track. The abiding public purpose was supposedly economic development. Economic development is a favorite rationale for planners upon which to base a claim of eminent domain, yet in so doing, they give short shrift to the economic plight of those who lose their land. In many cases, it is a pure case of follow the money. Those who have large pots of money to hand out are able to call upon governmentís coercive power to "buy" what they could not buy on the open market. The Castle Coalition, an organization that helps property owners fight unjust eminent domain proceedings, put it thus: "Acting more like real estate agents than public servants, government agencies form unholy alliances with developers in order to force the rightful owners off of their property." Daniel Webster said "An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, the power to destroy." His argument also holds for eminent domain.

Our elected representatives, the people who are supposed to be protecting our freedom, do as much to erode freedom by sins of omission as does any external enemyís sins of commission. In the closing days of the 107th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives passed 15 bills dealing with natural resources and the environment. (The 15 bills also contained 21 other bills that had been amended into them.) These bills authorized the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars and the acquisition of tens of thousands of acres of land to enlarge wilderness areas and national parks. (None of these bills even paid lip service to the constitutional requirement that federal land acquisition requires the approval of the legislature of the state in which the land is located. A rationale for such approval is that every time the federal government grabs more land, it is taking land off the tax rolls, thereby placing an increasing tax burden on the remaining private property owners.) One bill in the group established the Old Spanish National Historic Trail and gave the feds the authority to acquire land along the trail. Sounds neat, does it not? But think of the implications - the trail extends from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Los Angeles, California, winding along a 2,700* mile path between the two cities. The supporters of the Wildlands Project must be ecstatic. The trail provides the authority for federal control of a route cutting a swath across the west, a foot-in-the-door for those who are using federal law to create an ever-expanding wilderness area from which humans will be excluded.

Well, you say, the issues were debated and considered, and the bills voted upon, were they not? Ha! - no way. The bills passed on "Unanimous Consent" motions when many members were not even in DC. A unanimous consent motion is made to pass a bill and unless a member objects, the bill is deemed to have passed - no quorum requirement, no vote. Our elected representatives allowed government to expand and freedom to be eroded by committing a sin of omission. They failed to be involved and actively participate in debate and voting. Donít let any of them tell you they didnít vote to feed Leviathanís maw - by failing to object, they voted "aye," they voted to increase the power of government over society. The 15 bills are albatrosses around every congressmanís neck.

See you Trackside.

*The Old Spanish Trail is a set of parallel routes that wander back and forth, similar to a braided stream, covering much more area than would a single route. One source puts the total mileage at 3,500 miles. A map of the trail can be found at


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