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As Long as We Remember...

April 27, 2010

Usurping Our Rights

Farrell Keough

Our nation was founded on a number of philosophic precedences that were unique to this nation – one of the most important being the right to property, (whether physical property, intellectual, or the payment of our labors) which equates to liberty. In short, unlike other nations, the rewards of our labor are ours to keep and do with what we please.


This right has been chipped away for many years, but it is now being dynamited. We see this on a national level virtually every day. For instance, we currently see a Financial Reform bill being forwarded in Congress.


While there was an initial repulsion to this bill, well-spoken rhetoric has moved our representatives away from wise review of legislation toward a foolish progressivism view that government must step in to save us from ourselves and from the greedy Wall Street vultures.


In short, the outrage of the populace at the gains made by unscrupulous investors is played upon to force a virtual government takeover of many financial institutions and businesses. For instance, James Gattuso, a senior research fellow in regulatory and telecommunications for The Heritage Foundation, noted:


“Another part of the bill would authorize regulators to take over and close financial firms that they believe are failing. The regulators would have almost unfettered discretion to decide which ones to close, and when – subject to minimal judicial review – and broad authority to decide how to handle the affairs of the firm after it is seized.”


While you may have reason to be outraged at these companies, to sanction the federal government with the authority to assault the Right of Property as a remedy is far more dangerous. Markets regulate themselves far better than government attempts to control markets.


While the Constitution is supposed to limit the federal government from such empowerment, our founding document has been ignored in these circumstances. This attitude of an authoritarian government stepping on the rights of some to protect the many has become ubiquitous. We are now seeing this kind of attitude on the state and local level.


To understand this progression, we must first remember that much of the limiting powers of the Constitution are generally placed on Congress. But, certain amendments ensure rights to all citizens – for instance, the 5th Amendment ensures 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.”


While this may seem very straight forward, the hitch in the argument is “due process.” In its simplest definition, this is the process for a legal rendering that must be followed – it is often connected with treating everyone equally and fairly under the law. But, therein lies the slippery slope – just what this process must entail is not defined. Hence, it may be something as simple as sending out a letter and allowing a citizen to speak before a group of elected officials who have already made their determination.


We have seen this circumstance prove itself out with the passage of the Frederick County Comprehensive Plan. Not only has a significant portion of the county been down-zoned or down-classified, but the authoritarian control by the county commissioners over the municipalities has a powerful potential to inhibit business growth throughout the county.


And yet, when these issues have been brought to the attention of those members who voted in favor of this plan, they have either been ignored, justified that government control over individuals and their potential for greed is paramount to individual property rights, or this is what we deserved due to our vote.


For instance, in a recent publication, it was noted that “[Lewis and Tanya] Ramsburg may lose 50 acres and their home to bank foreclosure if the county's plan to rezone their property goes ahead.”* This situation was known to many of the commissioners prior to this vote, yet they determined that the plan was too important an overall document to account for such individual property rights and hardships.


One highly unusual justification for this Comprehensive Plan was brought forward by Robert L. White, Jr., of the County Planning Commission. During a local radio call-in show, ** Mr. White stated that individual’s retaining such property zoning designation were “hoarding” these rights to the detriment of the greater public. Consider this viewpoint and its logical progression. If an individual were to save for their retirement or for an emergency, they, too, could be viewed as hoarding wealth to the detriment of the greater public. As noted during the introduction, our property is tantamount to our liberty and by usurping such rights we are not only taking from the individual but, in essence, creating a dependency on government.


One county commissioner stood against this plan and articulated his position in a Letter to the Editor. *** Commissioner Blaine Young noted that “no compelling reason” could be presented for this re-write as opposed to update of the Comprehensive Plan. Not only does this cause serious conflict with the concept of due process, but the lack of justification will undermine the legal basis and authority to make such a change.


You may remember the issues surrounding the new Resource Conservation zoning designation – this same lack of “compelling reason” for such a change existed at that time. And, in a similar pattern, the county commissioners refused to accept that this new designation did little to nothing to benefit the county and in essence only harmed individuals. Yet, it is due to these kinds of baby-steps in government that a perspective of authoritarian control under the guise of benefiting the public occurs.


While you may believe this Comprehensive Plan does not directly affect you and is therefore not worth your time to engage, consider the parallels between our federal government and the arrogance of power we are now seeing and how this attitude of control has trickled down to the local branches. If we allow this kind of superiority in our elected officials to continue unabated, it is assured that the effects will impact each and every individual in a very negative fashion.


* * * * * * * * * *


* “Property caught in county's cross hairs”, Ike Wilson, April 3, 2010 – Frederick News Post.


** “Frederick’s Forum” WFMD Radio, AM 930 – Saturday, April 24, 2010.


*** “Comprehensive plan update 'like a completely new plan'”, County Commissioner Blaine Young,

     April 25, 2010 – Frederick News Post.


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