A Massive Denial Of Property Rights

The Board of Supervisors of Prince William County, Virginia, where I live, is threatening to put a halt to all new home construction in the county unless the State of Virginia gives it more money for transportation:

Prince William County supervisors, angry that the state government is not responding to residents tired of traffic congestion, say they will approve a radical plan Tuesday to halt construction of new homes in Virginia’s second-largest county.

In interviews, the seven board members said they will back a proposal by Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) to freeze residential development as a way to spur Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and the General Assembly to take action to improve Northern Virginia’s road network.

Whether Covington’s resolution can survive a possible legal challenge is uncertain. County attorneys and other officials have been working all week on the wording of the resolution in anticipation of legal action by the building industry or the legislature. Virginia law generally protects the right of landowners to develop their property.

“I am hearing a lot of support for this on the street,” Covington said. “This is not taking away anyone’s property rights. People are just fed up with not having any action on improving the transportation infrastructure, and they are hoping that the governor and the General Assembly listen to us.”

I’m sorry Supervisor Covington, but what you’re talking about doing is taking away property rights. You would be telling property owners that they couldn’t build on their land. They should be able to just get some Metric Aluminium Flat Bars and get started on building what they want, like a house, and extension, a garage. But what you’re proposing would have a real impact not only on developers but on the citizens of Prince William County:

[Jim Williams, executive vice president of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association] said the freeze would not only hurt builders and developers would also have a profound impact on regional employment and the economy. “I think we are going to see a high rate of impact in secondary markets,” he said, including employees of small businesses who depend on construction to survive, such as plumbers, electricians, carpet installers, dry wallers and painters. “If you clamp down on construction and are not creating that demand out there, everybody is going to be out of work.”

Well, if nothing else, that should clear up the traffic on the roads.

Continuing to Think About Police and Police Culture

There has been a significant amount of blogging activity and discussion around “no knock raids“, police culture, Police Militarization, giving the police the benefit of the doubt, and much more.

First, some credit. Radley Balko, The Agitator, has been blogging on this topic for quite a while. He has the best collection of posts on the problems that I have seen, including a Raid Map. It provides details of botched paramilitary police raids over time that Radley has collected. For those of you that think things are okay, this might be eye opening for you.

It seems evident that there is a problem. Innocent citizens die and cops get off with, at most, a slap on the wrist. People don’t trust cops and instead view them with suspicion and distrust. Cops conduct no knock raids on flimsy evidence, use armored vehicles, where every podunk town has a SWAT team and uses them. Then we have, just to make sure everyone realizes that it isn’t the party that’s in power that’s the problem, the BATF and Waco, where Koresh could have easily been taken into custody without the massacre that ensued and where the BATF used para-military playbooks even though they were counter-productive and created a worse situation. I could go on for pages with these sorts of examples, but Radley has already provided them for us. Why don’t we just stipulate that there is a problem.

Let’s define the problem, then. I won’t bother with the conservative definition of the problem, aside from saying that the idea that agents of authority should be automatically respected, that the Drug War is somehow moral and that police should have significant para-military capability is a set of ideas I cannot get on board with. I will point out that the men that founded our country were suspicious of the government and designed our Constitution (as well as the state governments they helped to create) to put boundaries on our government and its agents. While many will try to separate the government and the voluntary agents, saying that those agents are doing their job and the policy is really the problem, I point you to the War Crimes Trials in Germany and Japan after WWII. We established there, as a point of law and morality, that “following orders” is not a reasonable defense.
Continue reading

The GOP Must Move To The Center and Lose Limited Government Voters

In yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, former New Jersey governor and EPA head Christine Todd Witman had an interesting column:

Moderate Republicans paid a heavy price in the GOP’s loss of control of Congress.

After the 2004 election, pundits were predicting the dawn of a generation of Republican dominance. Karl Rove was being hailed as the “architect” of this coming era. His strategy of solidifying the hard-right base of the GOP by feeding them a steady diet of extreme positions on social issues that would, in turn, motivate them to flock to the polls was credited with securing President Bush’s reelection and retaining control of Congress.

This month, the limits of that strategy became clear. In more than a dozen House districts in which moderate Republicans had long succeeded, voters apparently decided they were no longer willing to empower the hard-right of the GOP by electing moderates who would contribute to a Republican majority.

Actually, Rove’s strategy did more than just turn moderates and independents against the GOP, it kept fiscal conservatives and libertarians home on election day. The Religious Right has no interest in shrinking the welfare state, they merely want to make sure the money goes to their churches, abstinance programs, persecuting homosexuals, censoring the media, and teaching religion in government schools. But back to Governor Whitman’s column.

I believe, however, that within the results of this year’s electoral defeats are the seeds of future Republican victories, but only if those seeds are planted in the center of the political landscape.

President Bush has to lead the Republican Party back toward its traditional, philosophical roots of respect for and belief in the individual, fiscal responsibility, pragmatic and realistic foreign policy, and real environmental stewardship.

The million dollar question is what does she mean by “lead the Republican Party back toward its traditional, philosophical roots of respect for and belief in the individual, fiscal responsibility, pragmatic and realistic foreign policy, and real environmental stewardship”? Fortunately, Governor Whitman has both a record and an organizaton she runs to examine.

From the It’s My Party Too website:

IMP-PAC is an umbrella organization that provides a place for moderate Republicans to reach out to one another and support those who believe in basic Republican principles such as:

Recognizing that tax cuts not only leave money in the pockets of those who earned it, but, when combined with restrained spending and balanced budget, help to stimulate the economy;

Supporting an engaged foreign policy and a strong national defense;

Continuing the Party’s recognition that government does have a role to play in protecting our environment; and

Respecting the individual as evidenced by limiting government interference in their lives.

Okay, rhetorically at least, classical liberals and libertarians can do business with the moderates. Now let’s see if the results back up the rhetoric.

Recognizing that tax cuts not only leave money in the pockets of those who earned it, but, when combined with restrained spending and balanced budget, help to stimulate the economy

Governor Whitman’s record in New Jersey is that of a tax cutter, on this point, so far so good. Furthermore, the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership’s page on deficit reduction contains nothing that a libertarian or a classical liberal can object to. However, when you look on their past accomplishments page, you’ll find quite a lot of objectionable proposals such as Federally funded terrorism insurance and support for the Davis-Bacon wage controls and Federal funding of stem cell research.

Supporting an engaged foreign policy and a strong national defense

What do they mean by supporting an engaged foreign policy? I found nothing on foreign policy from Governor Whitman or the Republican Main Street Partnership.

Continuing the Party’s recognition that government does have a role to play in protecting our environment;

Government involvement in the environment usually means less property rights and more regulation with questionable benefits.

Respecting the individual as evidenced by limiting government interference in their lives

By this, they usually mean only in regards to abortion. It was the great moderate Republican, Nelson Rockefeller that gave us the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws that gave us life sentences for drug possession.

Rhetorically, moderate Republicans talk a good game, when you actually look at them, you’ll find they’re no allies of limited-government supporters and instead are merely another branch of big government conservatism.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Your Rights End Where My Contract Begins

There’s been some buzz created today about the story of a Colorado subdivision that has fined a homeowner for hanging a Christmas wreath shaped like a peace sign:

DENVER — A homeowners association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs. He said some residents have also believed it was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.

“Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up,” he said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Lisa Jensen said she wasn’t thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, “Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing.”

Except, Ms. Jensen you bought property in a community governed by a private contract that has a very specific rule:

The subdivision’s rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.

Apparently, no such permission was given. That would seem to be the beginning and end of this issue, wouldn’t it ?

Related Posts:

Public Rights vs. Private Contracts

The Far Reach Of Zoning Laws

I’ve written before (here, here, and here) about the impact that zoning and land use laws can have on individual rights. In various parts of the country, they are used to keep undesirable businesses out of certain areas, or to restrict the types of business that can be conducted in a certain areas. And, in one New Jersey town, they are used as a form of criminal punishment:

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, N.J., Nov. 21 — The man identified in court documents as A. B. does not talk to his neighbors or tarry at the convenience store. Seventy-seven years old, soft-spoken and sometimes confused, he hardly ever leaves the little ranch house he bought in 1969. “People know what’s what with me,” he said.

What’s what with A. B. is that he moved back here last year after serving seven years in prison for sexually molesting two grandchildren and another youngster. And because his home is in a “child safety zone” drawn by the township, he may be forced to leave it.

Such regulations — more than 100 have been enacted in New Jersey municipalities — are popular around the nation. More than 20 states have broad laws keeping sex offenders from schools, churches, playgrounds and the like. This month 70 percent of California voters approved expanding statewide restrictions to include more sex offenders, and authorized towns to designate even stricter limits.

New Jersey is not the only state where such laws have passed, of course, and some states have already starting imposing limits on the ability of local jurisdictions to restrict where people can live based solely on the type of crime they may have committed in the past:

An Ohio court ruled in October that the state’s buffer-zone law could not be enforced against offenders who lived in such zones before it took effect. Citing several constitutional concerns, a federal judge in California issued a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the residency restrictions set forth in the state’s recent ballot proposition.

In Georgia, plaintiffs in a class-action suit include several offenders who would seem to pose little further threat: an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease and another living in a hospice, along with a woman whose long-ago conviction was for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old boy when she was 17.

“We’ve represented people on death row, we’ve represented what I thought were some pretty unpopular people,” said Stephen B. Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which is handling the Georgia case. “I didn’t know what unpopular was until we started representing sex offenders.”

What’s even more troubling is the fact that these laws don’t really address the real source of most crimes against children, which exist right inside the home:

Experts say at least 90 percent of child molesters, like A. B., abuse relatives or family friends. Yet Charles Onley, a researcher at the Center for Sex Offender Management, a project of the federal Justice Department, said that “most of the laws are passed on the basis of the repulsive-stranger image, when in most cases the offender knows the victim.”

Still, parents’ demands for reassurance are hard to dismiss, especially as sex offenders are forced out of neighboring towns.

And given the new laws that are coming on the books, it’s hard to see where they are going to go:

On Tuesday the City Council in Jersey City enacted an ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of a school, park, sports facility, theater or convenience store, among other places. The measure exempts offenders who already have established residence in such zones, but bars newly released convicts who want to return home or move in with relatives. Taken together, the zones block out virtually the whole city.

Of course, once that happens, there won’t be any more abused children in Jersey City, right ? Yea, sure.