Why Property Rights Councils are NOT a good idea

From: George Whitten, MS Center for Public Policy regarding the Coalition meeting 8/3/12

Subject: Property Rights Councils – and any other Council Privileged to be Recognized by the Govt.

Friday you heard our friends from the Golden Triangle propose that citizens form a property rights council, but you didn’t hear me explain why they probably don’t want such a council.

The private ownership of property is not a special interest. It is an absolute. When city government officials wish for your trees to stay standing, or want to be guests in your hotel or restaurant without smelling cigarette smoke, or when a state agency wants your land for a prospect’s car plant, they should know before they try that they will run into the immovable wall of ownership: They don’t own it; You do. No matter how large a majority of aldermen or voters in Starkville share the opinion that more high-paying jobs and more tourists would come to Starkville if a shrine sat on your land in place of your garden, you should remain the only decision-maker over your property until you decide to sell it at whatever price satisfies you.

To set up a property rights council that lobbies or interacts with the city zoning board or the board of supervisors in the way described Friday would be to accept a demotion.

⌂ Property owners should be careful not to become one interest group among many. Owners are not just one category of stakeholders. You don’t want to be merely part of the conversation. If you form a council that the zoning board merely has to listen to or seek input from, then your control over your land has been reduced to a special interest that the zoning board can place on a set of scales and balance against the interests of others – whether they wish for more traffic or less traffic, for more beautiful scenery, for old-fashioned facades and store-fronts, for attractive signage (or signs that fail to attract attention, are hard to spot, and harder to read), or for wetlands and natural habitat.

⌂ You don’t want your powers of ownership to grow or shrink with the powers that other owners are willing to exercise over their land. If other owners surrender some degree of their power, they should not be able to speak for you. And the government should not be led to assume they do. One owner should be protected by the Constitution; His control over the land he owns should not become subject to the will of the majority.

⌂ One of the statist-elitist (whether Marxist or fascist, Democrat or Republican) tricks is to acquire a degree of control over citizens’ free speech and petitions for redress of grievances by forcing all citizen input on a given subject to come through a recognized, officially-blessed mouthpiece or organization dedicated to that subject – a group that is elevated to the privileged role of being the spokesman for all others who will be effected by the decision ultimately made by the elites.

Another reason I was skeptical of a property rights council is the globalist-OpenSociety-Agenda 21 tactic to appoint “concerned citizens” to various councils that gradually acquire more and more authority over a specific subject area and make decisions that only an elected body (school board, city council, or board of supervisors) should make. Any one who might suffer loss from the council’s decisions better join the council and participate.

The concerned citizens who end up dominating the various councils are those (a) on the public payroll who have plenty of time to “participate” in “the community” either because that is part of their job description or because their employer is lenient about time off; (b) those on welfare, and (c) those retired on a public pension. The rest of us concerned citizens who work hard to supply a real demand can fit in only so many council meetings. We are so busy operating a business and reporting our compliance to governments that we have precious little time left to join up as a stakeholder and participate in “the community’s” new-found power to run other people’s lives under a claim of legitimacy because they reached a consensus.

In other words, most of us don’t have time to represent ourselves. We elect representatives and pay them to specialize in governing, to learn the rules and enforce them, to pay attention and monitor, and to be present to vote.

I told the Freedom Coalition: We have something much better than a property rights council: We have the state and federal Constitutions. The city council is supposed to BE a property rights council. Same for the board of supervisors. They are limited by and bound to uphold the law.

We voters should consider ownership of land to be a qualification to run for office. And after the land-owner has been in office awhile, we should inspect the public records to find out whether he is paying his property taxes. If every city councilman and supervisor is a land-owner and taxpayer, the city council and board of supervisors are likely to be a property rights council.

Please Notice that the case for private ownership of property was made here without using the word “rights” even once (except in the name of the council).

-- George Whitten