Don't Shut Down America

Issue #2

June 1995

Our society is in the midst of a crisis — a crisis of over-regulation.

This crisis threatens to destroy the pulse and power of our national enterprise,
stopping America dead in its tracks.

Government has intruded into every aspect of American life, but none more so
than the use of private property. Our Founding Fathers recognized this
danger, and the Constitution was written to protect our right to own and make
reasonable use of property. They understood that private property is the
bedrock of our freedom and that the more the government regulates it, the
more it diminishes our freedom. That is why they wrote such strong
protections for it in the Constitution.

Groups that want to save the environment at any cost have blind faith in government to protect the environment and solve all problems.

With their abstractions and often flawed science, they promote an agenda devoid of growth, implying that all problems stem from man’s interference in nature. These people say private property is incompatible with saving the planet, and
should be abolished. They have become regulatory zealots and with their
elitist approach are losing the public’s trust. But in the process, they
have turned their doomsdayism into big business and fat endowments.

Quite simply, they want to shut down America.

On the other hand, the property rights movement is an American cause. It is
overwhelmingly comprised of small property owners, family business owners,
farmers, and other individuals who understand the importance of — indeed,
who contribute to — protecting our planet’s fragile ecosystems and the need for clean air and water. These Americans believe environmental protection can be achieved through man’s resourcefulness, sensible solutions, and the exercise of the sacred trust of private stewardship of our God-given earth.

Of course, the government can take private property in order to carry out its
objectives through its power of eminent domain. But when government takes
private property through regulation, it somehow seems to think the rules have
changed. The government somehow thinks that the Fifth Amendment’s mandate
that government pay for what it takes disappears. The government must still
obey the Constitution. If your home, business or any property is taken in
the public interest, it is your constitutional right to receive just
compensation regardless of how or why it was taken. It is only fair
everyone should share in bearing the cost for achieving the public good.

Since property is much more than land and buildings, it all comes down to
rights. Your rights — our rights. As Man is a part of nature, and lives in
a world of many social orders; he must co-exist in harmony with all creatures
great and small. But in the interest of our collective well-being we must
reach a balance.

The Fifth Amendment’s mandate that the government pay for
what it takes is such a balance.

So let’s not shut down America. By agreeing to balance our interests — we can keep America both green and free.

Nancie G. Marzulla is the president and chief legal counsel of Defenders of Property Rights, the nation’s only legal defense foundation dedicated exclusively to the protection of private property rights. For a free copy of Defenders’ “Pocket Guide to Your Private Property Rights,” send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: 1350 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20036.

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