I don't want to miss too many opportunities to document the advances and retreats of liberty here, so I've asked Mike Sylvester, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Allen County, to be my occasional libertarian correspondent. Here is his first report:
One of the most important rights guaranteed by the Constitution is property rights. The Constitution and the Federalist Papers are 100 percent clear on this issue. This country was based on the belief that private property rights were to be guaranteed.
Eventually the government came up with the idea of taxing property. That was bad enough. All homeowner have to pay taxes on their houses twice a year. You really do not own your home; you rent it from the government.
Property rights took an even larger blow from the Supreme Court on June 23. The court ruled that the government can seize property from one private citizen and give it to another, for the express purpose of increasing the government's tax revenue.
Fort Wayne has an embarrassing history of using eminent domain to seize property it wants. It declares a property blighted (whether it is blighted or not) and uses it for whatever scheme it has in mind. The most recent example, and one of the most humiliating for the city, is Belmont Liquors. Belmont Liquors was declared blighted (it was not in any way blighted) and seized by the city with the stated intent of using it to build a hotel that would in turn be subsidized by the taxpayers. The city seized this property a couple of years ago, and now city officials have changed their minds. Now they may use it for a parking lot or maybe a baseball stadium. In other words, they are not sure what they are going to use it for. It is obvious that the city of Fort Wayne does not have a long-term plan for developing downtown.
Fort Wayne needs to start planning for the future. The city needs to use eminent domain extremely rarely and only for the public good. We need to elect some officials who believe in property rights and the United States Constitution. The elected officials we currently have should be required to read The Constitution BEFORE they take office.
There you have it. Mike is a big-L Libertarian, so his views might be a little more extreme than the ones I would express. But such proselytizing offers a useful starting point for discussions of freedom and the increasingly difficult job of preserving it.