They Keystone Pipeline

A rather controversial topic I’ve not chimed in on so far is the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. For those unaware, the Keystone Pipeline is a large pipeline that would transport oil from the tar sands of Canada to refineries in the United States. The environmentalists oppose it and those hoping for cheaper case support it. Sadly a fact that seems to get less air time is the fact that this pipeline requires the theft of private property through eminent domain:

In 2007 TransCanada’s agents at Universal Field Services approached Randy Thompson, 64, of Martell, NE, asking to survey his farm land. Thompson assented at first, under the assumption that he’d have final say over whether a Canadian company would be allowed to build anything on his property.

“Once I found out a little bit more about what was going on, I rescinded that permission,” Thompson told TPM by phone on Sunday. “[W]e did meet with them once, maybe a couple times. We told them, you don’t have a permit yet, so we absolutely do not want this thing on our property. So until you actually get a permit we have no reason to have any further discussion about this. They continually called me, like once a month or whenever they felt like it. Kept the pressure on us. Made us an offer, $9000. Whatever the offer was, we just don’t want the damn thing on our property.”

That’s when TransCanada really stepped up the pressure.

“In July 2010, we got a written letter from TransCanada, they told us if you don’t accept this within 30 days, we’re going to immediately start eminent domain proceedings against you,” Thompson said. “They didn’t say anything about a permit. I tried to contact the Governor’s office. All I got back was a form letter talking about the pipeline.”

And there lies to true problem with this pipeline, as currently planned it can only be built by using the government’s gun to forcefully steal land from rightful property owners. Eminent domain is a terrible concept that states nobody within the United States (or any of the other nations that have the same laws, which is most of them) can actually own property, instead you may only lease it from the state for as much time as they deem appropriate.

When I bring this up people will often state that eminent domain is OK because the state is required to pay you “just compensation” for any seized property. This argument forgets the fact that value is a subjective term. While a piece of property may only be valued at $100,000 by surveyors it may command a far higher value to a person whose family has been in possession of the property for multiple generations. Determination of value requires two parties: one who is attempting to buy the property and one who is selling the property. The value of the property is that which is agreeable to both parties. This is true of any voluntary transaction, but the state doesn’t deal in voluntary transactions.

If the state wants your land they declare a value, cut you a check for the value they determine, and forcefully remove you from the property if you don’t agree with the states assessment. Eminent domain is theft, period. TransCanada has no right to use the state to forcefully take what isn’t theirs, they need to either give the current owner what is being demanded or go with another plan.

Sadly the state is all too happy to loan it’s capacity for violence to a high bidder like TransCanada and that fact demonstrates the lack of property rights in this country. Without absolute property rights no true freedom can exist.

This pipeline should be condemned to the depths of Hel.