You Can’t Own Property, Man

One of the more quaint beliefs people commonly hold in the United States is that individuals can own property. It would be wonderful if we could own property in this country but we can merely rent it form our landlord, the state. At any point the state can choose to evict us with its power of eminent domain. Statists argue that eminent domain powers are critical because it allows the state to reclaim property that would better serve the “public interest” (which is a fancy statist term for the state’s interest). More often than not eminent domain is used for really stupid shit, like this:

SEATTLE — The city is forcing a 103-year-old Spokane woman to sell her parking lot in Seattle to make way for, well, a parking lot.

The Seattle City Council voted Monday to take the lot near the waterfront by eminent domain, using a portion of the $30 million provided by the state to take care of parking issues around the waterfront. Hundreds of public parking spaces will be lost when the state begins dismantling the Alaskan Way Viaduct for the digging of the tunnel. The construction will last until 2020.

The lot is owned by Spokane resident Myrtle Woldson. She doesn’t want to sell, so the City Council voted unanimously to use it’s power of eminent domain to take it after paying Woldson “fair market value.”

My guess is that the Seattle City Council had dollar signs in their eyes when they voted for seize the parking lot. As it currently stands a privately owned parking lot doesn’t add much for the city’s coffers. If the city owns the parking lot it gets to keep all of the parking fees, which can be a very profitable endeavor for a large city.

Eminent domain isn’t only used for stupid shit, it’s also used to line the pockets of the politically well-connected:

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline faces a court challenge in Nebraska, where three property owners contend state lawmakers gave the governor illegal power to take away their land for the project.

The Nebraska Legislature transferred to Governor Dave Heineman and, through him, to Calgary-based pipeline builder TransCanada Corp. (TRP), its authority over eminent domain in violation of the state constitution’s separation of powers, the landowners said in a court filing.

Much of the Keystone XL pipeline has only been made possible through the state’s use of eminent domain. Individuals wanting to keep their property have had it forcefully seized by the state so it could help its corporate buddies build a pipeline. If you have enough money to buy the politicians you can have whatever property you desire seized.

So long as eminent domain powers exist individuals cannot own property. Like serfs we can only live on a piece of land and make use of it for as long as our feudal lords allow.