Can you own property in the United States of America? Many people would make the mistake of answering yes to that question. But the United States itself as well as the individual states that make it up are democracies and democracies mean that individuals cannot own property. At best an individual can lease property from the government. If, for example, an individual fails to pay their
rent property taxes the government will revoke their lease. And it’s not even a contractual lease because the rules can change whenever an empowered voting body votes to alter the terms:
Tom Erickson feels like someone is taking a bite out of his front yard.
A 12-foot-wide strip of lawn will become part of a multi-use path, which he says will reduce his front yard by about a third.
“It’s incredible to me that they can just grab your property,” said Erickson, who is fighting Woodbury city officials over the plan to create the path along Commonwealth Avenue.
Mr. Erickson paid a large buy in for the privilege to lease the property he currently lives on. He probably thought that his buy in entitled him to perpetual use of the same amount of property so long as he paid his rent on time. But the city officials voted to change the terms of his lease so now he’ll likely have to pay the same amount of rent (or more if the officials decide the trail increases his property value) for only two-thirds the amount of property.
What Mr. Erickson is experiencing isn’t unusual. City governments are constantly voting to change the terms of their denizens’ leases. Oftentimes they completely invalidate leases so they can be transferred to somebody else (this is usually referred to by the euphemism “eminent domain”). So Mr. Erickson should be grateful that he is being allowed to continue living on any of the property he’s currently paying rent for.