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Eminent DomainNews

The Phrase that Pays

By January 26, 2010No Comments

January 26, 2010

This week’s newsletter offers support to our elected readership who are facing votes on local and statewide issues affecting private property rights!

There is a simple six-word phrase which elected officials can use when voting to support any land use decision which conveys that they possess the character, integrity and courage to vote to uphold America’s foundation of freedom. That phrase is: “I strongly support private property rights.”

There is no better line to use when one is watching and listening to the passionate appeals of those protesting another citizen’s exercise of land use rights.  In more common vernacular, these vocal third-party protesters are often referred to as NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) or CAVErs (Citizens Against Virtually Everything).

What political defense do politicians have in their quivers to use when facing citizens who are angry and generally caustic in vocalizing their belief that while they have a right to own property and have benefited from the ability to freely live and work in buildings previously developed, that others seeking this exact same right should be denied this opportunity because the application is offensive to those who exercised these rights previously.

What defense should well-polished politicians employ when sitting across the dias from complete hypocrites?

The best defense is to claim the intellectual high ground.

There is no stronger defense in American politics than to vocally support freedom and individual economic opportunity.

When facing those who are seeking to deny fellow citizens the ability to exercise freedom and to work to improve their socio-economic condition through the improvement of private land, the best verbal defense is to articulate one’s support for private property rights. When one vocally supports freedom, it quickly ends the debate.

The NIMBYs and CAVERs leaving the commission chambers unsatisfied may bluster and fume, a few may even wave a pointed finger and threaten you have lost their votes next election cycle, but they will each understand that they witnessed an official who took a principled stand for freedom. They will not be pleased, but there is generally no pleasing this manner of individual. After all, these citizens elected to spend the better part of their day lobbying against individual liberty and will naturally be disappointed when liberty prevails.

It should be noted that many individuals who protest rural development and suburban sprawl and yet also protest infill development when and if it occurs next to them. Some may self-cloak themselves with the banner of environmentalism, and yet live and work in buildings with the same impact and “carbon footprints” as the application they are protesting. These individuals typically want “their” elected officials to forget the economic opportunity from which all existing residents now benefit occurred due to the development of once pristine land. Development must not have been a bad thing when these NIMBYs benefitted from it and neither was growth in population a problem when these NIMBYs were born or moved here.

Politicians should understand there is no land use vote which will content those who believe land use rights were meant to be exclusive right guaranteed to them alone. The application itself offended these individuals.

When facing angry activists and witnessing the type of civic ugliness once reserved for venues like the “Jerry Springer Show,” officials must recognize these protests and protesters for what they are.  They are citizens actively seeking to advance their own self-interests and agenda by suppressing the rights and socio-economic opportunities of others.

Their growing presence at local land use hearings represents the failure of America’s greatest generations to teach and convey the value of individual labor and individual achievement. There is no better example of the ability to freely labor and to achieve than a local land use application. The applicant is a citizen who is actively seeking to create value through their labor with the hope of improving their economic situation. They are seeking permission simply to exercise the right to move forward with their own personal initiative, labor and investment.

Land use applicants are active entrepreneurs in our society. How often do we forget the time and toil which preceded their applications?

When voting and vocalizing support for private property rights, elected officials are sending an important message to the applicant and to society that labor, risk and entrepreneurial endeavor are valued.

In contrast, when pandering to NIMBYs or CAVErs, elected officials are sending the exact opposite message. They are diminishing the value of labor, risk and investment. They may also be indicating their character, integrity and votes are for sale – not necessarily in dollars – but by the promise of votes from a select number of self-interested citizens who believe freedom and opportunity are ideals best forgotten or pushed aside when these ideas conflict with their individual viewpoints.

The question every elected official faces when voting on controversial land use issues which may have attracted NIMBYs is a simple and fundamental one, “To Pander or Not to Pander?” or “Do I vote in support of principle of basic freedom or do I abandon that ideal to earn a relative handful of votes?

We live in a free nation due to the character of America’s founding fathers who held fast to their convictions and designed a government they hoped would survive future generations of NIMBYs and CAVErs.  Anyone who has read the Federalist Papers or any of the foundational writings by the drafters of our U.S. Constitution cannot fail to appreciate the design of America’s unique form of government was created to address the very issue of self-interested third parties who they predicted would actively lobby against the rights and freedoms of other citizens.

The land use decisions which elected officials face in 2010 are no different and no more complex than the issues which faced our nation’s founders in the late 1700s.

Human nature is still human nature. In politics, true character and courage is exhibited when one votes for what is right, when it is not convenient to do so.

For officials compelled to try to explain their votes for freedom to self-interested NIMBYs or CAVErs in the audience, the phrase, “I support the applicant’s property rights,” leaves no doubt that one is standing firmly for freedom and for individual economic opportunity.

And as we have seen from the recent Senatorial election in Massachusetts, in 2010, those two basic ideals can be very valuable planks in one’s political campaign platform.

Reader responses always welcomed!

Carol Saviak
Executive Director
Coalition for Property Rights
2878 S. Osceola Avenue
Orlando, FL 32806
407-481-0834 fax

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