Where Did Our Property Rights Go?

Not In My Back Yard

William Pitt the Elder, in his Speech on the Excise Bill delivered before the House of Commons, encapsulated our Founding Fathers’ view of property rights when he said, “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown.  It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter—but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.”

Today, most Americans consider themselves residents of the freest country that has ever graced the earth, yet they are about as committed to property rights as they are to limited government, states’ rights, avoiding empire, and many other principles for which the Founding Fathers stood.  I have been to city-council and planning-commission meetings.  I have seen the way officials behave when a citizen asks for approval to remodel his home, build a new house, or start a new business.  I have watched average Americans act like savages when their neighbors ask for a variance.

At a recent commission meeting, a developer proposed building 16 houses on roughly 30 acres of land that surround my dead-end street.  Admittedly, I am not thrilled by the idea, since I enjoy the empty land adjacent to my home.  I understand, however, that the land belongs to someone else, and that his proposed project is in keeping with...

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