Oregon Property Rights: Vintage

Oregon Property Rights: “Vintage”
No on Measure 49

A good friend of mine asked me a thought-provoking question some time back: “If you had to give up Freedom of Speech or your Property Rights, which one would you choose?” The question clearly forces a person to rank their rights in order of importance. Only when the question had been posed did I realize the obvious answer. What’s the point of being able to complain about a government that doesn’t allow you to own anything? Bear in mind that “property” is more than land. It can be a patent, or an idea. It can even be the organs in your own body. Why would the government care if you marched in the streets? Complain all you want. Others still decide what’s yours–both what you can earn and what you can keep. Next to the right to control your own property, your other rights (speech, assembly, gun ownership, religious expression) pale in comparison.

Which brings me to the discussion about Measure 49–the ballot initiative written by two Liberal Democrat legislators behind closed doors in Salem. Unfortunately, most of today’s environmental groups don’t have much use for antiquated notions of private property. So, with their elected allies in Oregon they have conspired to severely erode your rights.

There is quite a sinister history to the fight over Oregon’s Land Use Laws. Rob Kremer details them quite nicely, so I don’t need to cover that here. I’ll only add that you won’t get a stick of honesty from The Oregonian on M49. I did find their decision recently to call property rights “vintage” quite amusing. One definition for vintage is “Old or outmoded.” Read Rob’s column to understand what we’re up against.

Recently, I had a disturbing phone conversation with a wealthy Oregonian who supports Measure 49. I will not reveal his identity, but he is certainly well-off and owns a significant amount of property in the state. He told me that people who really believe strongly in private property rights should move to Texas because that’s not what we are about here in Oregon. He told me property owners need to think about the community before themselves. Frankly, he said, it’s selfish to put your needs ahead of the community.

For a few hours afterward I was confused about why a man of such means would so readily dismiss the free-market and the very concepts of private property. Then I understood. He’s too rich to care. This is why so many multi-millionaires advocate for socialist policies. They’ve already got their fortune. What’s a tax increase or a loss of property value to them? It’s minor. Does Phil Knight really care if his taxes go up by $1 million? Does this man I talked with care if his property losses 20% of its value. Not if he’s rich enough.

But most property owners have modest land holdings and it’s often their entire life savings. Should the rest of us be able to steal their investment because we prefer it remain undeveloped? Those are usually called “parks” and we used to feel obligated to pay for them.
The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you don’t want the majority to one day steal your property, don’t run with robbers.

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Posted by at 07:37 | Posted in Measure 37 | 3 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    I think measure 49 is for the rich and connected class. By limiting the division of rural lands to just three plots (10 if you’re extremely lucky or connected), measure 49 will allow the rich and connected class to acquire and build 20 acre plus country estates without having to compete with the masses who can’t afford such plot sizes. Oregon’s land use system is designed to sequester the countryside for the rich and connected, while shoe horning middle class families into pencil size lots in densely settled areas. The rich get their wilderness wonderland while the rest get to play on asphalt.

  • Steve Plunk

    Of course we shouldn’t have to prioritize our rights. It’s a sad state of affairs that we even have to think in those terms.

    While our rights concerning speech, religion, assembly, self protection, privacy, trial by peers, and other governmental threats are explicit in the constitution the rights surrounding private property are not explicit. Why is that? Certainly tyrants seized property and abused the rights of property owners before the constitution.

    My theory is that the founders could never envision such a basic right being threatened by a democratically elected government and upheld by an independent judiciary. It would shock them to see where we are today in regards to government interference in a man’s property affairs.

    We endure de facto seizures through regulation, we endure abuses of eminent domain, and we endure taxes on property beyond any reasonable explanation. We endure because we have been conditioned slowly over the last few generations.

    Matt’s nailed it again by pointing out the rich have no problem with this because of their excess. The middle class and those trying to rise into the middle class are the ones most likely to fight those abuses that the rich merely push aside with the application of surplus money.

    Bob Clark’s point is on the mark as well. Those who see the world with zero sum mentality embrace ideas that keep others down as much as they like to lift themselves up. Forcing the lower and middle class into small lots only improves their standing.

    Measure 49 is typical of Oregon politics today. Populist ideas are voided by the courts or overran by the legislature. Hopefully we can defeat this dishonest attempt to overthrow the will of Oregonians.

  • jesse M

    I am also proud to say I did vote no on measure 37 and I didn’t fall for the scare tactics and I read the voters pamphlet and made sure I have a full understanding before I voted on anything.

    Unfortunately, since people tend to get ruled by money over values. I can understand why the government has to put regulations on certain things. Measure 37 has divided friends and neighbors and has turned out to be more about making money. Some say that money is the root of all evil. I am starting to believe that measure 37 is the root of all evil.

    As a native Oregonian I am deeply disappointing that the voters even passed measure 37 with a free and open back door for greedy people to take advantage of.

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