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.