The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







A Salty Piece of Land: Property Rights and Eminent Domain

by JC Bowman

I am sorry to disappoint my fellow Parrot Heads, but this article is not about some perfect, sun-soaked, Caribbean island-hopping escapade a la Jimmy Buffett. I am kicking off 2008 on an old, but critical subject: property rights. The right to acquire property and to use it for one's own pleasure is essential to the freedom of every person, and our other rights would mean little without these rights of property ownership. Maybe that is why Thomas Jefferson spoke so passionately, clearly and frequently about the issue of property rights.

As Americans we have been handed the keys to the greatest legacy in the history of the world. As a unique civilization, it is vital we keep core tenets to be able to pass along to our children. The right of individuals to own property is among those critical core tenets. Most of us believe the citizens of our country are "endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights" and that God has a legitimate place in our public life. Those who do not believe in that simple premise are the ones who wish to see a crumbling and rotting America. They need to be repudiated, and we need to have the courage to stand up for our beliefs. Therefore, it is critical we understand and pass on to our children the concept that property rights come from God, and not the State.

So I will say that once again: Property rights come from God. Those who deny the Creator risk giving rise to social disorder. Lest you think I alone am one of those right wing extremists trying to impose my religion on the masses, here is what John Locke said in his Second Treatise: "We need governments for the mutual protection of our Lives, Liberties and Estates, which I call by the general name -Property. In fact, the great and chief end of men uniting into Commonwealths and putting themselves under Government is the preservation of their property." John Locke must be just another bitter neo-conservative, Bible thumper trying to brainwash society.

Then there is that other right-winger and founding father John Adams: "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and

J C Bowman

-J. C. Bowman, a native of Cleveland, is a well informed and outspoken conservative educator. Is a freelance public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN. Prior to this, he was Director for the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University.  He served as the Director for the Florida Department of Education Choice Office and as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush.



that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence." Adams must have been another idealist wrapped in cynic's clothing. In a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, two other noted anti-progressives, which said: "Persons and property make the sum of the objects of government."

Elected officials who stand on the side of property owners will find themselves in pretty good company. Our founding fathers recognized all too well the vindictive system of belief of "Divine Right" where Kings claimed power and authority only to produce serfdoms and class division. The American Revolution was very much about "Liberty and Property." In fact, the original phrase about our God given inalienable rights was "life, liberty and property." The phrase "the pursuit of happiness" was unmistakably connected with property. Those patriots were ahead of their times understanding that there could be no true liberty or pursuit of happiness without freedom from government domination in the owning of private property.

History has taught us that governments that promote and defend private property have flourished. In oppressive governments, property rights are among the earliest rights taken away from citizens. Normally the strategy is two-fold: 1) Raise taxes to where owning property is a luxury the average citizen can ill afford. 2) Seize property under the guise of eminent domain to improve public welfare, create jobs, economic benefit, to help improve the quality of life or some similar reason. Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property belonging to its citizens. In the famous McCulloch vs. Maryland case from 1819, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall wrote: "The power to tax is the power to destroy." One can only imagine what Justice Marshall might write about eminent domain.

Ask yourself, do we really want government which can easily claim ownership of private property? Should high property taxes and eminent domain really operate under the premise that the citizen is

simply renting the property? Is this good for our society? High property taxes will keep citizens from investing in improvements and additions which also prevent money from flowing back into the economy. Through property taxes and eminent domain, are families being deprived of their inheritance? The liberals' great ally Karl Marx suggested the theory of Communism could be summed up in one sentence: "Abolish all private property."

How can we protect private property rights?

The counter argument of course is that taxes are a necessary evil we pay to live in a modern world. Most state constitutions permit private property to be condemned for "public use." Eminent domain is supposedly a last resort used by government to achieve a greater public good that benefits the entire community. Traditionally, governments utilized eminent domain so that property could be taken for things like roads, schools, and public buildings. Gradually we have witnessed local governments increasingly starting to use eminent domain in order to transfer land to other private parties, often outside the sunshine of public scrutiny. Elected leaders must do a better job protecting the property rights of our citizens at every level of our government.

If eminent domain is so critical for a community to achieve a greater public good to benefit the public; it is obvious that government leaders need to give adequate time for proper input, have a very thorough review process, and pay a satisfactory and sufficient price for the property. My friends at the Castle Coalition, a nationwide grassroots property rights activism project, have put together a survival guide for property owners most endangered by the alliance of tax-hungry governments and land-hungry developers at

In 1787, speaking to the gun-toting George Washington at the Constitutional Convention, another noted conservative mouthpiece Benjamin Franklin stated, "I have lived, sir, a long time and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" No matter how you spin, twist, or sugar-coat the message, we all want our own piece of salty land. We do not need greedy governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain. Communities may have desires, but only individuals have rights. Can I get a witness?

--J. C. Bowman is a public policy analyst who resides in Cleveland, TN..
He can be reached by email at:

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