Libertarian Commentary on the News, #15-08B: Ownership and Power

By Nathan Barton

Today, we accept that people who OWN something may not actually control it:  shareholders in a corporation (especially a large, publicly-traded one) do not control that company; we “own” our house and land but government dictates to us what we can and cannot do with it and on it; supposedly “we, the people” own vast acreages of land and parks but must follow the dictates of bureaucrats to do anything on it – and indeed usually must pay for the “privilege” of using “our own land.”  Here are a few stories related directly to this problem.

Mama’s Note: Not to mention the property and other taxes extorted because of what we “own.” Then there is the threat of “asset forfeiture” if TPTB decide they like what we have and want to take it.

Over the years, many of my clients have faced heartaches and incredible expenses over the issue of who controls the water on their land, and each year the situation gets more muddled. Heartland Institute discusses how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to regulate all “waters of the United States (WOTUS).” Should the WOTUS proposal withstand legislative and legal challenges, the EPA’s reach will affect farms, ranches, orchards, mines and timber industries, having jurisdiction over millions of acres of private property. Seen as an attempt to establish a federal zoning system, the newly acquired authority could require land owners to request permits to conduct routine tasks. According to the Clean Water Act (CWA), the EPA’s current jurisdiction extends only to navigable waters. Those waters include rivers, bays and shipping channels, but now they want to regulate ditches, stock ponds and areas that are periodically wet due to rain and snow.

Congress could prevent the EPA’s power grab by passing the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, which blocks the EPA from reinterpreting the limitations defined in the Clean Water Act. Congress could take further action by passing a spending bill that would withhold funding from WOTUS.  But will Congress?  I hesitate to think that they will do anything more than mess things up still more.  The real solution is the private ownership of WOTUS, as is the case in Scotland and Ireland: real property ownership offers protection of the land, and removes much of the political foofoorah associated with it.

I pity those people who live in the District of Columbia, or at least some of them.  They supposedly own their land and businesses and homes, but are subject to more government control than most other places in the Fifty States, due to the unique circumstances of that small (64- square mile) area.

The elected government of the District of Columbia defied threats from Congress and moved forward Thursday with legalizing possession of marijuana after a voter-approved initiative. Despite last-minute maneuvers by Republican leaders in Congress and threats that city leaders could face prison time, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the city was implementing marijuana legalization as approved by voters.

The fight over cannabis of course divides many libertarians and conservatives, especially those who bought into the drug war rhetoric for so long, but there is much good to be said when the DC “home” government and the FedGov are fussing and fighting over things like this.  Theoretically, the FedGov “owns” the District, but it has granted various powers to local government (and has since the District was ceded by Maryland and Virginia 220 years ago), but it still meddles constantly.  At the same time, the foolish idea of giving “statehood” to DC distracts from the real need for LESS government and MORE freedom for the people who live there, and those who own and operate businesses.

Cut short… more next week.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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