Property Rights

"The fat cats don't need the protection of property rights, because they already control the political system."

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Writing in the New York Post, Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds responds to the Supreme Court's failure to take up the Columbia University eminent domain abuse case:

Columbia said the condemnation was necessary to support the university's "vision" for a new campus; school President Lee Bollinger called the victory "a very important moment in the history of the university."

It was an important, if not especially proud, moment for Columbia—but it was surely a bigger moment in the lives of those West Harlem business owners, as their property gets taken away to promote the "vision" of what is, in fact, a multibillion-dollar corporation servicing the daughters and sons of the wealthy, the powerful and the connected.

Read the whole thing here. More details on the Columbia land grab here and here.

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  1. Meadow Soprano went to Columbia. Not that all the students are gangsters’ daughters. Are they?

  2. Some “visions” are more equal than others.

    1. resistance to the vision is futile! your property will be assimilated!

      1. Set property rights on a rotating frequency!

  3. Of course the neighborhood is blighted. It is full of black people. How could it not be?

  4. Everyone needs private property protection, even the fat cats. I find it just as distasteful to advocate “taxing the rich” because they have “too much money” as the Columbia taking.

    It’s the actual enforcement that is tilted towards the connected in these cases.

    1. The Columbia case isn’t really a case of property rights enforcement.

      Property rights do need to be enforced equally, for the sake of justice. But it’s not the rich who need them most.
      The wealthy will always have an advatage in political connections. It’s the people who don’t have connections who need constitutions and laws and rights.

      1. It’s the people who don’t have connections who need constitutions and laws and rights.

        Sorry, but your original statement sounded a little too class-warfarish for me. I had to FIFY.

  5. Agreed.

    Property rights are needed to protect the property of people who *aren’t* rich or politically connected.

    Take them away, and the wealthy and powerful will still have more land, but the poor and the middle class will have no capital and no means of growing it.

    Progressives are fucking idiots.

  6. Threadjack!!

    Chavez, not allowing a disaster to go to waste, seeks dictatorship
    …Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday asked congress to grant him special powers to enact laws by decree for one year, just before a new legislature takes office with a larger contingent of opposition lawmakers. …

    1. According to joe, he isnt a dictator is congress grants him the special powers.

    2. Finally somebody’s listening to me!

  7. But Joe told me he is a democrat.

    1. You beat me to it.

      1. Still beating that horse? He’s gone, man.

  8. But Joe told me he is a democrat.

    Sure Joe didn’t mean a Democrat instead?

  9. First rule of real estate: Location, location, location.

  10. Columbia, the university that graduated Obama, employed a guy that shtups his own daughter, and grabs land.

    1. I like how you brought Obama into that. Not that it’s any less relevant than the incest thing.

  11. In debates about eminent domain – or compulsory purchase, as we Brits call it – there will usually be some devotee of the splendidly wrong-headed Henry George, the 19th Century writer who wanted to nationalise land. The argument will go along the lines that we should tax rises in the value of “unimproved land”, as this will discourage land speculation and suchlike. Well it might, but land speculation is okay in my book so long as no state coercion is involved.

    As Reynolds says, a lot of these schemes do not come remotely near any sort of “public good”; almost any property developer with a politician in their pockets can come up with some fancy scheme, get the state to kick grannies out of their homes, and claim they are doing the nation a favour.

    It was a shame the Supreme Court voted as it did over Kelo a few years ago. A bad day for the rule of law.

    1. I have supported George’s single land tax. But as a SINGLE land tax. No income tax, no sales tax, no excise taxes, etc etc etc. (Usage fees would be okay, IMO)

      6% or so on the unimproved land value has to support all levels of government.

      I dont necessarily support it for the same reasons George did. But, lack of deadweight loss is a huge part of it. Also, agree with George that a person owns 100% of their labor so the improved value shouldnt be taxed. As Im not an anarchist, I know that some form of revenue will have to exist and the single land tax seems the most reasonable to me.

      And while I support property rights, I agree with von Mises that you have to ignore that most property was acquired via force and just declare “as of this point no more taking”. But a single land tax does offset that in a way George would like, without nationalizing all the land (which even George realized was impossible).

      I dont have a problem with land speculation, but if it happened to go away due to a single land tax, it wouldnt bother me.

      1. I hate it because if I have a well and can grow my own food I should be able to live on my own land without paying any tributes to any fuedal lords.

        1. While Im not an anarchist, I have no problem with those who are, so I fully support your secession from the union. Seriously, I have no problem with it, then you dont have that feudal lord problem. But dont come whining when the Canadians invade.

          As a minarchist, I see the single land tax as the best* option for funding the minarchy.

          *well, maybe not the very best, but in the running.

        2. But the claims jurisdiction over your land already, due to the fact that it is within the territory they control. That battle is already lost. Let them levy taxes on the one thing they truly control, and that defines them.

    2. We ARE The Law. Bow before our judicious omnipotence.

    3. almost any property developer with a politician in their pockets can come up with some fancy scheme, get the state to kick grannies out of their homes, and claim they are doing the nation a favour.

      So why don’t they? Seriously, why has this not become the principal means of real estate development and specul’n? Is it because it turns out not to be so lucrative after all? Or is there some other controlling factor?

  12. Surely a large number of Columbia students are on federal student aid.

    1. So the stolen property is just more federal aid for them. No biggie.

      1. The media, including Reason, need to be more truthy when it comes to describing Columbia’s attendees. Sure, most of the students are the children of the wealthy, powerful, or connected, but many are also there based on perceived/potential intelligence.

        Which goes to show – smart don’t get the job done!

  13. Also, agree with George that a person owns 100% of their labor so the improved value shouldnt be taxed.

    What if you hire people to do the improvements? Do you own 100% of the labor that you purchased?

    Don’t improvements also require something other than labor? Like materials? Do you own 100% of the materials you purchase as long as they are improvements on your land?

    What about things done by machines? Do I own 100% of a ditch dug on my land by hand, but not one dug with a backhoe?

    The Georgist philosophy may work fine in a pre-industrial agrarian society, but it doesn’t seem to mesh well with what we have now.

    1. The Georgist philosophy may work fine in a pre-industrial agrarian society, but it doesn’t seem to mesh well with what we have now.

      I disagree with “the georgist philosophy” about many things, but not this.

      What if you hire people to do the improvements? Do you own 100% of the labor that you purchased?

      They own 100% of the money they receive from you, you own 100% of the improvements they made. Buying it is no different from doing it yourself. This is why the house you have built and/or build yourself isnt taxed under the single land tax.

      Don’t improvements also require something other than labor? Like materials? Do you own 100% of the materials you purchase as long as they are improvements on your land?

      This one is a little trickier. Not sure how George treated mineral resources, but I think he treated them as unimproved land. Thus, if you buried a giant ingot of gold on your land, the tax would be on the “new” unimproved value. I could see a case made that the raw value of the materials changes the unimproved land value, but that probably isnt worth doing.

      And doesnt change now vs “agrarian” times. Same logic would hold in both.

      What about things done by machines? Do I own 100% of a ditch dug on my land by hand, but not one dug with a backhoe?

      What the fuck? That is just stupid. Your labor is your labor. You own the machine you build, and thus can use it as if it was your hand?

      RC – I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding somewhere. Really WTF?

      1. Also, they had machines in the 19th century. Even if no backhoe, they still had tools, like a hoe, it wasnt like farmers were using their hand.

        1. I don’t think RC was using the Physics 101 definition of machine, as in a “simple machine,” like levers or screws.

          In his context, I took it to mean devices that operate without a human supplying the power. Which you even touch on by using the terms “machine” and “tool” together in the post. You use them as synonyms, but I would disagree with that usage. I consider machines to be a subset of tools and so the terms are not interchangeable.

          Also, you seemed to be under the impression that RC supports the things he’s questioning. I’m pretty sure he’s playing devil’s advocate to expose the weaknesses in the argument.

          1. I used both terms to differentiate, but tool is a subcategory of machine in my mind. I dont see the distinction between, hand, hoe, backhoe and hiring mexican immigrants. In this situation.

          2. Also, George died in 1897. They had plenty of machines of the powered type in his day. Steam powered and then coal powered. I think he would recognize a deisel powered backhoe as being in the same class of tool.

    2. Georgist philosophy becomes more poignant as we become more advanced, not less. This is so because increased technologies generally increase the returns to location.

      Suppose I dig a ditch on my land, either with a CAT or a person. Do I own the ditch?

      Here’s what I can collect:

      The return to capital and labor. That is, the value of my land with a ditch on it minus the value of the land without the ditch on it.

      Here’s what I can control: My land, so long as I’m all paid up on taxes.

      Here’s what the government may collect: The annual return to my land.

      Here’s what I own: My labor and my capital.

      Does this satisfy?

  14. The apparent Columbia staff member’s comments at Megan McArdle’s blog are almost horrifying. Look for the comments by “agamben”

    1. As an added headache, joe is posting there as Jasper. The passive-aggressive comment style is the dead giveaway.

    2. i’m surprised the staff member was able to look down their nose as long as they did, typing that long comment.

    3. According to agamben, none of us have a right to private property. Awesome.

    4. According to agamben, none of us have a right to private property. Awesome.

  15. Leftist believe that everything belongs to the collective society, or it’s manifestation – government. “Property rights” simply mean that the government (society) has granted someone the privilege to use it’s property.
    There’s no need to be concerned for the business owners in the community who are being forced out. The Columbia elite know what’s best for them even if they don’t. We’re just a bunch of commoners, what do we know?

  16. The irony will be when the large labor unions use their members resources and political connections to turn the tables on private industry. “Agree to our demands or we will use eminent domain to seize your capital”. Ain’t precedent a bitch.

    1. And that’s when blood starts to run in the streets. Bring it, teamster fucks.

    2. What are you, a bondholder of the former GM or something?

  17. Glenn Reynolds .. Glenn Reynolds… That name rings a bell. Is it by any chance the guy who argued that we should just go ahead and nuke North Korea? He sounds like a reasonable and rational guy.

    /Jay

    1. Oh okay. So I guess that makes Columbia stealing a bunch of people’s property okay.

      1. c’mon, stealing sounds so common…
        how about eminent domain abuse. sounds more like a playground argument.

    2. Ad hominem much, Jay?

  18. No it doesn’t, but I’d rather that when I forward an article to my liberal friends that it wasn’t written by someone also promoting genocide. Call me difficult.

    /Jay

  19. Oh, please, Jay. You don’t have any friends, liberal or otherwise.

  20. Oh, please, Jay. You don’t have any friends, liberal or otherwise.

  21. Look for the comments by “agamben”

    What a worthless lying shitbag.

    And this mendacious crook is teaching America’s “elite” students.

  22. Well, Henry George never called for land nationalisation.What he DID call for was community collection of community created land value.

    Speculation is all well and good if you are taking a risk to get wealthy in the stock market, or investing in an unproven business.

    Land speculation is a gamble that the hard work of other people and taxpayers’ money will make YOU rich. not much of a gamble really. It’s ethically quite difficult to justify that, although many have tried.

    From Smith to Paine, to Mill to Ricardo and Henry George, the idea of collecting wealth that you did nothing to create is a big no-no. Some might disagree, like the Duke of Westminster.

    Robbing people of their wages and their investments to give a landowner a free ride is fading from history, and none too soon.

    1. Even Friedman said the “least bad” tax was George’s Single Tax!

    2. If you incorrectly speculate you lose money, I think you need to chill on that rhetoric a bit.

      A single Land tax may make sense, but your reasoning is not ideal.

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