Property Rights

Keystone Pipeline Thwarted by Individual Property Rights, For Now

Rights not convenient for state power


it might be your backyard, but they're our jerbs

Last week, a judge in Nebraska ruled a law that permitted the Keystone XL pipeline to run through the state was invalid. The Public Service Commission, not the governor, should have made the decision to approve the pipeline's route, which required the use of eminent domain to force some local property owners to hand over their land to the company building the pipeline.

Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner points out that eminent domain is not part of the discussion for the left or the right, and that in fact:

To many conservatives, Keystone opposition reeks of unyielding liberal opposition to development, a stance conservatives and libertarians deride as NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard.

But here's the thing: NIMBYism is problematic from a free-enterprise view only if it's used metaphorically. If somebody else is trying to build something literally through your back yard, shouldn't you have the right to say no?

And from north to south, that's exactly what Keystone XL's owners are doing: working with state governments to use eminent domain and force reluctant landowners to allow the pipeline through their property.

Read Carney's entire column here. The apparent indifference of many mainstream liberals and conservatives to the property rights aspect of the Keystone pipeline issue betrays a lack of interest in protecting property rights. Politicians and "activists" with ideas premised on the power of the state to advance their agendas, after all, tend to deploy the language of rights only when the application of those rights fits their specific value system. The unequivocal rights of individuals to own and control their property, and individual rights in general, are not politically expedient ones for coveters of state power.

More Reason on Keystone here and on eminent domain here.