Eminent Domain

How the Government Steals from Citizens

From civil asset forfeiture to eminent domain, the government covets your cash and property.

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“Government,” as Barney Frank and other progressives are fond of saying, “is just another word for things we choose to do together.” Like rob people blind.

Sometimes the together-doing is highway robbery in the most literal sense â€" as when police departments seize cash from motorists who are never even charged with a crime. The euphemism for that is civil asset forfeiture, and it’s gotten so out of hand even hang-’em-high, law-and-order conservatives say it needs to stop.

Sometimes the robbery is committed not on the highways but for the sake of them â€" especially here in Virginia. Just ask James and Janet Ramsey, who live near Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach. Five years ago, the Virginia Department of Transportation took a chunk of their property to build a ramp for Interstate 264.

This is precisely the sort of public use that eminent domain is meant for, and is perfectly legitimate. What happened next, however, was not. VDOT took the property through a process called quick take, which allows it to assume control of the property immediately and compensate the owners later. It sent out an appraiser, who figured the Ramseys were owed just under a quarter-million dollars.

The Ramseys thought their property was worth more. As the disagreement headed to court, VDOT sent out a second appraiser, who claimed the property was worth only $92,000. When the case went before a jury, the Ramseys were not allowed to mention the first appraisal at all. Nevertheless, the jury came back with a judgment of $234,000 â€" much better than VDOT’s second offer but still shy of its original $248,000 appraisal.

The Ramseys appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case sometime next year (a date hasn’t been set yet). They contend that state evidentiary rules that keep juries in the dark about what the state itself says a piece of property is worth are wrong. They’re certainly right about that.

If theirs were an isolated case, that would be bad enough. But it isn’t. It’s part of a pattern. Hampton Roads TV station WAVY found plenty of other examples. In one, VDOT’s appraisal went from $210,000 to $17,000. In another, the appraisal went from $214,000 to just $14,000. According to VDOT, this is pure coincidence.

Lawyers who represent property owners say that’s bunk. They contend that VDOT is using radically lower second appraisals as a hardball tactic. Owners who do not supinely acquiesce to the first offer will be punished â€" severely. It’s evidently a common practice elsewhere, too; in California, they call it sandbagging.

Believe it or not, the Ramseys are actually fortunate â€" compared with some. They didn’t have to vacate their home, which has been in the family for decades. But some owners are evicted outright. When they are, they have to use the money the condemning authority puts in escrow to find another place to live. If they don’t accept the first offer, then when a highway department comes back with a lowball second estimate and demands repayment of the difference, it leaves their victims in a very tight spot.

It’s been suggested that hammering property owners like this is not bad government but good government. After all, such tactics help save the taxpayers money. That’s a noble goal, but the ends hardly justify the means. To take the argument to absurd extremes, it would save taxpayers money if we did away with criminal trials and simply shot anybody accused of a crime. Fiscal restraint is an important value, but not the only value.

If you follow politics at all, then you’ve run across the term “gangster government.” For the past few years, it’s been used by conservatives as an epithet to describe the current administration in Washington and its abuses of power generally. But the term is more aptly applied to cases in which agencies shake down ordinary, law-abiding citizens through extortionate policies.

Asset forfeiture provides one example. Sandbagging property owners is another. It’s high time both kinds of highway robbery were brought to a screeching halt.

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77 responses to “How the Government Steals from Citizens

  1. As I noted on the Tweeterz, government steals from its citizens BY EXISTING. It is inherent in the beast. The degree of theft the public will allow is the only question. Right now, in the US, that’s “a shit ton”.

    1. Would that be more than an extortionate amount?

      Oh, and you are quite correct Almanian:

      “There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others… I propose in the following discussion to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the ‘economic means’ for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the ‘political means.'”

      -Franz Oppenheimer

      1. The US government HAS NEVER USED FORFEITURE TO SEIZE PROPERTY HELD IN ANOTHER COUNTRY.

        off?shore?banking.wix.com/acc?ount-list

        You can’t steal what’s out of reach.

    2. I prefer the definition of government that states that government is simply that group of individuals within a certain geographical region that are the dominant force (in the physical sense) or have a monopoly on force… i.e., have the most guns and manpower to maintain their power. With this definition, it is theoretically possible to have a government that works entirely through donations. Theoretically possible, but never practically occurring…

  2. my buddy’s sister makes $79 an hour on the computer . She has been out of work for 10 months but last month her income was $17508 just working on the computer for a few hours. visit this website…

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    1. She does asset forfeitures of web transactions?

      1. Don’t give the government any ideas or else soon, forwarding and emailed rape joke will result in the asset forfeiture of the entire infrastructure of an ISP. Of course the assets will be entirely mismanaged resulting in no more internet for me. Now where do I go for my rape jokes?

    2. I’m sorry to hear that :<<br /
      I make over $221/hr coming into work and working from home one or two days a week.,

      Perhaps you should abandon that website and give me a call.

    3. Does she swallow?

  3. “How the Government Steals from Citizens”

    Let me count the ways!

  4. Gruber’s Obamacare payday highlights ulterior motives behind ‘do something’ cry
    …Gruber, the MIT professor who won almost $400,000 in contracts from the Obama administration in a non-competitive contract process, came into the spotlight again this month when a new video surfaced in which he admitted that “lack of transparency” was crucial to passing Obamacare.

    My colleague Byron York pointed to a more interesting Gruber detail: After the bill passed, Gruber won hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts with state governments setting up the exchanges under Obamacare.

    Gruber, then, had to mislead Americans (or maybe just their senators) in order to pass Obamacare, and that opened a gusher of lucrative contracts for him. There is no doubt that Gruber sincerely thought the country needed health-care reform. But still, his financial interest in the bill ought to have raised some skepticism about the numbers he was peddling….

  5. The argument that taxation is theft is so LAME.

    I can’t think of a single person in America that earns money without using the resources that have been established by the collective.

    The “Taxation is Theft” crowd is in the extreme fringe of the Libertarian Party.
    It’s up there with Extreme Liberalism (“Welfare for All”) and Extreme Conservatism (“No Abortions…even in RAPE”).

    What we all agree (all parties and political people alike) is that :
    1. There’s a lack of transperency and the people in charge of Government MADE it that way to skim and for pet projects.
    2. Our collective dollars are squandered on projects that we don’t like
    a. I don’t want my tax dollars to go to war. I’d rather it go to food stamps or to pay for vouchers for private schools.
    b. Others want their money to go to war and no money for education.

    We all need to fund collectively infrastructure, defense, welfare, courts, police, fire, etc.
    We need taxes. No volunteer system would work as people are weasels and would say they are contributing and will not.

    1. No volunteer system would work as people are weasels and would say they are contributing and will not.

      I’m a minarchist, so this isn’t my fight, but I’ll play devil’s advocate on this one:

      It would be very straightforward to establish “volunteer” payments for all of the items you list…other than welfare.

      We already have “volunteer” funding for infrastructure, in many cases. Want to drive on these roads? Pay a gas tax, or pay a toll.

      We could make defense, the courts, police, and fire protection voluntary simply by allowing people to opt out, but then withholding these services from the people who opt out. We’d just have to mean it, and stick to it.

      (This is how “exile” was once used as a punishment. The modern conception of “exile” is “we pick your ass up and put you on a plane and dump you somewhere”, but there are different historical models for it. In classical antiquity, “exile” was achieved simply by announcing that a given person no longer enjoyed the protection of law in your territory after a certain date. That person would then get the hell out of Dodge, for obvious reasons.)

      1. I had to google that one Fluffy.

        People opt-out of health insurance and then go for emergency service (courtesy of us, the tax payer and those that have insurance). That’s one example in which the volunteer system just doesn’t work.

        As for paying gas/tolls, people with no cars that get tomatoes delivered to their local grocery store also used those roads you know.

        1. People opt-out of health insurance and then go for emergency service (courtesy of us, the tax payer and those that have insurance). That’s one example in which the volunteer system just doesn’t work.

          That would work perfectly fine if the government didn’t coerce hospitals into providing care.

          1. Thank Reagan for that.

            And it is good thing that we service everyone in the emergency room.

            The Bad thing is that Reagan didn’t fund it with Tax Dollars STOLEN FROM YOU PEOPLE.

            1. Damn, now that Reagan has been shown to be imperfect, that proves that taxation isn’t theft! You said the magic words to refute the argument!

              1. It’s hilarious how she thinks that is some sort of gotcha. Like Ronald Reagan means jackshit to libertarians.

            2. My intension were not to speak Blasphemous words about our dear Lead Ray Guns.

              I just wanted to mention that this is one of those UNFUNDED initiatives that Dems/Rep seem to impose upon us.

              1. So either you’re lying or you’re responding to some imaginary argument in your head. So tiresome.

                1. I just feel that the true statement shouldn’t be “Taxes is Theft”, but that we need to address corruption and add transparency and be able to hold public officials accountable and even restrict them from loosely spending our tax dollars.

                  1. “Taxation is theft” is a true statement, whether you feel it should be or not. One side has not agreed to the transaction, and the other side enforces it with the threat of violence. So maybe “mugging” is a more precise word for it than theft, but that’s just semantics.

                  2. Can we address the inherent corruption in thinking it’s perfectly fine to extract an arbitrary amount of income away from the person who earned it, just because people voted, and politicians want it?

            3. Yes, Alice, we do service everyone in the emergency room. Your definition of “service” and mine are probably different.

            4. Serious question;

              Where is this imaginary Emergency Room you can go to where, if you don’t pay, the government steps in and pays everything for you? I mean, I’ve been to the emergency room with no insurance before, I’ve racked up thousands of dollars in bills before from it… and I’ve been billed for it also. You’re simply forced into a payment plan. If you don’t pay, you get referred to a collection agency like with every other debt imaginable. And you can bet your ass they’ll have your billing info before you’re treated.

              I know these free hospitals must exist, because I hear every single Leftist sing the same tune about people not on insurance “leaching” off of the rest of us. So obviously, we need a system of welfare, mandated insurance and subsidies so that we can stop that leaching. Or something.

          2. @ Alice Bowie: “People opt-out of health insurance . . .” – No asshole, people are priced out of the market with insurance premiums so high they can’t afford it (yes, this means me). “opt” implies everyone has a choice in the matter. Sometimes they don’t.

        2. People opt-out of health insurance and then go for emergency service (courtesy of us, the tax payer and those that have insurance). That’s one example in which the volunteer system just doesn’t work.

          Seeing as hospitals are mandated to provide emergency service for people that won’t pay, it isn’t voluntary, is it.

          Or
          Shorter Alice Bowie: Derp

        3. People opt-out of health insurance and then go for emergency service (courtesy of us, the tax payer and those that have insurance). That’s one example in which the volunteer system just doesn’t work.

          As recently as 1985, they couldn’t do that.

          We had a modern society in 1985, right?

          The situation you describe did not become law until 1986. What the law has made, the law can unmake.

          As for paying gas/tolls, people with no cars that get tomatoes delivered to their local grocery store also used those roads you know.

          If the person who transported the tomatoes paid for the privilege, what they do with those tomatoes after they transport them is not my concern. I don’t begrudge the purchasers their tomatoes in the least.

          If some no-carbon fanatic finds a way to never use the roads personally and never pays a gas tax or toll, he will have successfully evaded making a contribution, but that’s really no problem to me. The limits he will be forced to impose on his life in order to accomplish this are more than sufficient “punishment”.

          1. Why would he need punishment? He’s not using the roads and doesn’t owe a dime to their upkeep.

    2. No volunteer system would work as people are weasels

      But, as soon as you elect someone, give them a title, and band of armed enforcers they aren’t weasels, amirite?

      Or…
      Shorter Alice Bowie: Derp

      1. Yeah, that always kills me. “We need coercive government because people are so irrational and selfish.”

        Ok, so the people in government are so much more rational and selfless than everyone else? Ridiculous.

        1. Ok, so the people in government are so much more rational and selfless than everyone else? Ridiculous.

          But at least when the most pathologically evil among us possess a monopoly of legal aggression we can be certain that all the flaws inherent in humanity will simply melt away. #Sociologist

    3. You stupid pile of crap:

      Alice Bowie|11.19.14 @ 10:54AM|#
      “The argument that taxation is theft is so LAME.
      I can’t think of a single person in America that earns money without using the resources that have been established by the collective.”

      The first statement is merely a claim and it is demonstrably false; a lie. Value taken at gunpoint is theft, regardless of how may people stand behind the gun.
      And then to prove you’re an ignoramus along with a liar, you add the second statement which is totally irrelevant to the first.
      Fuck off, slaver.

    4. The “Taxation is Theft” crowd is in the extreme fringe of the Libertarian Party.
      It’s up there with Extreme Liberalism (“Welfare for All”) and Extreme Conservatism (“No Abortions…even in RAPE”).

      https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ad-hominem
      https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/bandwagon

      Two in one. Well done! Nowhere in that incoherent screed did you actually refute the idea that taxation is theft. Try again.

    5. Dear troll : None of your word spew explained why it isn’t theft. Have a nice day.

      1. It isn’t theft because the market cannot figure out how to make pavement.

    6. I can’t think of a single person in America that earns money without using the resources that have been established by the collective.

      FTFY.

      No volunteer system would work as people are weasels and would say they are contributing and will not.

      Clearly, government must take over providing food to everyone, since this voluntary system where you walk into a supermarket and pick out what you want and then voluntarily pay for it rather than get charged with shoplifting isn’t gonna work, since people are gonna say “they are contributing” and then “will not”.

      And clearly, this model of private enterprises supplying everything currently provided collectively through coercive taxation can’t work. Clearly.

      1. Forget it, without the ability to ship dissenters to the gulag, it will be riots in the streets according to these folks. (see Dartmouth article in yesterday’s pm lynx)

    7. Who are you writing to? The article is about asset forfeiture and eminent domain, not taxes.

      Secondly, the formulation that I agree with is that progressive taxation is theft. Raising taxes to serve a purpose outside of raising funds for legitimate functions of government and social policy is unethical.

      1. Taxes are theft. Your ‘legitimate’ functions are ill-conceived preferences.

    8. The argument that taxation is theft is so LAME.

      The only way to justify taxation is to use The Social Contract theory. The only way that it’s not theft is to say that it’s owed. Social Contract theory says that it’s owed simply because you live in a certain vicinity claimed by a certain government. Whatever that unaccountable monopoly says you owe, you owe.

      So you’ve got two choices. You are born into debt to an unaccountable monopoly or taxation is theft.

      1. My favorite response to those who agree with the idea of the “Social Contract” is that it sounds just like the idea of “original sin.” I reject them both.

        1. how so?

          One is based on mutual agreement and the other on blind faith.

          and they are not mutually exclusive or inclusive

    9. A couple questions come to mind

      1. We give about 350 billion to charity every year voluntarily. Against that backdrop are we to believe people are such weasels we couldn’t raise plenty of money to fund the courts?

      2. If people are such weasels why should we give so much power to a “democracy” where the whole purpose is to give the weasels exactly what they want? If people are such weasels shouldn’t we drastically limit the power the voters and the weasels in government have over other people’s lives?

      I await your thoughtful response

  6. Don’t appraisers have a rather strict code of ethics? I don’t understand how one can low ball a property’s value to such a degree without risking his/her license.

    1. Being that licensure is a government created construct, I don’t know why they would be concerned with revocation in this case.

      1. Eh, state prosecutors can be disbarred by Bar organizations for unethical conduct; being US President didn’t help Bill Clinton avoid a suspension in Arkansas (he also resigned from the SCOTUS Bar). Working for the government doesn’t necessarily protect you against a properly-functioning licensing body.

        1. Eh, state prosecutors can be disbarred by Bar organizations for unethical conduct

          Least importantly, the majority of bar organizations in the US are state institutions instead of free associations. More importantly ‘ethical’ conduct says nothing about the ethics of enforcing unjust law. Moreover, ‘ethical’ philosophy component of the law prosecution can be entirely superseded by legislative statutes to the contrary of valid ethical norms. Prosecutors, as you should know, are hardly ever punished for ruining and ending lives unnecessarily.

          Basically, none of the aesthetic fail-safes of a statist legal system mean a damn thing when the state is the ultimate monopolist of dispute resolution, including disputes involving itself.

    2. It’s pretty easy to do, I would imagine.

      If they’re appraising parcel slivers, the appraiser could argue that a particular parcel is undevelopable and therefore has negligible value.

      If I was the state and I was building a road, I’d just say that if you don’t give me your property, we won’t allow you to do a curb cut to access that road from your property. Voila – worthless land. Here’s a check for ten cents.

  7. We all need to fund collectively infrastructure, defense, welfare, courts, police, fire, etc.

    That’s fine Tony jr. if you will agree to confine it to that I reluctantly am on board…..but you won’t!

    So please fuck off…..

    1. We all need to fund collectively infrastructure, defense, welfare, courts, police, fire, etc.

      The “etc.” covers waaaaaaayyyyy too much ground, and the other 4 don’t necessarily need to be collectively funded. Nor do infrastructure and defense, for that matter, but I am willing to grant that those could be more easily done by government than private entities.

  8. What? No cowboy poetry? No mountain lions on treadmills? Pshaw. If you can even call that living.

  9. No volunteer system would work as people are weasels and would say they are contributing and will not.

    Projection.

  10. As for paying gas/tolls, people with no cars that get tomatoes delivered to their local grocery store also used those roads you know.

    I know it’s pointless, but…

    The costs of producing those tomatoes and getting them onto the store shelves are all built into the retail price. Businesses don’t pay taxes. People do.

    1. I agree 100%.

      And the roads are there for the tomato truck, milk truck, school bus, private cars, etc…courtesy of us, the tax payer.

      1. So you’re saying that the owners of the milk truck, tomato truck and private cars don’t pay taxes? Or have they just not paid enough taxes because they can still afford to own property?

      2. I think you’re reading Brooks’ comment exactly backwards.

        He’s (quite rightly) pointing out that if a business pays a toll or tax to use a road, they will pass the cost of that toll or tax on to their customers.

        So if you’re concerned that the customers might evade the tax or toll by having the business incur it, that’s simply not possible.

        Exactly how many times you do think this tomato should be taxed for being on the road, anyway? It seems incredibly obvious to me that if it’s on the road once, it should be taxed once. It would take a lot of ‘splainin to overcome that default hypothesis, in my eyes.

      3. And the owners of tomato truck, milk truck, private cars, etc. AREN’T tax payers? Is that your claim? Are you really trying to claim that they just magically appeared and are attempting to use an infrastructure for which payment has already been rendered?

      4. I know the cost is ultimately pushed down to the final consumer. That is not my point and I’m sorry that everyone took it that way.

        What I’m saying is that the tax is necessary regardless. Not that one person is paying and the other is not.

        1. I make this point all of the time when people say that illegal aliens don’t pay for their children’s schools.

          Schools, at least in my state, are largely funded by municipal property taxes. The Landlord pays the tax. The illegals renting Pay rent which includes this tax.

          1. So…what was your point again?

            1. Apparently taxes are justified because some people complain about illegal immigrants.

      5. And the roads are there for the tomato truck, milk truck, school bus, private cars, etc…courtesy of us, the tax payer.

        Courtesy? I didn’t realize that theft could be described thus.

  11. Well until the people STAND UP and do something about it, nothing will ever change. Its gonna take a LOT more than waving some silly protest signs to get anything done.

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  12. “it would save taxpayers money if we did away with criminal trials and simply shot anybody accused of a crime.”

    AND??

  13. This is precisely the sort of public use that eminent domain is meant for, and is perfectly legitimate.

    What makes it perfectly legitimate, exactly? How is it that the ethical norms or moral rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to the government? Does theft cease to be theft when the person wears a uniform? Has a badge? A ‘democratic mandate’?

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  16. So we all agree – I won this thread. Right?

    1. Only until Tony shows up in a few days to furiously get the last word on everyone.

    2. You’ve got my vote.

      1. I usually require a 6 pack or at least a loaf of bread in return for my vote.

        1. I understand that my vote is worthless anyway. So, jokes on him! And you!

          Wait…

  17. Sort of off topic, but finicial repression is stealing from all of us as we type.

  18. As soon as they mentioned VDOT I got mad.

    Fuck those guys, and fuck the whole 64 shit-show. They have been working on that for the last 30 years and it stil sucks. That and the 215 are a toss up for best roads to become an impact area.

  19. That’s not robbery because it has to be a crime to become robbery . This is only a dispute about the value of the property , nothing else, nothing more .

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