Mr. President, Alexander Hamilton declared:
The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by moral power.
I believe, and I speak on behalf of the people of Oklahoma, in the right to own private property, and I believe in the right to enjoy it and not be harassed, especially by the government.
There are three issues that the Private Property Protection Act of 2006 that I am introducing today addresses: it protects the right to own and enjoy private property, one of our Government's core purposes; it directly confronts the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, which allows local governments to take private property for economic reasons, by forcing the Court to reign in its incessant judicial activism and return to the true intent of the fifth amendment; it limits government intervention into the private market.
However, my bill does not attempt to encroach on a State's right to conduct business and levy taxes; it simply makes clear that the National Government will not fund these blatant abuses of private property. There is no violation of State sovereignty.
The Constitution is not really an allocation of Government-determined rights to the people as much as it is a limitation on the Government from interfering with our inherent rights. The presumption is that people are ``endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights'' and that the Government's fundamental role is to protect those rights.
Sometimes a person's rights do have to be limited in order to protect the rights of everyone else. But there must be a strong reason to restrict or limit those rights, and even when this is done, the rights are still there, they do not just disappear.
Ask any elementary school child what the main reason for the Revolutionary War was and they will probably respond, ``Taxation without Representation!'' Consider the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and then see what is going on with eminent domain today. It does not go together. I can only imagine what the Founding Fathers and colonists would think if they read the Supreme Court's Kelo decision. There is a huge rift in the intention of eminent domain at our Nation's founding and today. Taking away rights, especially property rights, is a serious matter, but what is worse, thanks to Kelo, is that a city can now seize a person's land solely for financial gain.
In Kelo, the Supreme Court gave the legal mandate that the ``broad reading'' of the takings clause of the fifth amendment includes taking from one private citizen and giving it to another as long as the city claims an economic benefit. Changing the definition of the fifth amendment to mean ``more tax dollars for the city,'' is not only incongruous, it is outrageous.
This philosophy comes out of a socialistic presumption that all property really belongs to the State, that the State is the true landlord, and that people are allowed to use the land until the State gets a better offer. The Supreme Court is opening up the gate of opportunity to these cities essentially saying: ``Hey, if you need money, just condemn some property ..... bulldoze the houses and sell the land to a giant retail store or factory that will generate lots of tax dollars.''
Once again, the courts have taken the Constitution and twisted it, actively and willfully pursuing their own radical and elitist policy, usurping the will of the people, and their elected representatives. The Supreme Court's Kelo decision is the pinnacle of a mutation of its takings clause jurisprudence, and essentially extends a government's condemnation power to include taking private property and giving it to another private party who will raise revenue for a city or town.
Justice Thomas, in his dissent, quoted renowned legal scholar William Blackstone whose ``Commentaries on the Laws of England'' eloquently described the authority of the law at the time the fifth amendment was drafted: ``The law of the land ..... postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property.'' Justice Thomas continued, agreeing with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's well-stated
warning taken from her dissenting opinion:
If such ``economic development'' takings are for a ``public use,'' any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution.
Justice O'Connor also explained that historically, the ``Government may compel an individual to forfeit her property for the public's use, but not for the benefit of another private person. This requirement promotes fairness as well as security.''
Professor Bradley Jacob, a constitutional law professor at Regent University School of Law, is gravely concerned by the Court's decision in Kelo. He observed:
What the Court ruled in Kelo is not consistent with the Constitution, it is not consistent with the Declaration of Independence, and it is not consistent with the principles of liberty that underlie free Republican government. It was valid only in the eyes of those who accept the idea that the Supreme Court is our national super-legislature, imposing its views of wise social policy on an unwilling nation.
The Court calls this kind of taking ``economic development.'' I call it robbery and wealth redistribution. If the cities are suffering from failed economies because of poor decisionmaking, inefficient zoning, and financial irresponsibility, that is unfortunate; however, unchecked eiminent domain power is not the answer.
According to economic greats, such as Adam Smith and John Locke, there are two types of property: private and public. Property is private when others are prevented from using or benefiting from it. It is exclusive to the owner. He or she is entitled to the fruits it bears. Examples of this are homes, farms, and stores. Conversely, public property is property that is opened up and common to the public, from which all have equal access to its fruits, and equal access to use it and benefit from it. Examples of this are roads, power lines, and waterways.
The fifth amendment recognizes the Government's power to take private property when necessary, and open it up to the public, for true public use. The idea of interpreting the fifth amendment in a ``broad'' manner to allow, and thus, encourage taking private property from one and giving it to
another private owner is foreign and hostile to the principles that make this nation great.
I believe that economic development belongs to the private market. Condemnation power for economic development will have devastating and paralyzing effects on the market. This is extreme artificial interference in the market that will only encourage more irresponsible decisionmaking by cities.
When a private citizen steals a person's private property, the victim has a cause of action against the culprit to try to right the wrong and the State has an interest in prosecuting that wrong as well, as stealing is against the law. But what is so dangerous here is that it is the State that is facilitating the wrong. My bill will ensure a private cause of action for the citizen whose property is taken away from him or her by the State for economic development.
Recognition and protections of the right to own private property is the driving force of our Nation and the fuel of the free market. The Government should be the staunchest defender of private property, not the thief that steals it. My legislation will prevent States that allow their cities or other municipal bodies to carry out this type of eminent domain, that is, the kind based solely on economic development, from receiving Federal economic development funds. I simply do not think that we should be funding economic development for those States that are willing to steal private property from their citizens.
As Alexis de Tocqueville predicted, the unique private property rights in America would set it apart from and above the nations of the world, mainly by facilitating a thriving, land-owning middle class, the backbone of a successful free market. The Kelo decision is a crippling blow to our middle class, and our Constitutional Republic as a whole, and must be dealt with immediately.
I ask my colleagues in this body to stand with me and protect the private property rights of Americans across this great land. We owe it to the citizens of our States; we owe it to the Constitution and our liberty.