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We're All Trespassers Now in the Face of the Government's Land Grabs

• By John W. Whitehead

"No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent." — John Jay, first Chief Justice of the United States

We have no real property rights.

Think about it. 

That house you live in, the car you drive, the small (or not so small) acreage of land that has been passed down through your family or that you scrimped and saved to acquire, whatever money you manage to keep in your bank account after the government and its cronies have taken their first and second and third cut…none of it is safe from the government's greedy grasp.

At no point do you ever have any real ownership in anything other than the clothes on your back.

Everything else can be seized by the government under one pretext or another (civil asset forfeiture, unpaid taxes, eminent domain, public interest, etc.).

The American Dream has been reduced to a lease arrangement in which we are granted the privilege of endlessly paying out the nose for assets that are only ours so long as it suits the government's purposes.

And when it doesn't suit the government's purposes? Watch out.

This is not a government that respects the rights of its citizenry or the law. Rather, this is a government that sells its citizens to the highest bidder and speaks to them in a language of force.

Under such a fascist regime, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which declares that no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation," has become yet another broken shield, incapable of rendering any protection against corporate greed while allowing the government to justify all manner of "takings" in the name of the public good.

As journalist Eric Williamson notes, "From controversial projects such as President Donald Trump's border wall and the gas pipelines, to more mundane works such as road expansion, just about any project deemed in the public interest can mean taking your property is fair game."

Practically anything goes now.

It's been 13 years since the U.S. Supreme Court took up the case of Kelo v. City of New London, which expanded the government's limited power to acquire private lands in order to build a public structure like a school or highway for "public use" and allowed it to make seizures for a "public purpose," which in the government's eyes can mean anything as long as it amounts to higher tax revenue.

In Kelo, the City of New London, Conn., wanted to condemn private homes as "blighted" in order to tear them down and allow a developer to build higher-priced homes, a resort hotel, a conference center and retail complexes to complement a new Pfizer pharmaceutical plant in the area. Ironically, the developers in New London later backed out of the deal after the homes were seized and bulldozed, leaving the once quaint neighborhood a wasteland.

Nevertheless, a shortsighted Supreme Court gave city officials the go-ahead, ruling 5-4 that a city government—aligned with large corporate interests—could use the power of eminent domain to seize an entire neighborhood for development purposes, entire neighborhoods have been seized and bulldozed to make way for shopping malls, sports complexes and corporate offices.

"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," warned Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in a stinging dissent. "Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

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