Kelo II:

The more I think about this, the madder I get. Doc has a post on the topic, and at the bottom in an update he notes that a town in Texas has already moved to take several buildings away from existing companies, in order to build a marina. "The Great SCOTUS Land Grab," they call it.

One of the things that's always bothered me about the way we do things in this country, to be honest, is that you've never been able to own anything free and clear. You pay for it, you pay off any loan you took to cover the cost, and you "own" it -- but only so long as you continue to pay the government, every single year, whatever tax it cares to asses against you for the privilege.

If you fail, of course, they are free to take your land, or whatever else they like, and sell it in order to pay the taxes you "owe" -- based on whatever valuation their own assessors care to put on the value of your property.

The fact that you worked your whole life to build something means nothing at all. In Savannah, I saw many old folks run out of homes they'd lived in all their lives because suddenly, following the publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, it became fashionable to have a second home in Savannah. Nicholas Cage and the like were buying up places; real estate values rose; and the government raised taxes on the basis of this inflated, temporary bubble.

Then they sold those people's houses to pay themselves the taxes that they felt entitled to collect. Rob from the poor to feed the rich.

This is not what America was meant to be about. As I've said from time to time, I'm a Georgia Democrat -- the party that is best known today for producing Zell Miller. But in an earlier generation, it had a truly titanic figure at its head: James Jackson, hero of the Revolution, Senator, State Senator, Governor. James Jackson, "the prince of duelists," was the founder of the party and the defender of its ideals in the difficult days to follow the Revolution.

James Jackson fought four duels during his quest to put an end to just such lawlessness as this.

It was called 'the Yazoo Land Fraud.' The duels were on pretenses, with men famed as killers trying to slay Jackson to keep him from winning his cause. My alma mater, Georgia State University, has it this way:

In 1795 the Georgia legislature sold the state's western (or "Yazoo") lands to several companies of speculators. Rumors abounded that the purchasers had used bribery to secure passage of the Yazoo Act. Jackson, a member of the U.S. Senate since 1793, resigned his seat, returned to Georgia, and won a seat in the state legislature in order to personally organize an anti-Yazoo campaign.... Jackson and his supporters rescinded the Yazoo Act and arranged the public destruction of records associated with the sale. After being elected governor in 1798 Jackson saw to it that the substance of the Rescinding Act of 1796 was engrafted onto a revised state constitution.
"Arranged the public destruction of records" is entirely too dry. Here is what he did: when he had finally gotten the law rescinded that allowed these speculators to buy up all the land, he had the records of all these fraudulent "sales" put together in a big pile on the lawn of the statehouse. An old man he knew came forth with a magnifying glass, and focused the rays of the sun on them until they caught fire and burned. The folks of Georgia said that the Yazoo law 'had been destroyed by fire out of heaven.'

Jackson believed in the 'yeoman farmer,' that ideal of Jefferson's which held that a man who owned his land was free, free in a way that no other man could be. He took those lands and saw that they became the property, not of speculators, but of families.

Still today, the man who owns his land -- his house -- his small business -- that man is free, in a way that no one else truly is. Kelo, along with these punitive and speculation-based taxes, are a direct assault on the principle that James Jackson fought to uphold.

We are called today to remember his daring, his courage, and his ideals. This scourge has been beaten down once before. It can be again: but we will have to be bold.

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