Note: The following posting is the notes used for a presentation I made to the PA Liberty Alliance Group on 4/14/16. Thanks to Dean Klopp for allowing me the time to speak to their group.
There really is only two types of property. Property that belongs to you and property that belongs to somebody else. This simple little truth has been the cause of more struggles and conflicts, even wars, in the history of civilization because there has always been some in society who think that merely by saying so they can declare your property as their own and take it from you.
You see when it comes to property, you either have a right to the things that belong to you or you become the property of someone else. When they can take anything you own whenever they want, they own you. It is a return to feudalism and the relationship between the Lord and the Vassal. You work the land, you till the soil and the Feudal Lord reaps the benefits where you are left with just enough to survive.
We have a society where the average working family is paying more in taxes than they pay for food, clothing and shelter combined. For those Americans that don’t own a home, 50 percent of them spend more than a third of their incomes just on rent. This is a direct impact of the rising property taxes. Between the property taxes and all other taxes we are supporting what I see as institutionalized theft of our private property to provide greater benefit to others than the vast majority of working families can afford to provide for themselves. After adjusting for inflation, median household income has fallen by nearly $5,000 since 2007. According to the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36% less than it was worth a decade ago. For each of the past 6 years more business have closed their doors than have opened. Prior to 2008, this had never happened in the entire history of the United States.
While property extends to all that you own: your income, your clothing, your food, your books, your TV, your tools, your electronics…..whatever! Yes, there is even property in your opinions. Yet when we say property our mind immediately goes to real estate, our homes and the land that home is built upon. There is good reason for this. All the money in the world with no place to call your home is a poor substitute.
It sometimes surprises people when the statement is made that property rights, the rights to our homes is what actually sparked the flames that led to the American Revolution. I know, we’ve all been told about throwing the tea in the harbor, about the burden of taxes, about Lexington and Concord but a part of history that once was in every text book has been eliminated. It’s a part of history that most chronicles of the American Revolution written in the last 50 years completely ignore.
In 1761 the Crown and Parliament began enforcing something called the Writs of Assistance which gave the governor unlimited powers to use search warrants issued without and proof of suspicion, to enter into homes and destroy property while claiming to be searching for contraband. The Writs of Assistance violated due process and they could be used by those in power to attack political enemies or just for personal grudges in harassing people. Once issued, they were permanent even if after a search, no contraband was found. There was no accountability to the property owner.
The Writs were challenged in the courts where a Patriot by the name of James Otis argued against the them. He laid out a case that included the first use of the phrase taxation without representation while arguing for the unalienable inherent rights of Life, Liberty and Property. His arguments lasted more than 5 hours.
After his arguments a young lawyer who was present wrote about what he witnessed that day by stating:
“Otis was a flame of fire; with a promptitude of classical allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events and dates, a profusion of legal authorities. Then and there the child “independence” was born.”
That lawyer as John Adams.
Otis, in his arguments had declared that no matter how humble, a man’s home is his castle and left undisturbed in that home would be able to live in peace. He declared that to violate a man’s home was an act of aggression and tyranny and suggested that such actions by the government, the guilty of which he openly called idiots, would lead to a greater conflict. Otis didn’t want to see that conflict but he understood human nature and the inborn desire to protect that which is ours and he foresaw, in 1761, where this path was leading.
For the next ten years Otis published pamphlets and helped Sam Adams in establishing the Loyal Nine, which evolved into the Sons of Liberty. His writings and orations fell into the hands of men like John Dickinson and another young lawyer from Virginia by the name of Thomas Jefferson. None of these men started out by demanding Independence. They started by defending the inherent rights of Life, Liberty and Property. The openly declared why the acts of Parliament and the Crown were violations of rights but those appeals fell on the deaf ears of the arrogant and bent subjugating the colonists into Statist servitude. the inevitable came on April 19, 1775 in the battlefields of Lexington and Concord.
As you turn to the American Revolution and you study the pamphlets of Otis and others there is one theme constant throughout….the theme of the right to property. They were fighting to preserve their homes, their land, their lives and their liberty because they understood that it was all one and the same. The right to life, they understood as important but they also understood that life without ownership of property was slavery. They understood that you have a right to your property or you are the property of others….and that made you a Slave.
The right of the individual being framed around their right to the protection of their property was paramount in the formation of our government. They were fighting against a monarch who believed the people where his subjects to rule over them. The founders took the Magna Carte and expanded upon it and delivered to us the greatest summary of the rights of the individual ever set to pen and paper called the Declaration of Independence and that single document took thousands of pages written by political thinkers written over a period of 4,000 years and capsulized it for us. Its purpose, as explained by Jefferson was “Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent”
The Declaration of Independence is not so much a document of what our founders believed as it is a Declaration of why they believed it.
As you read through that document you come to the grievances against the Crown and Parliament and although the term had not yet been established they were fighting against an old entrenched system of feudalism that today we call Statism…the absolute control of government into every aspect of their life.
As Franklin warned though, the noble concept of the Republic they established faced a single threat. Most of us are familiar with the phrase “A Republic if you can keep it!” but many of us miss the point. Franklin didn’t say they gave us a Republic as long as they, the politicians could preserve it….it was our responsibility; the duty of We The People to preserve the Republic. And we failed.
Throughout the history of the world in conflict after conflict there have been those in power and those who use others in power to control the property of the people. They create a superior political class for themselves and endow themselves with privilege at the expense of everyone else. These powers rise and grow and the people will suffer as long as it is sufferable but they will not be silent forever. Eventually they will rise up. Just as Otis could see the handwriting on the wall in 1761, we need to look around us. How much longer will this continue before the uprisings begin. Some would say, and I would agree, those uprisings have already begun.
Like Otis, I don’t want to see such uprisings. I prefer a legislative solution. And yet n every stage of these Oppressions, We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.
When conflict arises, while the written record of history often twists and perverts the history, the inescapable conclusion is simply that the aggressor is not the individuals who rise up to defend what is rightfully theirs. The aggressors are those who created political systems intended to deny the individual his rights to begin with. Without such actions many wars and conflicts could be avoided.
Is it treason for the slave to rise up against his master? Isn’t the reality of that situation in the act making a slave of someone else the real act of treason against all humanity is the slave masters. The conflict is then between the slave in defending what is rightfully his and the slave master, defending what he claims he owns in violation of the laws of Nature and Nature’s God….against the laws of humanity itself.
Over the last 100 years the control of government over our lives has continued to expand and too few people realize what is happening in Government as far as its growth. We hear all the time about reducing the number of legislators and consolidating school districts but too few realize that, as the result of FDR’s expansion of government coupled with things like Pennsylvania’s own Administrative Code of 1929, the states and the federal government began the creation of a new branch of Government. A branch of government that is sometimes referred to as the Administrative State.
Our Constitutions, both Federal and Commonwealth, provides for only three branches of government: The Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. Our Constitutions, both Federal and Commonwealth, also state clearly where all lawmaking powers are supposed to reside….in the legislative.
So what happens when you create an Administrative State; place it under the executive office of government; grant it regulatory, or legislative, powers; as well as granting it the power to levy fines and fees which would be judiciary in nature. You then establish that these people will be appointed, not elected to their positions without any direct input from the people and then those agencies levy fines, fees or policies that must be followed and those actions lead to higher taxes. Isn’t that actually taxation without representation? Isn’t that actually Statism?
The Administrative State is a shadow government that levies for it powers behind closed doors and away from the scrutiny of the public eye. That Administrative state, is made up of the myriad of Bureaus, Departments, Agencies and Commissions that all help to make up the more than 80,000 employees at the state level. The Administrative State is a powerful machine with powerful positions. They are mostly appointed, sometimes as favors to lobbying factions to place influential people within those lobbying efforts into key positions in the Government’s Administrative State where they can exert some form of control in advancing the singular agendas of their lobbyist base. It is through the Administrative State that we have things like Common Core and Agenda 21.
Most of us are aware of the undue influence these lobbyists have in working behind the scenes to advance or stop legislation using political capitol as pressure through campaign funding efforts fueled by for-profit entities who both support and create these lobbying factions. These for-profit entities are making use of special privileges and protections afforded only to non-profits in government. What most of us aren’t aware of is how these factions embed themselves in our government through these administrative positions. It creates a political class made up of controlling factors and what they are using their money and their power to buy is control over you and me.
They will create powerful arguments framed around the concept of the “common good“ but often these arguments are just Trojan Horses really meant to expand the powers of the Administrative State in Government and while those expansions may benefit a select group it can never be for the common good if it requires taking from the labor of one to provide for another. It is certainly not for the common good if it benefits the recipient in ways greater than the person it is taken from. It is not for the common good if it benefits one class of people at the expense of others.
As James Madison warned “The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”
Or as P.J. O’Rourke once said “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” Now it’s one thing when that happens through an elected representative government where we have some accountability since we put these people in office but it is quite another when it comes about through a branch of government that has unconstitutionally combined the powers of the three branches of constitutional representative government where the people have no real say and the regulations will be passed without the involvement or discourse of the open citizenry.
The arguments at the federal level which created the land debacle in places like Oregon came through the administrative state; the Bureau Of Land Management. Deals were struck by that negotiating Agency who had no real legal claim to the land and yet they promised that by entering in agreements with the government through them the landowners would receive special privileges and tax breaks and incentives if they entered into these contracts with the government agencies. Once the contract is signed, the agency reserves the privilege to change it at will, even enlarge upon the agreement without the consent of the landowner. Those same tactics are now being used at the state level to continue to steal from our homes to provide wages, benefits and pensions to one group that the majority in the other group cannot afford to provide for themselves. They use laws and regulations to protect unique privileges in government in the generation of specific protections that are often not available equally in the private sector. Then they use the system of taxation to pay for the subsidies, exemptions and protections afforded to one group that is denied to everyone else. There is no uniformity in that type of taxation, nor can there be said to be any form of equality. Often times those who enter into these agreements are only doing so because taxation drove them to point of having no other option. That is Statist control where you pretend to offer a choice but in reality there is no choice.
There is this push right now to provide tax breaks to people who volunteer their services. So if Grandma can’t afford her property tax she can volunteer her time….in other words work for nothing and then she’ll get a reduction in her property taxes so the very people she is helping can retire early. Let’s also understand, somebody else has to pay for that reduction. Grandma may get to keep her house and that’s a good thing but the way it’s set up is simply not a fair system of taxation. It’s control.
There is this argument that we often hear when it comes time to raise our taxes locally that what they are doing is equivalent to the purchase of a cup of coffee a day. For a struggling family who’s already cut back on their home-brewed Maxwell House consumption because of last year’s coffee tax, coming up for the money for the designer Starbucks coffee the taxing agents want to buy isn’t an option. Those people know that the extra cup of premium blend a day may cost them the very homes they live in.
I’ve been around the state on the issue of school property tax elimination and I’ve heard just about every excuse there is to oppose it. The one argument that bother me more than all the others is the stability argument. This argument is always a Statist argument. Let me explain.
The stability argument is only seen through the eyes of the tax collectors and those who want to take the money. It is never seen through the instability it creates for those who actually have to pay it. The Stability argument is saying in thinly veiled code that you, as an individual, do not matter. Your family doesn’t matter and if they have to take your home to put you in your place in order to make room for somebody who will….so be it. Isn’t that embracing Mussolini’s Fascism of “everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”.
Then there is the argument of regular assessments claiming that it will make the property tax more fair. Regular assessment means every three years with these county-wide reassessment adding 5 to 10 million dollars each time creating a windfall profit for the assessment companies that result in higher property taxes. Not only higher property taxes but also profits to lawyers and appraisal companies to file appeals. Again, this comes at the expense of the home owner. How does this align itself with the Commonwealth Constitution in Article 1: Section 1 stating All men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
Is this really the purpose of taxation? Should taxation be creating predatory industries that profit from a system of taxation the requires constant expense to the taxpayer in maintaining. However, if the aim of government is not to protect our right to property but rather to protect these predatory businesses at the expense of the taxpayer than this is exactly how to do it. All we have to do is throw of John Locke and Embrace the Leviathon of Thomas Hobbes, just as Woodrow Wilson proclaimed,
To even suggest that this will provide property tax relief is ludicrous. This is government picking the winners and losers and in this case, as it always is with the property tax, the loser will always be the homeowner.
We watch as the larger more corporate business, many of whom already have paid lawyers and accountants on their payroll, are appealing property tax assessments. The cost to business in doing this is going to be reflected in the costs of the goods and services the business provides meaning that the consumer pays for the appeals process every time they use that business. When the business succeeds finding their property taxes reduced, they shift that revenue into higher millage rates for everyone else. It’s a win/win scenario for them.
The homeowner however does not have this capacity. When the property tax bill comes due there is no one to which the homeowner can pass on these costs. The little equity in their home, if any, they may have accrued that year does not translate into a check with which to pay the property tax.
Frankly, most of the arguments I hear are the same types of arguments used to defend slavery; the same types of arguments that refused to give women the right to vote and the same arguments used to refuse to give people of color the same rights as white people.
At the founding of this nation the same types of arguments were made to prevent a slavery clause from being added to our Declaration of Independence. When our Constitution was being framed the fight to end slavery began again but people more interested in their own economic prosperity than with the rights of individuals did everything in their power to maintain the status quo. They went so far as to dismiss the plight of the slave as a person.
Is that really that much different from hearing that 10,000 people having their homes seized by tax collectors because they can’t keep up with the property tax is not a significant enough number to do anything about it?
Is that any different from claiming that the pain people feel from the property tax is a good thing because it shows the tax is working. Working for who? Certainly not for the 10,000 people who have lost their homes? Certainly not for the 350,000 people who walked away from their homes abandoning them because they felt they had no other options. That number of 350,000 thousand is now at 387,000 according to the PA Housing Alliance which shows an increase of 30,000 abandoned properties across the commonwealth in the past 5 years.
These arguments come from the left and the right of the political spectrum. While their political excuses may vary the singular constant theme in these opposing political views is that the working families being stuck down by this archaic and unfair system of taxation simply do not matter. The words used to express those opinions might be different but the political sentiment towards the people is the same. You and me simply don’t matter in their grand scheme of things. The mantra of that religion is “taxes for thee but not for me!”
We also hear that there are all these other problems that have to be solved first. There is paycheck protection, prevailing wage, pensions, workman’s comp or any other of a variety of other issues. Pardon my indiscretion here but I’ve heard this for so long that it looks feels a dog riding my leg at this point in time. It’s a lot of commotion, shocking to see and annoying. It is self-serving for the dog, especially if they want to generate controversy, but serves no advantage to us. That’s not to say that the things they are talking about aren’t problems but let’s look at this honestly.
We’ve heard these excuses for more than 35 years and in that long period of time they have yet to do a damned thing about it except make the problems worse. A Senator or House member who stands and screams about these issues without introducing legislation to get it done creates a dog and pony show which exist to fire up the base but in the end the tricks of the dogs and ponies have no substance. They are just reelection gimmicks meant to please the eyes while not actually delivering the goods.
When these discussions are used to promote relief and not elimination we cannot afford to be fooled anymore. It’s not relief. Show me one relief effort in the past 20 years that has actually reduced property taxes.
It infects all levels of government but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which ranks 5th in nation for corruption, it seems to be more prevalent. Where is the ethics investigation concerning the ghost voting in Pennsylvania’s house last December? Do you honestly think they’ll do anything about the Governor’s actions in redistributing the school funding even though there are questions concerning the of legalities in his actions?
They may be talking the talk but frankly, I don’t see the walk! Or is it all really just to appease us with the appearance of a well-played circus act where the dogs have no bite, just bark?
What ever happened to the notion that the principle responsibility of government was in the protections of the individual’s right of acquiring, possessing and protecting property? There is a reason this is Article 1, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
Think about this. The institution of slavery provided a stability of goods and services to the community. The institution of slavery provided economic benefit to the plantation owners while keeping prices down on the resources from the plantation. In fact, it could probably have been argued that everyone benefited from slavery…except, of course, the slaves.
Once you bring the slaves into the debate, do any of the arguments in support of slavery have any real justification. Is it ever ethical or moral to justify any form of oppression simply because there are those, few or many, who benefit from it?
This is about power, and this is about control.
Feudalism or Statism is about power, held by a few, and it exists on both the right and left paradigms of the political spectrum. While the arguments for Statism are always based on the concept of the collective’s common good the opposite is actual true. Statism is, in reality, a reversion to tribal concepts and rivalry. Statism will always, because of our unalienable and inherent rights, create division. Statists will always seek to ignore individual rights believing it has the right to initiate the use of physical force against others. Statism will include a unique paradigm on claiming it has rights while denying those same rights to others. It throws off Natural law to embrace the ideology of the evolutionary “survival of the fittest.” The loudest, most powerful wins and if individual rights have to be trampled….so be it.
Statism is more tribal, more primordial, less civilized in its application. It is the power of force. The stronger the system of Statism is in any government, the more divided the people will become. Each will establish their own tribes and seek to exert their own powers building their own collectives all claiming that they are fighting for the common good but in actuality they are fighting to seize power to silence the voice of those who disagree with them.
This is why our homes are essential to the principles of Liberty. Think about it. Your home is a place where you establish a community through family. In the framework of your home you establish rules; preferences. You make choices and determinations. As long as you keep all of those decisions within the framework of your own household there will be no problem.
Your closest neighbor has done the same and as long as the two of you do not try to interfere with each other as far as forcing one neighbor to be subjective to the will and desires of the other those two neighbors will live at peace. It doesn’t matter how far apart those two families are in their political ideologies. It doesn’t even matter if those two neighbors are friends. As long as one family does not exert a will of force over the other by violating the individual rights of the other they can live in relative harmony. They can agree to disagree.
Under this concept there is not really a sense of collective good, only individual rights and the protection of those rights. As a society then we have a right to step in when one gang, using Statist concepts begins the process of ignoring and violating the individual rights of others. The expression of doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do should only be applied within that framework.
Obviously this is not the world we live in. This is not the Nation we live in and this is not the state we live in.
We live in a world where if they have to steal your house from you because you can’t afford to pay the taxes to provide for somebody else’s retirement, a retirement you cannot afford to give to yourself….that’s okay.
You can NEVER EVER NEVER take rights away from one person to provide for a want of another and call it equality. Nor can you call it equal rights. You can’t call it justice. You call it what it is….Statist.
The founding vision of our government has been perverted by a gang rule mentality of special interest lobbyists who form collectivist coalitions that, while claiming to be fight for us, is often fighting against us in the violations of our individual rights for their own personal power and gain. At the same time, they incite political divisions among us to create tribal polarities that set us at war with each other so we spend more time fighting each other than we do with paying attention to the powers operating behind the scenes. We see the powerful vision of the wizard with all its smoke and mirrors but in reality it’s just men behind a curtain pulling political levers creating illusions of benevolence while they erect new offices and send out swarms of officers to, as Jefferson declared, eat out our substance.
We have a choice…we can stand by and watch as this happens or we can stand up and be counted. We can expose this political charade for what it is.
Until our Nation is restored to the principles of Individual Liberty with government’s prime purpose being the protection of our rights to life, liberty and property little will change, elections will mean nothing and we will throw off the mantle of We The People, or a government of the people, by the people, for the people to embrace, as Italy began embracing in 1922, “everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”.
Our founders understood that Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. They understood that never for a moment should government be left to irresponsible action. They also understood that prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Maybe we need to be reminded so we can remind those who we elected to represent us these words from John Adams:
“Property is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty…The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou shalt not covet,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.”