The on-again, off-again event known as the Keystone XL pipeline is now off. Again. For now, that is. Who knows what its status will be in a few years?
Thanks to Joe Biden’s singular effort in writing his name on a piece of paper, a.k.a. Executive Order, the project has just simply been cancelled and shut down. It does not matter that billions of dollars have been invested in it nor that thousands of well-paying jobs have disappeared, disrupting (destroying?) the lives of those workers. It does not matter that the producers of the oil now have no good way to transfer their product to market. It does not matter that the consumers of the end product now find their options more limited. What does matter is that the political “tenor of the moment” called for the pipeline to be stopped in its tracks…and Biden did it, to the accolades of millions of people who have absolutely no stake in the venture.
Ain’t democracy grand?
I take no position on the pipeline itself. I am not opposed to it nor in favor of it. However, there is one aspect of the whole venture which causes me concern. It has nothing to do with oil or the environment, but instead focuses on the (supposed) rights of property owners who might resist an oil-carrying pipeline built into their “back forty”. In any case of this nature (I am sure there are some), eminent domain would be brought into play, court orders issued, arbitrary figures assessed for the damages, and checks distributed to ease the pain. All done legally, mind you.
“I have an order here!” — Constable, Fiddler on the Roof
“A piece of paper and get thee out.”— Mordcha, Fiddler on the Roof.
We understand that illegal taking is wrong–theft, fraud, murder, rape, slander, etc. What is not so clearly seen is that legal taking is just as wrong. In the eighth commandment to the Hebrews, Moses said, “You shall not steal.” Ever since people have corrupted that in many ways. “You shall not steal, except by majority vote.” “You shall not steal, except by government action.” “You shall not steal, unless you are driven to it by external circumstances.”
Private property in America today is not owned privately at all. It is controlled and regulated, perhaps even expropriated, by society in general and civil governments in particular. A man’s home is not his castle. It can be taxed away from him. It can be zoned out of existence. It can be condemned and taken by eminent domain. It can be seized and destroyed because it doesn’t meet the “standards” of the community. In short, private property doesn’t really exist. Everything is owned by the State or the collective society. The will of the individual is overruled by the will of the many. This is neither liberty nor freedom. It is majoritarian slavery (socialism) and far too many people buy into it because they do not understand what it really means to be free. The end result of such a policy is that no one’s property is secure.
In essence, the “taking” of private property by eminent domain is not any different than the legal taking of private property for other uses: zoning, setbacks, urban renewal, even taxation, just to name a few. In every single case of taking, whether legal or illegal, someone is forced to give up justly owned property for the use and/or abuse of someone else.
Should any individual person have the power to halt a project which has been deemed necessary and beneficial for the community at large? Can a hydropower dam be stopped because one man, whose farm would be flooded under several feet of water, refuses to sell out and get out? Must an interstate highway be rerouted because one woman, whose restaurant would be bulldozed into oblivion, will not give up? At first glance, the answer to these questions is quite simply, “No! It should not. They have to move.” This runs headlong into the lodestone of libertarian thought, however–property rights. Individual freedom is based on property rights, which are paramount above everything else.
If the deliberate abortion of an unborn child can be justified in the name of “property rights” regardless of the harm done to the child or society at large, then why cannot a landowner tell a government or corporation to simply bugger off? Is it because we are inconsistent on this question, voicing an opinion and belief, but acting differently when the chips are down?
What is the problem here? It should not matter that this is an extreme example of the philosophy of personal liberty. It should not matter that we “need” the oil or that “we” will die if it pumps. What should be proclaimed loudly and clearly is that the individual right to own and keep property is in danger by the selfish interests of others, who want to take that property and use it for their own benefit.
“Thou shalt not steal.“ –God, via Moses and the Ten Commandments
What would Murray say?
“… when government confers a privilege of eminent domain… it has virtually granted a license for theft”— (Power & Market: Government and the Economy, page 93)
What would Jesus say?
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” — (Matthew 22:36-40, NIV)
Enough said. Now is the time to change our ways.
“Go, and sin no more.” — (John 8:11)