The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution reads, in part, as follows:
“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.”
Meaning if you own property – government can’t arbitrarily take it from you. In whole or in part.
Sadly, taking without compensation is something at which the government is becoming expert:
“Most property rights scholars would probably tell you that property is sort of the redheaded stepchild of constitutional law….(T)he (Supreme) Court says something like, ‘The Government could hardly go on if to some extent the values incident to property couldn’t be diminished without paying for it every time the law changed.’”
Get that? For nearly a century, the Supreme Court has for the most part pretended the Fifth Amendment doesn’t exist – as per it being an impediment to government regulating without compensation property out of private existence.
Which, of course, government has been exceedingly happy to do.
Did someone say regulatory takings?
“Regulatory taking is a situation in which a government regulation limits the uses of private property to such a degree that the regulation effectively deprives the property owners of economically reasonable use or value of their property to such an extent that it deprives them of utility or value of that property, even though the regulation does not formally divest them of title to it.”
These regulatory takings are nigh always incremental. Government rarely extrudes rules that eviscerate private property all at once. They do it in frog-boiling steps and stages. Nigh always a stride on the way to oblivion – is forcing property owners to let competitors use their property.
Like, say, government forcing McDonald’s, in McDonald’s stores – to sell Burger King Whoppers. Not at all anti-private property and authoritarian.
Which brings us to the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB). Which for our nation’s railroad companies is proposing:
“(C)ertain captive shippers located in terminal areas would be granted access to a competing railroad if there is a working interchange within a reasonable distance (30 miles under NITL’s proposal).”
That sounds obnoxious. But to be sure – here’s more:
“The proposed regulations ‘create an avenue for the Board to impose a reciprocal switching arrangement,’ STB said. ‘Generally speaking, reciprocal switching refers to the situation in which a railroad that has physical access to a specific shipper facility switches rail traffic to the facility for another railroad that does not have physical access.’”
Sounds even more obnoxious. But to be really sure, let’s translate from Government-ese:
“(T)he Surface Transportation Board issued a proposed rule that would require (rail) companies like CSX Transportation or Norfolk Southern to open their privately owned and maintained lines to competitors.…”
Confirmed: it is outrageously obnoxious. Whoppers sold at McDonald’s – as mandated by government.
This is certainly not free market. And it is absolutely an assault on the Fifth Amendment.
It’s not private property – if the government can force you to make it public.
The STB should dumpster as rapidly as possible this ridiculous proposal.
This is a guest post by Seton Motley Founder and President of Less Government