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Posts Tagged ‘property rights’
March 18th, 2014 at 1:23 pm
Crapo-Johnson Housing “Reform” Bill: More of the Same
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The Senate Banking Committee’s chairman and its ranking member – Senators Tim Johnson and Mike Crapo, respectively – released their version of housing finance reform on Sunday.  Unfortunately, their bill largely duplicates the problems already found in the proposed Corker-Warner legislation.  Both proposals – focusing on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two behemoth government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) – have been touted as a bastion of bipartisanship, but both fail miserably at upholding the rule of law or the rights of property owners.

Instead of proposing sensible free-market answers that could benefit taxpayers while adhering to rule of law, the legislation does neither.  Rather, it reinforces the Obama Administration’s big-government overreach that disrespects our legal system and the people it seeks to protect.  And by creating yet another new federal agency to regulate the mortgage market, Crapo-Johnson uses similar mechanisms that Corker-Warner does.  In so doing, it maintains the same market uncertainty that Corker-Warner does, without any guarantee for future investments into the government-backed agency.

Further, the proposal continues to disregard investors’ rights – the community banks, pension funds and individuals that supported Fannie and Freddie, before, during and after the bailout.  Under Crapo-Johnson, those investors remain left out in the cold, their savings and retirement in limbo.  Meanwhile, taxpayers would remain on the hook because the full faith and credit of the U.S. government would backstop the newly-created entity under Crapo-Johnson.

Since becoming profitable in 2012, Fannie and Freddie have not only made taxpayers whole, they’ve made the government billions of dollars following confiscation by the Treasury Department.  Instead of following the rule of law and marketplace standards, Crapo-Johnson would codify that illegal taking and perpetuate the federal government’s dangerous habit of undermining property rights and sowing uncertainty.  That’s not what our housing market, or our economy generally, need.

You can try to put lipstick on a pig, but you’re not fooling anyone:  Crapo-Johnson is more of the same.

January 18th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
“Internet Freedom” Doesn’t Mean Freedom to Steal
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Various groups that favor such things as making the Internet a public utility have declared today “Internet Freedom Day.”  That’s a euphemism, unfortunately, meant to disguise a deeper animosity toward property rights.  What they falsely label “freedom of expression” is often a transparent aversion to straightforward intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property, or IP, simply refers to the legal protection accorded to creators in the same way that someone possesses a natural physical property right.  The only distinction is that IP protects inventions, artistic expressions and distinguishing trademarks.  Although opponents of IP falsely attempt to distinguish it from physical property by, among other things, asserting that physical property is finite whereas IP is infinite, that’s a sloppy distinction without a difference.  After all, if your automobile sits unused in a garage as you read this, then according to their logic its social utility would be increased by allowing someone who doesn’t own your car to use it while you are not.  Try telling a recording artist that after investing effort and financial resources in securing costly studio time and top-quality backup singers and band members, he or she has no right to the creation or to enjoy the fruits of his or her labor.

Protection of IP is necessary to not only secure for innovators the just fruits of their labor, but also to provide societal incentive for innovation.  No reasonable person opposes Internet freedom, but nor should that concept be used to disguise animosity toward property rights.

Today, IP remains under threat from foreign piracy, costing hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

Businesses reliant upon IP account for more than 60% of American exports, which are by nature more vulnerable to foreign piracy.  Those businesses also employ almost 55 million workers, pay their employees an average wage 30% higher than non-IP counterparts and account for $5.7 trillion of the nation’s GDP. Meanwhile, parasitic overseas websites continue to threaten that IP wellspring of innovation, jobs and prosperity.  Although estimates vary, foreign IP piracy now amounts to a cumulative enterprise that inflicts at least $500 billion in loss annually and now accounts for approximately 25% of all Internet traffic.

Each moment, rogue sites across the world seek to make an easy and illegal profit by selling things they had no hand in creating.  That has to stop.  Although many proponents of today’s so-called “Internet Freedom Day” will falsely demonize future efforts to curtail IP theft, they must be recognized as apologists for illegality.  Just something to bear in mind amidst the synthetic hoopla.

September 16th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
California (Almost) Leading the Nation in Unemployment

The Los Angeles Times reports that California’s unemployment is now 12.1 percent statewide, 25 percent higher than the national average, and second only to Nevada’s 13.4 percent.

For decades, California politicians have prided themselves on being “first in the nation” on numerous job-killing efforts such as fanciful global warming regulations, onerous land use regulations, and stupefying bans on products like Mylar balloons and plastic bags at grocery stores.

Recently, Troy wrote a painfully insightful piece on yet another attempt to wage war on business by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (higher taxes on commercial property).

California’s political class cannot resist the siren song of being the first to put the screws to the engines of economic growth.  If Villaraigosa’s plan becomes reality, perhaps the Golden State will finally be first in a category no one should want: unemployment.

July 6th, 2011 at 4:49 pm
Dog Whistling for the Constitution

If they didn’t actually hold some positions of power, today’s liberal activists and supposed intelligentsia would engender serious pity because of their profound ignorance, lack of logic, and intellectually indefensible sentiments masquerading as principles. The latest case in point is the truly goofy New Republic piece by Ed Kilgore, previously best known for using a book review to posit that just about any backlash against Barack Obama is a sign that racism still reigns in large swaths of America. Now Kilgore analyzes the growing use of the term “constitutional conservatism” as if it not instantly understandable on its face but instead as if it is some sort of radical plot, alien to American democratic traditions. Worse, he avers it is a secret code, a radical-right “dog whistle” that lets right wingers and only right wingers know that what is being proposed is a return to the idyllic 1920s. Of course, in light of Kilgore’s previous meme of “Mommy, look, they’re all racists!!!,” it is no accident that he uses the term “dog whistle,” which is usually used by leftists to describe racist signals that only fellow racists can hear or understand.

Read Kilgore’s whole benighted piece, if you can stomach its intellectual vacuousness. But especially note this incredibly… well, I don’t quite know the word to describe its idiocy, but its incredibly moronic passage:

In their backwards-looking vision, constitutional conservatives like to talk about the inalienable rights conferred by the Founders—not specifically in the Constitution, as a matter of fact, but in the Declaration of Independence, which is frequently and intentionally conflated with the Constitution as the part of the Founders’ design.

What, pray tell, are we to make of this? Could Kilgore possibly be saying that that Declaration of Independence is not “part of the Founders’ design”? Is he actually complaining about ascribing the ideals of the Declaration to the practice of interpreting the Constitution? If anything, the Left has been known in the past for complaining that the Constitution was an unfortunate counter-revolution by moneyed interests upset at the supposed leveling mentality of the Declaration; now Kilgore seems to be complaining that the Declaration’s ideals should not be seen as inherent within the constitutional structure — as if those ideals themselves, and thus the Declaration, somehow pollutes the Constitution with some crazy nonsense about natural rights.

This is ludicrous. Whether or not the Constitution’s framers succeeded in implementing the Declaration’s ideals (conservatives rightly argue that they did), there can be no doubt that when the states ratified the Constitution their debates were all about making sure that their rights were being sufficiently safeguarded. The nationwide ratification struggle was all about natural rights.

Kilgore goes on to write this jaw-dropping sentence:

It’s from the Declaration, for instance, that today’s conservatives derive their belief that “natural rights” (often interpreted to include quasi-absolute property rights or the prerogatives of the traditional family)… were fundamental to the American political experiment and made immutable by their divine origin.

The subtext is clear: Gee, these folks are lunatics to believe in “quasi-absolute property rights,” which derive solely from a misreading of the Declaration, not from the Constitution itself.

Oh, really? Then why does the Constitution specifically say that “no state shall … pass any … law impairing the obligation of contracts?” Why does it restrict the power of eminent domain by requiring “just compensation” and insisting that it only be effectuated for “public use”? Why does the Constitution say that nobody shall be denied of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law?” And why, if the Declaration and the Constitution are not to be conflated, do so many of the same or similar formulations occur in each, the most notable of which is of course the repetition of the “life, liberty, property/pursuit of happiness” language?

The left not only doesn’t understand the Constitution; it seems to not even really know the Constitution, or perhaps not even have actually read it. It certainly does not have a clue about how the Founders themselves clearly thought of the Constitution as the practical means of applying the ideals of the Declaration.

There is nothing radical whatsoever about insisting that the law of the land actually be interpreted to mean what it meant when it was first adopted (recognizing, of course, that the “law of the land” in constitutional terms means the law that came into being when any current constitutional provision was adopted –  obviously meaning that where amendments have been adopted, it is the original meaning of those amendments, not he original meaning of the language they replaced, that is relevant).

Yes, Mr. Kilgore, we believe in constitutional conservatism. It’s not a dog whistle to say so. But to fail to understand its clear and unobjectionable meaning, one would really need to be a cur.

June 6th, 2011 at 5:05 pm
Redevelopment Agencies Under More Scrutiny

Previously, I interviewed California Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby about the costs associated with taxpayer-funded redevelopment agencies (RDAs).  Along with liberal use – and threats – of eminent domain powers, RDAs siphon away local tax money from schools, roads and other public services to service the debt incurred to privilege certain businesses.

Writing for City Journal, Steve Greenhut of the Pacific Research Institute laments the dependency on RDA funding by local officials like the mayor of Glendora, CA.

When I spoke to Tessitor, I finally got to the heart of his redevelopment defense. The city relies on RDA funding for 15 percent of its budget, he said, and assuring the city’s financial future is “all I care about.” Individual cities have indeed become dependent on redevelopment money, but that doesn’t mean that the current system works. Nor does it change the reality of how these abusive agencies operate. I sympathize with the mayor’s budget worries, but if Glendora is an example of redevelopment done right—as he argues—then the situation is even worse than I thought.

For the all the protests to the contrary, it’s hard to shake the feeling that RDAs are crony capitalism by another name.