Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

SCOTUS issues bad omen for property rights

A Register editorial today gave us the bad news that the Supreme Court has unanimously overturned an appeals court decision, and allowed the state of Hawaii to impose rent-control restrictions on gas stations (and, I imagine, through the power of precedent, just about anything else). This suit was about the state of Hawaii making an uncompensated taking of private property - in this case regulating what a property owner could charge in rent, thereby reducing the value of that property to the owner - which for those paying attention at home, is what the final clause of the 5th Amendment was written to guard against.
Writing for the Supreme Court majority, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ruled that supporting Chevron's position would 'require courts to scrutinize the efficacy of a vast array of state and federal regulations.' That echoed the view of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which worried that upholding the Ninth Circuit would deem it appropriate 'for a court to second-guess the wisdom of a state policy decision.'
So let me get this straight: the SCOTUS can't uphold a private property owner's 5th Amendment right against uncompensated takings because it would be too much trouble for the government to perhaps revisit such a "vast array of state and federal regulations"? They just can't be troubled with it? It would just take too much time and effort? Is she serious? Maybe there should be less regulations in the first place, that way the government busybodies who enacted them could actually keep track of them. But no, since there's already too many to keep track of, let's let another brand new one stand - what could it hurt?

That's what really stinks about the political discourse in this country: the answer to every dilemma - offered by both mainstream parties, mind you - always seems to be more government, more regulation, more laws. When a situation is being debated, you almost never hear about solutions that would solve the problem with less government. Three examples just off the top of my head:
- Outsourcing: the first thing you hear is, "Take away the tax breaks for companies who send work overseas!" - never do you hear, "Remove the tax burdens from the companies who employ Americans!"
- Same-sex Marriage: the first thing you hear is, "Make a law against gay marriage!" or "Make a law that forces states to recognize gay marriage!" - never do you hear, "Remove the regulations that make being married any different in the eyes of the law than being single!"
- Fuel and fuel economy: the first thing you hear is, "Force car companies to make cleaner cars!" or "Subsidize ethanol research and manufacturing!" - never do you hear, "Let people buy the cars they want and the fuel they want, and as gas prices go up they'll buy cleaner-burning fuels!"

Update: here's another, courtesy of the Heritage Foundation:
- Digital TVs: first you've got the FCC mandating that all TV signals be digital by 2008 (I think that's the date); and now, to make sure average people who can only afford to purchase analog TVs can still watch TV after all the signals are digital, we've got a senator proposing (ok, the report says "toying with the idea") to mandate that analog TV sellers bundle a digital converter box ("for free" of course, as if the cost of it won't be passed to the consumer in the form of a higher price). "What's that? A federal regulation is causing a problem? I've got it! We'll fix it with yet another federal regulation!" How about letting broadcasters decide whether to broadcast in analog or digital and letting manufacturers decide whether to sell analog or digital? One side of the supply chain can't very well live without the other, so I'd be willing to bet they'd match their efforts all by themselves without the feddies grandstanding about it.


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