Wednesday 19 August 2015

Knowle relocation project: expropriation & eminent domain >>> "The principle that there is a public realm of common citizenship and essential public goods and space which ought not to be appropriated for private benefit."

There is the current legal case over the application to declare the parkland of Knowle as an Asset of Community Value:
Knowle latest: Lawyer recommended by SAVE instructed to challenge EDDC | Save Our Sidmouth
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: crowd-funding campaign launched >>> legal challenge to rejection of application to list Knowle park as an Asset of Community Value
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: an application to list Knowle park as an Asset of Community Value: rejected by District Council

And there is the related controversy over the District Council's appropriation of part of the parkland:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: Legal notice for 'Disposal' and 'Appropriation' of Open Space: reminder from SOS: Deadline for comments >>> Friday 20th February

There have been several articles of late from many different perspectives on the rights and wrongs of appropriating/expropriating land and compulsory purchase/eminent domain:

Eminent Domain for Private Gain Is Terrible and Cruel — Even When It “Works”
Despite a "success" story, eminent domain for economic development is a bad policy

GEORGE C. LEEF Tuesday, August 18 2015

Ilya Somin’s excellent new book The Grasping Hand on the infamous case of Kelo v. New London recently drew a negative response from a professor who defends the use of eminent domain for “economic development.” In his letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, Wayne State University professor John Mogk took issue with Somin’s book and with Ed Glaeser’s favorable WSJ review. Mogk claims that they did not adequately weigh what he regards as a successful use of eminent domain to promote economic growth in Poletown, Detroit.

Here are three reasons for believing that he is mistaken.

First, as a policy matter, we either give the green light to property seizures for any “public purpose” conceived by politicians, or we prohibit them and limit eminent domain just to seizures for a clear public use. (That’s the language in the Constitution.) We cannot have a rule that says, “Eminent domain may be used for economic development plans, but only when it actually produces net benefits.” No one can know ahead of time whether a plan will “work” (which is to say, produce at least some of the promised gains) or utterly fail. A
nd neither should we allow property seizures whenever authorities want to, just because those seizures sometimes have “good results.”

Third, all that these economic development eminent domain takings can ever do is to redistribute where economic activity takes place. It cannot create any overall gain. Instead of proving that eminent domain can be a good economic development tool, the Poletown example is just another illustration of Bastiat’s broken window fallacy. Demolishing Poletown to build a new auto factory brought about visible benefits for some people, but only at the expense of benefits for others that would have otherwise occurred.

No, not every eminent domain seizure for economic development purposes is as pointless and utterly destructive as Kelo, but we still ought to stick with this rule: Government should protect property rights, not violate them.

Eminent Domain for Private Gain Is Terrible and Cruel — Even When It “Works” | Foundation for Economic Education
Abuse of Power: How Government Misuses Eminent Domain | Foundation for Economic Education

The Expropriation Continues
Kevin Carson | August 13th, 2015

Contrary to mainstream classical political economy, which treated the “original accumulation of capital” as the result of thrift, saving and reinvestment on the part of the capitalist, Marx argued in the first volume of Capital that capitalism — as opposed to simple market exchange — was founded on the separation of the peasantry from their customary property rights in the land and their transformation into a propertyless working class. The history of their dispossession, he wrote, “was written in letters of blood and fire.” Marx’s account included the enclosure of the European open fields in late medieval times, the Parliamentary Enclosure of common pasture and waste, as well as the enslavement of much of the population of the colonial world and the nullification of customary land rights (for example Hastings’s “Permanent Settlement” in Bengal). But as Danielle Nierenberg reminds us (“The Land Battle: 15 Organizations Defending Land Rights,” Food Tank, July 29), this robbery isn’t just a matter of history. It continues right up to the present day.

Of course it’s obvious that the theft of Third World land and natural resources continued long after Marx’s day. When Marx wrote his brief survey of primitive accumulation, the colonial division of the interior of Africa had not yet even begun. As just one example of that robbery, the native population was driven off the most fertile fifth of the land in the highlands of British East Africa and the land was given to settlers for cash crop production, and the colonial authorities imposed a poll tax on the evicted peasantry to compel them to earn wages working their own stolen land. Under neocolonialism, much of the mineral wealth of Africa and the rest of the developing world remains in the hands of the heirs and assigns of the Western capitalists who looted it in the first place. In the 20th century, a major part of U.S. foreign policy was invading or overthrowing any government that tried to restore these stolen land and minerals to their rightful owners. In Latin America, the United States trained and funded death squads or installed military dictatorships in most countries in order to protect the hacienda system there.

But it’s going on right now, too. According to the Food Tank article mentioned above, some 130 million hectares of land (or 500,000 square miles) in the developing world has been bought by foreign investors over the past fifteen years, most of it to produce cash crops for export and a great deal of it involving the dispossession of people previously cultivating it to feed themselves. For example, the Prosavala land grab in Mozambique will evict 500,000 people.

And some of it is promoted by self-described “progressives” like the folks at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For example, the gigantic Kilombero rice plantation in Tanzania, a corporate undertaking which takes up 20% of the Kilombero Valley, celebrated as a “model investment project” by the Gates Foundation and USAID, forced evicted peasants to choose between either $6 per acre (compared to $17/acre promised) or a maximum of three acres of far less fertile land elsewhere.

Of course this should come as no surprise. What’s variously called “cognitive,” “progressive” or “green capitalism,” celebrated in Paul Romer’s “New Growth Theory” and heavily promoted by the Gateses, Warren Buffett, and faux-left carpetbaggers like Bono, amounts to a scheme to give capitalism a new lease on life by enclosing new technologies of abundance for rent through “intellectual property” rather than socializing their benefits through competitive markets and commons-based peer production. So it’s only logical for those greenwashed parasites to move on to literally, physically enclosing land just like the gentry of England 250 years ago.

What it comes down to is that enormous fortunes are made, not by producing things, but by controlling the circumstances under which other people are allowed to make things. Henry George, Jr. described it as “controlling access to natural opportunities.” But it basically boils down to enclosure of one kind or another and the extraction of rent. And they can’t do it without government to enforce their patents and land titles. It’s time to smash the state, and with it the parasitic capitalists it serves.

Center for a Stateless Society » The Expropriation Continues
Center for a Stateless Society » enclosures

Rule Britannia

Today’s parallel with feudal 1215 is the absolute dominance of a “collective monarchy”, combining the power not merely of the Westminster state but also of the corporate and financial institutions and their elites.

This is a critical moment for democracy in this country. We are in the midst of a structural, political and moral crisis - and an election campaign conducted under an obsolete and dysfunctional electoral system, unable to reflect the results of the multi-party country we have become, now expressed differently in the four parts of the United Kingdom.

Unlock Democracy is facilitating a debate, appropriately during the anniversary year of the Magna Carta, launched by the following statement which measures the quality of governance, the subjection of the executive to the rule of law and the protection of human rights against three key principles deriving from Magna Carta.

The authors hope this will help to lay the groundwork for a reformed state under a written constitution fit for the new digital era. Unlock Democracy welcomes further contributions to that debate to shape our thinking as we draw up a post-election declaration of intent.

Celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta is under way in this country. The Prime Minister wishes to use the anniversary of the Great Charter, the short-lived constitutional settlement that the English barons imposed on King John in 1215, as an opportunity for every child to learn about “the foundation of all our laws and values”.

Magna Carta was and remains important because the barons forced King John to acknowledge that his rule was limited by the principles of the Charter, making him subject to the rule of law and guaranteeing rights to both the barons and his free subjects.

Among these rights were the right to freedom of the person and security of possessions, subject to trial by a jury of peers (i.e., equals) according to the law and without interference from the monarch. The Charter also guaranteed the ancient liberties of the City of London and other cities, boroughs and towns. Most controversially, the Charter spelled out the penalties to be applied if the monarch infringed these limits. Early in its life, in 1217, the Magna Carta was complemented by the Charter of the Forest which re-established the principle that the ever-expanding lands appropriated as royal forest could not serve the exclusive use of the monarch, but remained available to all freemen for foraging and animal grazing, thus ensuring their economic livelihoods.

We must approach the idea of “celebrating” the Magna Carta with caution. The Charter has given rise to much bad history; and there is a danger that the substantial principles to which it has given rise will be swamped by a celebration that encourages a complacent belief in the uniquely British, or English, aptitude for democracy and freedom and their centuries’ old continuity and progress through our history. We are assured that the rule of law has run almost continuously since 1215. The recent Conservative Party document that seeks to justify a breach with the European Court of Human Rights hymns Britain’s,

‘long history of protecting human rights at home and standing up for those values abroad. From Magna Carta in 1215 to the Bill of Rights and the Claim of Right in 1689 and over centuries through our Common Law tradition . . .’

Magna Carta was of course written by barons for barons: that is, by rich and influential feudal land-owners in their own interests. However, it was a settlement that has subsequently been elevated and built on to inspire a never-ending struggle to bring king or government to account and establish the rule of law and human rights. Far from being a continuous process, this struggle has been half won and lost and half won again several times over, and has cost much bloodshed and injustice along the way. The Magna Carta has been a significant moral and legal foundation for a struggle that is far from over.

Unlock Democracy believes that we should reject self-congratulatory celebration this year and use the old charter to hold our democracy up for inspection. The anniversary should be the occasion for deliberative and informed public debate on the principles that have built on the Charter and the earlier tradition that inspired it; on close examination of our constitutional and political framework in 2015; and on how far this framework falls short of achieving the basic principles that derive from the barons’ revolt. Let us then not “celebrate” Magna Carta – let’s take the opportunity of the occasion to issue a rallying call for constitutional and political renewal and the advance of laws and values that give us, as citizens not subjects, freedom under the law and democratic governance.

There are three key principles embodied by the Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest which are still valid today:
1. The principle that the executive should be subject to the rule of law, and accountable to Parliament and the people;
2. The principle that there should be basic rights for all, protected from government intrusion and erosion and limited only by due legal process; and
3. The principle that there is a public realm of common citizenship and essential public goods and space which ought not to be appropriated for private benefit.

In our view, each of these principles has been put under threat by successive governments and external forces, as we shall show. Like the barons, we list a number of concerns and “grievances” which could provide the basis for a new Charter of Modern Democracy, fit for people in the twenty-first century.

Rule Britannia | openDemocracy

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