The Death of Rights

Francis Porretto wrote an essay a couple of days ago that included these pertinent quotes:

One of the strongest arguments for conservatism about the law — that is, for extreme caution in legal enactments, including the revision of laws by judicial pronouncement — is the Law of Unintended Consequences. A legal change that makes something permitted, compulsory, or prohibited cannot guarantee that the results will be desirable.

Property is one of the great binding threads of a free society. All freedom is founded on the institution of private property. No other right — not even the right to life — is safe if property rights are not respected. Yet the thread frays ever closer to breaking completely.

I ran across this story via The England Project a couple of days ago:

Homeowners would be forced to rent out properties that have stood empty for more than six months under proposals unveiled today.

Under an amendment to the housing bill, tabled by Labour backbencher David Kidney MP, councils would be able to take over such properties, restore them to a decent standard and rent them out at an affordable rate. The council could claim its costs back and give the rest to the owner.

Some 750,000 homes are standing empty in the UK at any one time. Mr Kidney’s plans would cover the 300,000 homes left unoccupied for more than six months. He claimed that the government was sympathetic to the plan.

There’s a lot more, but that’s the basics. So, what you see here is government considering passage of laws that violate property rights with no consideration for the Unintended Consequences.

Then today I found this piece by Tim Worstall, an expatriate Brit who happens to own one of those vacant properties back in England. Tim says:

Just had the local council inspecting my place in the UK as well. They’re insisting on various upgrades, some of which are not technically feasible without a complete redesign of the interior. For which I probably won’t be able to get listed buildings consent from the other side of the same council.

Two that really stand out. Interior walls must be 10 cm thick so as to be fireproof. Um, most of Bath is built with 4 inch ashlar : so they are actually proposing that internal walls should be thicker than external. Morons.

The one that really got me : after they serve an enforcement order it will be a criminal offense for me to provide less than 5,000 cm2 of work space in the kitchen. Seriously, a criminal offense.

I am, once again, reminded of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on the guilt. Now that’s the system!

Steven Den Beste asked a couple of questions a few days ago, concerning the continuing creep of the EU:

Can Europe avoid this nightmare? Do there exist people there who recognize the peril and who still are willing to work to prevent it?

I responded that certainly there were people who recognized the perils, but there weren’t enough of them to stop the process. This seems to me to be blindingly apparent. This latest violation of English property rights is but one more sad example of the death of rights that is spreading not only in Europe, but here as well, as our putative “servants” in government decide that they own everything – including us – and merely allow us to use it, so long as we pay our taxes and don’t violate their ever-changing rules.

No wonder they want to disarm us.

UPDATE: Ian Murray of The Edge of England’s Sword posts on the proposed legislation. The comments are interesting, too.

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