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It has been said that capitalism is really not an “ism” at all, in the sense that words ending in “ism” typically describe a system of beliefs a person has or ideology. Capitalism is not a particular set of beliefs. Rather, it is a word used to singularly encompass the umbrella concept–defined by no one individual– of economic freedom, the freedom to exchange your labor for value, the freedom to have prices determined by a free market and the freedom to own private property. These three concepts can only be described as an ideology or belief system in the context of providing an ideological foil to failed ideologies such as socialism.
My home state of Maryland, a state currently dominated by a Democratic Party monopoly, holding super-majorities in both houses of the legislative branch and having elected only one Republican governor in the past forty years, has now become the focal point in an emerging debate regarding the previously assumed right to private property. The growing furor within the state centers on Maryland’s deceptively named “Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012” or Senate Bill 236, and its direct attack on the right to private property– a fight that may be arriving at your doorstep shortly.
Senate Bill 236 uses the Trojan Horse of septic systems to order Maryland’s counties to provide planning maps which place the county’s land in one of four different “Tiers.” The Tiers are broken down based on the availability of public sewer service to the land mass and there are corresponding restrictions placed on development of the land within each Tier. For example, areas currently served by public sewer service or areas where there are plans to extend sewer service are to be designated as Tier One and Tier Two respectively. Tier Three is designated for development, with restrictions on the number of homes which can be placed on septic systems within a lot, and Tier Four, which is the most restrictive designation, mandates conservation. Conflicts between the maps submitted by the counties and the state are to be resolved by the bureaucrats assigned to Maryland’s Department of Planning.
This legislation is government at its worst and is endemic of the recurrent, yet failed idea of central “planners.” The idea that elected politicians and bureaucrats have a unique subset of knowledge proprietary to them regarding your land, in order to determine when and where future development occurs under the guise of a “sustainability” initiative, devours another portion of your individual sovereignty in the zero-sum game of economic freedom.
Ironically, this concept poses the greatest economic threat to the very middle-class and lower-income citizens the Democratic Party frequently claims to champion. As an example of this hypocrisy, if you are one of the unlucky, rural homeowners who has their property placed in the restrictive Tier Four category by an official who you have never met and who has likely never seen your property, your property value will decrease without any just compensation by the state. This happens because the property value for Tier Four designated land will decrease as a matter of basic supply-and-demand economic principles. The demand side of the equation must decrease as the availability of potential buyers decreases, commensurate with the reduction in any potential buyer’s options for development. This reduction in the land’s value has the double-impact of harming not only land owners, but also the lower-income residents who are left with the responsibility of filling in the tax revenue hole created by the lower property valuations and their smaller associated tax bills. Further harming the lower and middle-income residents of Maryland’s counties is the artificially created supply shortage of property available for home construction. Reams of economic data conclusively indicate that increased restrictions on land use correspond directly to elevated home prices, pricing many middle and lower income residents out of the housing market.
Is private property private when public officials can confiscate significant portions of its value and return nothing to the landowner? If the value of private property becomes the purview of elitist boards of bureaucrats and politicians, then another piece of economic freedom has disappeared as the inevitability of corruption becomes manifest. It is only a matter of time before land developers become less concerned with providing quality housing and more concerned with providing quality campaign donations to ensure “their interests” are protected. Be on guard, this fight may be coming to a neighborhood near you.
Tags: conservation, Democratic Party, economic freedom, land owner, low-income, Maryland, private property, Senate Bill 236, Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, Tier 4
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