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MD: Private Property Under Attack

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.

Daniel Bongino

Daniel Bongino began his career with the NYPD in 1995 as a Police Cadet while attending The City University of New York full time. During his tenure in the Cadet program, Daniel was a member of the distinguished pattern identification unit which specialized in the identification and apprehension of serial criminals. Daniel proudly joined the ranks of the U.S. Secret Service in 1999 as a Special Agent where he graduated the Secret Service training academy with honors. Beginning his career in the New York Field Office, he was assigned to investigate federal crimes, including but not limited to, computer crimes, bank fraud, credit card fraud, protective intelligence and counterfeiting. His early career was marked by a number of investigative successes. Although the details of his signature investigation are still for official use only, it involved over 300 million dollars in potential financial fraud and a nexus to international terrorism. This joint investigation in cooperation with the FBI, IRS, SSA and a number of local police agencies, was responsible for collapsing a major international fraud ring. The investigation earned Daniel the Department of Justice recognition award, along with other agency specific awards, for excellence in federal investigations. Daniel left the New York Field Office in 2002 to become an instructor at the Secret Service Training Academy in Beltsville, Maryland. He was the project manager for the re-design of the investigative tactics training program which he subsequently taught to incoming trainees. Daniel was awarded a number of commendations for his work in researching and re-designing the investigative curriculum to reflect current trends in federal crime. In 2006, Daniel entered into duty on the elite Presidential Protection Division in the administration of President George W. Bush, graduating at the top of his class in the difficult detail training program. Daniel distinguished himself early by becoming one of the earliest tenured Special Agents to be given responsibility for an operational section of the protective detail. Daniel remained on protective duty during the change in administration to President Barack Obama and again distinguished himself by quickly becoming the highest ranking member of his operational shift of agents. With this distinction came greater responsibility and Daniel quickly rose to the challenge. He was designated as the lead agent responsible for the coordination of the President’s trip to Prague for the signing of the START treaty, his visit to Jakarta, Indonesia, among a myriad of terror threats, and finally as the lead agent responsible for the President’s visit to an active war zone in Afghanistan. With the successful coordination of these historic events, Daniel was awarded a series of commendations and left the protective detail as one of the most distinguished agents in their history. Daniel transferred to the Baltimore Field Office in 2010 where he immediately made an impact on the community, breaking up one of the largest fraud rings in Maryland’s history.

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