When Big Brother wants your 'stuff'
The city of Cooper City, Fla., has given itself the power to seize residents' personal property in times of emergency.
Officials deemed this new law necessary because of what is expected to be a busy hurricane season.
But don't worry, they say. The law would never be enforced unless there were no other options – presumably meaning that the city could not persuade private citizens to permit the government to borrow, rent or buy their equipment.
Think of it as eminent domain for generators, power tools, trucks and anything else local czars determine they need.
Not surprisingly, this plan has met with some resistance.
''These people, with their mindset, should be arrested and put in jail for even attempting to do something like this,'' said Tim Wilder, a mobile mechanic who owns emergency tools and equipment.
While Commissioner Elliot Kleiman acknowledged that such a law is subject to abuse, he explained, ''but it's not going to happen here.''
Wouldn't that make you feel better?
You see, tyrants and dictators always believe they will be benevolent – that they would do the right thing in all circumstances. Few people run for office or seek power believing they cannot be trusted. They almost all trust themselves.
However, if we could trust people in power, we wouldn't need the safeguards we have in America to keep them in check, to limit their authority, to restrict their actions, to maintain the rule of law rather than the rule of men.
What's happening in Cooper City is not unusual. Unfortunately it is happening all over the country. It's happening in local governments. It's happening n state governments. And it's happening at the federal level.
That's why this is worth talking about – worth thinking about, worth praying about and worth fighting with all of our American resolve for independence and liberty and individual freedom.
It's easy for government to respect civil rights in the best of times. The challenge is for government to respect them in the worst of times. And few rights are as foundational as property rights.
That's why I agree with Mr. Wilder. That's the theory behind our rights. But what about the pragmatic implications of seizure laws like this? Are they really effective? Or are they, in fact, counterproductive to saving lives and property in times of emergency?
Think about this.
The best emergency scenario is that people themselves are prepared. Even the most well-equipped, efficient, resourceful and powerful government in the world can't take care of everyone's needs in an emergency.
Does a law like the one approved in Cooper City encourage people to prepare for emergencies? Or does it discourage them?
Most of the adamant objections to the law come from people who are prepared – people who make preparedness a way of life, people who even make a living investing in and operating emergency equipment.
Are these not the very people we need during times of emergency? Isn't it better to encourage people to do just what these folks are doing? Isn't it better for all concerned if we don't discourage people from making those investments and maintaining those businesses? Would any city or state want to drive these people out of their jurisdictions by raising fears of confiscation of their property and livelihoods?
Furthermore, why would other private citizens knowingly invest their own dollars and cents in preparing when city officials are giving them the impression that their neighbor's equipment will be seized by government to rescue them?
It's just one more example of a law that makes people more dependent on government – never a good idea in times of emergency.
You want to hear the real kicker? The Cooper City law, as with so many others like it, would allow officials to prohibit possession of firearms in times of emergency and close any public gathering place.
There go the First and Second Amendments as well as the Third, Fourth and Fifth in one fell swoop.
Is there any point in owning anything any more? Or, maybe a better question would be: Does anyone, besides government, really own anything any more?