Cal Trout editorial

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Speed’s arguments for land grab by state spurious, Trout says

It is not surprising that Mississippi Development Authority director, Leland Speed, is leading the charge against the will of the people of the State of Mississippi. In fact, given that he is a wealthy real estate developer and friends with Haley Barbour, his opposition is almost boring in its predictability. But it is dangerous just the same.

Without slipping too far into an ad hominem, it is important to understand that when a land developer of his caliber who is friendly with a governor who vetoed a unanimously-passed bill to protect the private property rights of all Mississippians, it places us all in danger. We are in danger of sacrificing our God-given right to own property without it being stolen for some reason, spurious or otherwise, the Big Money in the state deems more important than our private security against such tyranny.

With this in mind, his argument as it appeared in my local paper is not only unsound, should he prevail on such terms, no citizen would be secure in his place and in his person.

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The problem is not as he says, “that eminent domain allows government to seize private citizens’ land for no good reason.” It is that it allows government to seize private land at all, for any reason. Though it has long been accepted that seizures must be for public use and fair market value be given for the property, even this we begrudge, but understand. Yet, since the 2005 case of Kelo vs. New London nearly every state but ours has clarified their eminent domain laws to increase protection for the property of its citizens.

To expand the right to seize property to include taking it from one private entity and giving to another (as Kelo allowed) is unconscionable. Gov. Barbour, Speed and the turncoat politicians who changed their vote to uphold Barbour’s veto ought to be ashamed.     

Government has but one rightful duty and that is to protect the interests of the citizens it serves, with the highest premium being set on security of person and property. Taking a citizen’s land and giving it to another is an affront to the duty these men and women should hold dear.

Mr. Speed claims this has been done sparingly in the past, but as he well knows it is not the past Mississippians are concerned with. Since Kelo and without the needed clarification this initiative affords, the basic right of property ownership in the state faces a perilous future.

A future where a few politicians and developers get to decide what is the best use for every acre of land in the state is not a future at all. He suggests major economic initiatives for the “greater good” should be of more value than the right of any single individual to be secure in his property. This is a reversal of what Americans have held dear since the 18th century. It is the individual our Bill of Rights protects, not the masses, the majority, or for the sake of his argument, the wealthy.

For in the future who will decide how to define, “greater good?” The governor? Mr. Speed? The CEO of some foreign company? It is a reasoning too slicked over with corruption and tyranny to grab hold of. And we will not have it.

Finally, he says that without eminent domain the state would have never competed for Nissan, Toyota or the Stennis Space Center. And yet, he offers no proof for such an outlandish statement. Perhaps we are to trust him in this as we are to trust him in defining how it is to our benefit to have our land stolen.

I say outlandish because according the Secretary of State’s website, Mississippi owns 5,600 parcels of land under direct management of the executive branch. Of these they don’t even have a source of acreage for 2,600 parcels. Of the remaining 3,000 parcels of land the acreage is 298,690.703. All of this, plus literally more acres of land than they can even count, yet major economic initiatives don’t happen without their access to your land. Two hundred and ninety-eight thousand acres, yet they want the right to take yours if they think someone else can make more money on it than you.

At times the people must rise up and inflict their will upon the government not just to remind its members who serves whom, but in this case for the preservation of freedom. Mississippi simply will not suffer this level of needless theft.

(Editor’s note: Cal Trout is a former literature and composition teacher at South Panola who now writes and farms on his family farm in Charleston.)