L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 77, June 19, 2000
What It Means
by Patrick L. Lilly
Special to TLE
Well, it was only a matter of time. Given the largely unobstructed progress of the insane drug war against the American people, and the spread of the many blatantly unconstitutional tactics and methods that said war has let police get away with, it's no surprise.
It's no surprise that the Colorado Springs Police Department, under the leadership of Los Angeles transplant Lorne Kramer (foolishly identified by Independent columnist John Hazlehurst in a recent Outsider column as the "best police chief" the city has ever had), has presented the city council with a proposed local ordinance to legalize their theft of real estate belonging to anyone in town who ticks them off. Now, the proposal is officially before the Colorado Springs City Council, and there's no assurance that they will reject it.
Somewhere around ten years ago, the government got the brilliant idea that they could do an end-run around the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (which forbids the taking of private property without compensation) by calling the arbitrary, forcible seizure of people's possessions a "civil" action, instead of a "criminal" one. And, since they chose, quite wisely, to direct this scheme first against people accused (not proved, mind you; just accused) of violating drug prohibition laws, the perfidious courts fell all over themselves to deliver rulings to the effect that this was somehow not in violation of the Constitution. Those of us who understood what was going on knew, right from the first, that this would only expand. If you have a better-than-average memory, you might remember that you were promised quite piously that this was not the case: that it was "only" the terrible "drug pushers" and the like who would have their property arbitrarily seized without due process.
But, of course, that was a bald-faced lie. Once the precedent was set, and the courts had given their approval to ignoring the Bill of Rights' clear prohibitions for one group, in any one sort of circumstance, it was only a matter of time before the convenience of not having to go through annoying due process proved too great a temptation, and it became the preferred enforcement technique for all laws and regulations, against everyone.
Now, our local occupying army has made that intention explicit. They no longer bother claiming that they only want a somehow isolated "exception" to the Bill of Rights. They merely assert, with unapologetic brashness, that this would be a convenient way to deal with a whole slew of people that they would very much like to "deal with." And they expect the City Council simply to roll over and give it to them. And, worse than that, there is absolutely no guarantee that the existing City Council won't do just that.
Unsurprisingly, since this threatens the property rights of a wide variety of people and groups, a wide variety of people and groups have already expressed some level of opposition to the proposal. Somewhat more surprisingly, however, virtually none of them can find the courage to oppose it on anything but utilitarian grounds. Apparently, they either just can't see that such policies are unconstitutional, or they are for some wholly inscrutable reason unwilling to make that the reason for their opposition.
The sad political fact is that a straightforward, unapologetic constitutional challenge is the only sort which really has any hope of succeeding. If the argument -- assuming that there even is any real argument -- over this dictatorial program is all centered on competing conveniences, you can bet your last red cent (you might as well anyway, since it won't be safe) that, after making some show of "considering all the facts," the Council indeed will duly roll over and hand the cops the keys to your house and the deed to the land upon which it sits.
This is just the latest in a "long train of abuses and usurpations" which ask, in increasingly louder tones, the rhetorical question: "Just how much are you going to sit back and put up with?"