Presented at the
Welcome A Look Over the Wall
Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights Foundation
Tenth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights
Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.
Albany, N.Y. - October 14, 2006
Welcome to our Tenth Annual National Conference on Private
Property Rights. A special welcome to you who have traveled to
hear our speakers and reunite with friends in the cause of freedom,
you who have traveled from Canada, Washington, D.C., Virginia,
New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and from all over New York
State. During the day, I'd like urge all of you to be sure to
meet the individuals in the audience, as well as the speakers,
because many local leaders and nationally recognized figures are
sitting quietly in the audience. It is inspiring to be in the
presence of all of you.
We have reached a milestoneten annual national conferences
on private property rights, and I wish to humbly thank you all.
Your devotion to the defense of private property rightsyour
creativity, your brilliance, your clear moral stance, your vision,
your steady tenacity, your generosity, your kindness, and your
sacrificehave made this day possible.
Our day would not have been possible without our steadfast
supporters. I'd like to publicly thank our generous official conference
co-sponsors: Building and Realty Institute of Westchester &
the Mid-Hudson Region, Civil Property Rights Associates, Communities
for a Great Northwest, Homeowners Against Rent Kontrols
(HARK), The National Center for Public Policy Research, New York
Farm Bureau, SUA News.com, and The JM Foundation.
Our theme today, "Private Property RightsThe Record
and the Vision" will be explored by prominent experts and
leaders in the arenas of property rights policy, western battles
to protect ranching, defense against abuse of eminent domain,
drawing the line against federal property rights infringements,
exposing surreptitious federal land use control and related financial
corruption, and confronting international efforts to reduce property
rights. You will see within every speech, whether it is Fred Grau
looking at the threat posed by invasive species regulation or
Prof. Gideon Kanner looking at eminent domain, that we'll have
unique opportunities to look at where we are, we've been, where
we should be going, to quote the title of Prof. Kanner's speech.
I'd like to take "A Look Over the Wall" as I welcome
Last Wednesday, The Wall Journal had some intriguing
articles about predicting the future. Warren Buffet got even wealthier
by investing big in reinsurance before the hurricane season. As
you know, insurance rates went up as a result of the risk demonstrated
by the devastating hurricane seasons our country has experienced
during recent years. Most people do not know that the large insurance
companies that carry their homeowners' insurance shift a large
proportion of their risk to international companies that reinsure
the risks of the ordinary insurance companies. So Warren Buffet
took a look into the future, and invested heavily in reinsurance,
and at the end of the hurricane season the payouts for hurricane
devastation were nil.
We are operating under a different principle than Mr. Buffet,
in that we are actually trying to influence the future, rather
than statistically analyzing our chances of winning. So here we
are, observing and experiencing to our detriment the infringements
on property rights:
- Wetlands restrictions that make it impossible to use
our land, but without compensation as with eminent domain.
- Preservation zoning that strips us of our property
rights, causing us to lose our investment or blocking us from
succeeding in business, again without compensation.
- State and federal agencies stripping our businesses bare
with impenetrable environmental regulation, so that the
business is driven into the ground.
- Cities and villages abusing eminent domain to destroy
our homes and businesses and transfer the property to wealthy
- Urban regulators infringing on the private property rights
of landlords, extracting their deserved profits, favored
investors unfairly competing by using tax subsidies, and
the system driving landlords out of business,
- Federal and state government designating our land as special
environmental or historic corridors, districts,
or reserves, funding countless agencies that work to strip
us of our rights, as well as establishing countless long trails
under surreptitious or overt federal auspices. Riverfront
land is especially being withdrawn from the private sector.
- Land trusts and overtly radical environmental organizations
working in concert with each other and local, state and federal
government to make our land worthless or destroy our businesses.
- Environmental groups and state agencies working over decadesthrough
regulation, land acquisition, and eradication of culture and
its evidenceto destroy local economies and cultures
so as to force rural people off their ancestral lands, while
an elite, often idle, population takes over. The federal government
owns one-third of the land in the United States. New York State
owns upwards of four million acres, in fee simple and conservation
- And illustrative of these infringements and the many other
areas where our private property rights are eroded, even our
abstract rights to the products of our mental creativity, our
copyrights and patents protected under the Constitution
are the object of skillful socialists and unobstructed greed.
To look over the wall, I asked where we should be when and
if our vision of the restoration of private property right were
to be fulfilled. The vision is simple, because much of the future
that I hope for existed in my own memory.
- Government could not regulate wetlands. If the wetland
were deemed worthy of preservation, the government would make
an offer and buy or condemn it for a park.
- Non-voluntary zoning would be declared illegal. Therefore
preservation zoning would have to be voluntary on the
part of every participating property owner. The Columbia River
Gorge Commission, Adirondack Park Agency, Long Island Pine Barrens
Commission, Lake Tahoe Regional Planning Authority, New Jersey
Pine Barrens Commission, New York State Greenway Communities
Council and like regional planning and zoning agencies would
- State and federal environmental regulation would be
vastly simplified, securely brought under control with time-restricted
application processes, and every step of the way of regulations
subjected to professional cost-benefit evaluation, focusing primarily
on public health and clear parameters such as air and water pollution.
The failed endangered species law would be repealed and voluntary
conservation geared to species recovery substituted. Environment
government would be reduced to less than one-tenth its current
size. In addition, audits of personal assets of powerful government
officials would ferret out complex trails of income so that environmental
regulation would not be a tool to eliminate competitors. .
- Eminent domain would be prohibited for any but true
public purposes such as highways, schools, parks, and the like,
and for government-sanctioned utilities. No exceptions for any
definition of "blight" would be allowed for condemnation
of private property for the intention of transferring the property
to private parties or for building public housing.
- Urban landlords would be freed from rent control and
many tenant protections, except those related to normal contract
relations and health and safety. Urban life would be enhanced
by the flourishing of residential construction within a free
market. Government would not subsidize housing. State and federal
stings would clean up the bribe system, which would also significantly
lower rental and homeowner construction costs.
- The federal and state government would cease designating
historic sites, stop designating and funding heritage
corridors and would stop establishing long trails
and converting rails to trails. Government biking and
hiking trails would be confined to parks. Eminent domain would
not be used for trails.
- Real estate tax benefits and IRS policies that benefit land
trusts would be eliminated. Where government funds are accepted
their books would be entirely subject to freedom of information
law. Government would cease to bestow grants on land trusts or
private non-profit organizations. Government would not
contract environmental services selectively to non-profit organizations.
All government-contracted environmental services would instead
be openly and competitively bid. Government agencies would advertise
all meetings with environmental groups and open them to the public.
Restrictions would be enforced on the revolving door between
the environmental non-profits and government agencies.
- Federal and state government would not acquire land from
the private sector for preservation. No new national parks and
like administrative units of the National Park Service would
be acquired. Private sector valuations of resources on federal
and state lands would be invited and, with the exception of certain
lands such as certain parks, lands would be subjected to resource-based
industry and sustainable forestry. Existing inholders in federal
parks would be protected as private owners, and the federal government
would lose its power of eminent domain to build parks. Much federally
owned and state-owned land would be sold to the private sector.
The prejudicial designation of government-owned land for select
recreation would be reformed, so that not only hiking, skiing
and canoeing, but also four-wheel drive, ATV and snowmobile use
would be provided with special trails, and ordinary families
and non-athletic people would be able to access natural lands
by four-wheel drive pickups, cars and small campers. Rural
communities would be restored as roads closed by the
state and federal government were opened, state and federal
land privatized, preservation zoning eliminated, endangered species
regulations repealed. Cemeteries and cultural sites on remaining
government-owned lands would be marked and protected, and access
- The U.S. Attorney General's Office would routinely enforce
valid patents and copyrights using criminal law, protecting
parties with limited financial resources. U.S. representatives
on international organizations and trade groups would protect
the interests of copyright and patent holders.
This vision will become reality when and if people rise from
their sheltered individual worlds and take government in hand,
when great masses of people rationally, morally, and consistently
participate in the process of government. This day will come when
times change. Now, for every thirty to forty people who e-mail
or telephone the Property Rights Foundation of America, perhaps
a single one will telephone or write the appropriate member of
the legislature. Few of these will continue on the trail of the
legislator until a satisfactory denouement is reached to the infringement
Our conference today brings to the forefront the directions
that must be taken. In this room are many people who have been
instrumental in great victories for private property rights. Some
of these changes took place through litigation. Some of us have
brought about changes on the local, state and federal government
level by educating, lobbying and organizing, also with both small
and major results. We in this room are experts in reaching the
public, organizing, lobbying, and litigating. But this speech
is not about how to get from here to there. After looking over
the wall, my conclusion is that, the way things are now, only
if the people of the United States join us will our movement see
the bets that we are placing reap dividends in our lifetimes.
If the people do join us, then property rights will flourish.
We will have a peaceful revolution. Then our vision will be glorious.
© 2006 Property Rights Foundation of America
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