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  • Author: Gregory Zuckerman
  • Publication Date: 04-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, the second book by Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman, tells the story of the development, over the past several decades, of the amazing technology by which oil and gas have been made to flow from previously unyielding stone, in quantities tallied in the hundreds of billions of barrels and trillions of cubic feet. Zuckerman's complex narrative crisscrosses the country to Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and the badlands of Montana and the Dakotas. The book is the result of (among other things) more than a hundred hours of interviews with those whose story it tells; Zuckerman often uses the perspective gained from these firsthand accounts to give the story a fly-on-the-boardroom-wall feel.
  • Topic: Development
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The thing I most admire about Objectivism is its uncompromising affirmation of life. No other philosophy I have encountered consistently holds thriving human existence as its chief value. I was therefore disappointed to read Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong's argument for an alleged right to terminate the life of the unborn (“The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties,” TOS, Winter 2011–2012).
  • Topic: Development
  • Author: Frederick Seiler
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries was a defining moment in the history of Western Civilization. Modern science and the scientific method were born; the rate of scientific discovery exploded; giants such as Copernicus, Vesalius, Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, Newton, and countless lesser figures unlocked world-changing secrets of the universe. It has often been observed that such a revolution occurred only once in human history, and in one particular culture: the predominantly Christian culture of early-modern Europe. This observation gives rise to several questions: What role, if any, did Christianity play in the birth of modern science? Did faith give rise to science? Did a mixture of faith and reason give rise to it? Was Christianity somehow responsible—perhaps even necessary—for the rise of modern science, as some historians have argued? In short, what, if anything, does religion have to do with the Scientific Revolution? As long as science has existed, religionists have been attempting to reconcile religion and science. Recently, a new breed of scholars has asserted that religion itself—in particular Christianity—actually caused the birth of science. What are the facts of the matter? Toward answering that question, let us first review some earlier and relevant historical developments; then we will turn to relevant highlights of the Scientific Revolution itself. Science was born in ancient Greece among the pre-Socratics, who were the first to look for natural explanations of the world around them. Thales's claim that everything is made of water is significant because it assumes that the fundamental building block of the world is a natural substance. Embracing this naturalistic outlook, the Greeks of the classical and Hellenistic eras made important advances in astronomy, geometry, medicine, and biology—and established the fields of history, drama, political theory, and philosophy. Philosophy was especially important. Plato and Aristotle—the philosophical giants of Greece—created two dramatically different philosophical systems, especially in terms of their metaphysics and epistemologies. Plato, in exception to the general Greek attitude, proposed that the world we experience is not fully real. He maintained that the individual physical objects we see are imperfect, corrupted reflections of those in a higher reality. Plato called this higher dimension the world of the Forms and held that knowledge of this realm can be reached only via intuition. Although Plato revered mathematics, he did so for its alleged ability to train the mind to receive the Forms rather than as a means of gaining understanding of the physical world. Plato had little interest in studying this world.
  • Topic: Development
  • Political Geography: Europe, Greece
  • Author: Ari Armstrong
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Robert Zubrin, prolific author and president of Pioneer Astronautics and the Mars Society, most recently wrote Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism (Encounter Books, 2012). I recently interviewed Mr. Zubrin about his latest book and his other projects. Although I disagree with some of Mr. Zubrin's conclusions, I greatly appreciate his exposé of the antihumanist movement and his work toward the exploration and development of space.
  • Topic: Development, Environment
  • Author: Gretchen Thomas
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: “Invent your own job; take such an interest in it that you eat, sleep, dream, walk, talk, and live nothing but your work until you succeed.”1 That was Walt Disney's motto—and exactly how he lived. Passionate about his vision, he persisted until he made it reality, often overcoming seemingly impassible obstacles. In order to succeed in building his entertainment empire, and later his first theme park, Disneyland, Disney made his work his life, an all-consuming, 24/7 state of being. Even in the last years of his life, he ate, slept, dreamed, walked, talked, and lived nothing but his work—but by then his focus had shifted from filmmaking and Disneyland to Walt Disney World. According to Disney, Walt Disney World was “the most exciting and challenging assignment . . . ever tackled at Walt Disney Productions.”2 However, the Walt Disney World we know today is a far cry from what Disney himself had envisioned. Walt Disney did not intend it to be the world's largest vacation resort but rather the epicenter of a transformation in urban planning, which would improve domestic living by imbuing it with groundbreaking technology. The heart of Walt Disney World was to be EPCOT, not the theme park that currently bears that name but an actual Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, a futuristic city that would serve as a proving ground for the latest science and technology. EPCOT was Disney's pet project in his later years. Sadly, he passed away before it was completed, and without his passion and persistence, the futuristic city he had envisioned would not come to be. His vision and tenacity, nevertheless, are remarkable in themselves. Long before tackling the EPCOT project, Disney persisted in the face of many setbacks and stumbles, some of which threatened to leave him homeless and hungry. Although he did everything he could to save them, Disney's first two animation studios failed. His third studio, formed with his brother, Roy, after the two moved to California, finally saw success with its popular animated character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Unfortunately, in the face of this success, Disney discovered that the rights to his creation were actually held by Universal. Forging ahead, he strode past this disappointment by creating Mickey Mouse, who became far more popular with moviegoers than his predecessor and brought the studio much recognition and wealth. Even after Mickey Mouse had become a regular on the silver screen, however, Disney was eager to innovate again. In his eyes, his production studio needed a “new adventure,” a “'kick in the pants,' to jar loose some new enthusiasm and inspiration.”3 In 1934, Disney began developing the studio's first full-length feature animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Despite his own enthusiasm, however, many friends and associates, including his brother and wife, thought the film would destroy the Disney Studio. Indeed, financial troubles nearly halted production. But Disney refused to give up, mortgaging his house and taking out a loan to complete the film—which became one of the most popular films of 1937 (and, adjusted for inflation, is number ten on the list of top-grossing American films), establishing him as a master in the entertainment industry. Such persistence and passion would be crucial to the development and creation of EPCOT, which, as Disney conceived it, became a monumental undertaking. He envisioned EPCOT as a revolution in urban planning, “a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems.”4 It was to be a completely functioning prototype city in which captains of industry could test their solutions for the problems of modern-day city living. For this reason, all residents would rent rather than own their homes, and Disney Corporation would constantly update, change, and test the technology therein. As Disney indicated in a 1966 promotional film, residents' homes would “be built in ways that permit ease of change so that new products may continuously be demonstrated.”5 During the workday, residents would enjoy a city geared toward maximizing their efficiency and productivity. Outside of work, EPCOT would provide them with a safe, convenient, entertaining, and educational atmosphere. . . .
  • Topic: Development
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: C.A. Wolski
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Although Ayn Rand published her epic novel Atlas Shrugged fifty-four years ago, and although it has consistently sold hundreds of thousands of copies annually, Rand's magnum opus has spent decades mired in Hollywood “development hell.” Numerous producers, stars, screenwriters, and film production companies have endeavored but failed to execute a film version (see: “Atlas Shrugged's Long Journey to the Silver Screen,” p. 35). All the while, fans of the novel have anxiously waited for the day when they could watch the story come to life on the silver screen. That day is finally here. Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the first in a planned trilogy, should, for the most part, please the novel's patient fans. Fortuitously following a blueprint similar to one outlined by Rand in the 1970s (see “Adapting Atlas: Ayn Rand's own Approach,” p. 38), the film covers the first third of the story. Like the novel, the movie focuses on Dagny Taggart as she endeavors to save her struggling railroad from both intrusive government regulations and the mysterious John Galt, who is hastening the nation's collapse by causing the great entrepreneurs and thinkers of the country to disappear. She is aided in her efforts by Henry “Hank” Rearden, a steel magnate who is also being squeezed by government regulations and is anxious to put an end to John Galt's activities. Those familiar with the novel know generally what to expect: the disappearance of more and more industrialists and other great producers, the banning of Rearden Metal, the “Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule,” the initial run of the John Galt Line, and finally Wyatt's Torch and the collapse of Colorado.
  • Topic: Development, Government
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East, Colorado
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Gary Johnson currently campaigns as a candidate for U.S. president with the same outspoken fidelity to free markets, limited government, and fiscal responsibility that guided his two terms as governor of New Mexico. Aside from making headlines earlier this year with his strong opposition to an antihomosexual Republican-circulated marriage pledge, which he called “offensive” and “un-American,” he has been neglected by the mainstream press and has been excluded from several televised debates. He presses on in a struggle from which higher-polling candidates have already dropped out. Johnson started a one-man handyman company in 1976 and over the next two decades developed it to employing one thousand people. Against the odds, he launched his campaign for governor in 1994 and carried his win to a second term, a governorship marked by his stand for “freedom across the board.” During his eight years in office, his main focus was responsible management of the government pocketbook, and he earned the nickname “Governor Veto” by vetoing more bills than the other forty-nine governors combined. He cut twelve hundred state job positions, cut taxes, reformed Medicaid, promoted school vouchers, privatized prisons, and helped eliminate the state's budget deficit. An unconventional Republican, he supports the right to abortion, the legalization of marijuana, and legal equality for homosexuals. Today he retains popularity among New Mexico's voters. Goal-driven, independent, and with a zest for life, he has competed in multiple Ironman Triathlons, summited Mt. Everest, and personally built his current home in Taos, New Mexico. He's a divorced father of two and lives with his fiancée. I spoke with him just before his strong campaign push in New Hampshire at the end of August. —David Baucom David Baucom: Thank you for speaking with me, Governor Johnson. Gary Johnson: Absolutely. DB: With the decline of the U.S. economy and the emergence of the Tea Party movement, people in America are finally asking questions to the effect of, What is the proper role of government? As a candidate for president of the United States, what do you regard as the proper purpose of government? GJ: The proper purpose of government would be to protect you and me against individuals, groups, corporations that would do us harm, whether that's from a property perspective or physical harm. And that would also apply to other countries. DB: Relating to that, how would you define “rights,” and where would you draw the line for what individuals can properly claim as a right? GJ: You know, my definition of it, I guess, is the whole notion that we have too many laws. And that when it comes to rights, that they really have a basis in common sense, that they really have a basis in natural law, if you will. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. That government gets way, way, way too involved in trying to define that, as opposed to you and me working that out. DB: President Obama calls for “sacrifice” from everyone, but especially from “rich” individuals and corporations, whose taxes he wants to raise. You've said you don't think raising taxes on the rich is the way to deal with the financial crisis. As president, what would be your solution to the crisis? GJ: Well, I'm advocating the FairTax. I think we should scrap the entire tax system that we have and replace it with the FairTax. I'm talking about FairTax.org, for those who aren't aware of this proposal that I think has been around now for about ten years. By all free market economists' reckoning, it is what it is: it's fair, and it simplifies the existing tax system. So, by “simplify [the] existing tax system,” it abolishes the IRS and does away with all existing federal taxes: income tax, Social Security withholding, Medicare withholding, unemployment insurance, business-to-business tax, corporate tax. Replacing the current system would be a one-time federal consumption tax of 23 percent, which is meant to be revenue neutral, so we would still need to cut our spending by 43 percent, believing that part of revitalizing this country is balancing the federal budget and replacing it with the FairTax. . . .
  • Topic: Development
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Loribeth Kowalski
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: Cato Institute, 2010. 376 pp. $25.95 (hardcover). Reviewed by Loribeth Kowalski Parents in America typically tell their children that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, and children tend to believe it and explore the countless possibilities. I recall my own childhood aspirations: imagining myself as an archaeologist, wearing a khaki hat and digging in the desert sun; as a veterinarian, talking to the animals like Dr. Doolittle; as a writer, alone at my desk, fingers poised over a typewriter keyboard. Recently I found an old note in a drawer. It said, “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. I want to save people. When I grow up, I WILL be a doctor.” Underneath my signature I had written “age 10.” Unfortunately, in today's America, a child cannot be whatever he wants to be. Leave aside for the time being the difficulties involved in entering a profession such as medicine. Consider the more man-on-the-street jobs through which millions of Americans seek to earn a living, support their families, and better themselves. Suppose a person wants to drive a taxi in New York City. To do so, he will first have to come up with a million dollars to buy a “medallion.” If he wants to create and sell flower arrangements, and lives in Louisiana, he'll have to pass a “highly subjective, State-mandated licensing exam.” If he wants to sell tacos or the like from a “food truck,” and lives in Chicago, he had better keep his business away from competing restaurants, or else face a ticket and fine. And a child doesn't have to wait until he's an adult to directly experience such limitations on his freedom. Last summer, authorities in various states shut down children's lemonade stands because they didn't have vending permits or meet other local regulations. In today's America, it is increasingly difficult to enter various professions, near impossible to enter some, and, whatever one's profession, it is likely saddled with regulations that severely limit the ways in which one can produce and trade. Timothy Sandefur explores and explains these developments in The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law. Sandefur addresses this subject in the most comprehensive manner I've seen, surveying the history of economic liberty from 17th-century England through the Progressive era in America and up to the present day. He shows how the freedom to earn a living has been eroded in multiple ways throughout the legal system, from unreasonable rules, to licensing schemes, to limitations on advertising, to restrictions on contracts. In The Right to Earn a Living, we see how these and other factors combine to create a system in which it is more and more difficult to support oneself and one's family in the manner one chooses.
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: New York, America
  • Author: Monica Hughes
  • Publication Date: 06-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: The most important and most overlooked energy issue today is the growing crisis of global energy supply. Cheap, industrial-scale energy is essential to building, transporting, and operating everything we use, from refrigerators to Internet server farms to hospitals. It is desperately needed in the undeveloped world, where 1.6 billion people lack electricity, which contributes to untold suffering and death. And it is needed in ever-greater, more-affordable quantities in the industrialized world: Energy usage and standard of living are directly correlated. Every dollar added to the cost of energy is a dollar added to the cost of life. And if something does not change soon in the energy markets, the cost of life will become a lot higher. As demand increases in the newly industrializing world, led by China and India, supply stagnates -meaning rising prices as far as the eye can see. What is the solution? We just need the right government "energy plan," leading politicians, intellectuals, and businessmen tell us. Of course "planners" such as Barack Obama, John McCain, Al Gore, Thomas L. Friedman, T. Boone Pickens, and countless others favor different plans with different permutations and combinations of their favorite energy sources (solar, wind, biomass, ethanol, geothermal, occasionally nuclear and natural gas) and distribution networks (from decentralized home solar generators to a national centralized so-called smart grid). But each agrees that there must be a plan-that the government must lead the energy industry using its power to subsidize, mandate, inhibit, and prohibit. And each claims that his plan will lead to technological breakthroughs, more plentiful energy, and therefore a higher standard of living. Consider Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, who claims that if only we follow his "repower American plan"-which calls for the government to ban and replace all carbon-emitting energy (currently 80 percent of overall energy and almost 100 percent of fuel energy) in ten years-we would be using fuels that are not expensive, don't cause pollution and are abundantly available right here at home. . . . We have such fuels. Scientists have confirmed that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year. Tapping just a small portion of this solar energy could provide all of the electricity America uses. And enough wind power blows through the Midwest corridor every day to also meet 100 percent of US electricity demand. Geothermal energy, similarly, is capable of providing enormous supplies of electricity for America. . . . [W]e can start right now using solar power, wind power and geothermal power to make electricity for our homes and businesses. And Gore claims that, under his plan, our vehicles will run on "renewable sources that can give us the equivalent of $1 per gallon gasoline." Another revered thinker, Thomas L. Friedman, also speaks of the transformative power of government planning, in the form of a government-engineered "green economy." In a recent book, he enthusiastically quotes an investor who claims: "The green economy is poised to be the mother of all markets, the economic investment opportunity of a lifetime." Friedman calls for "a system that will stimulate massive amounts of innovation and deployment of abundant, clean, reliable, and cheap electrons." How? Friedman tells us that there are two ways to stimulate innovation-one is short-term and the other is long-term-and we need to be doing much more of both. . . . First, there is innovation that happens naturally by the massive deployment of technologies we already have [he stresses solar and wind]. . . . The way you stimulate this kind of innovation-which comes from learning more about what you already know and doing it better and cheaper-is by generous tax incentives, regulatory incentives, renewable energy mandates, and other market-shaping mechanisms that create durable demand for these existing clean power technologies. . . . And second, there is innovation that happens by way of eureka breakthroughs from someone's lab due to research and experimentation. The way you stimulate that is by increasing government-funded research. . . . The problem with such plans and claims: Politicians and their intellectual allies have been making and trying to implement them for decades-with nothing positive (and much negative) to show for it. For example, in the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter heralded his "comprehensive energy policy," claiming it would "develop permanent and reliable new energy sources." In particular, he (like many today) favored "solar energy, for which most of the technology is already available." All the technology needed, he said, "is some initiative to initiate the growth of a large new market in our country." Since then, the government has heavily subsidized solar, wind, and other favored "alternatives," and embarked on grand research initiatives to change our energy sources-claiming that new fossil fuel and nuclear development is unnecessary and undesirable. The result? Not one single, practical, scalable source of energy. Americans get a piddling 1.1 percent of their power from solar and wind sources, and only that much because of national and state laws subsidizing and mandating them. There have been no "eureka breakthroughs," despite many Friedmanesque schemes to induce them, including conveniently forgotten debacles such as government fusion projects, the Liquid Fast Metal Breeder Reactor Program, and the Synfuels Corporation. Many good books and articles have been written-though not enough, and not widely enough read-chronicling the failures of various government-sponsored energy plans, particularly those that sought to develop "alternative energies," over the past several decades. Unfortunately, the lesson that many take from this is that we must relinquish hope for dramatic breakthroughs, lower our sights, and learn to make do with the increasing scarcity of energy. But the past failures do not warrant cynicism about the future of energy; they warrant cynicism only about the future of energy under government planning. Indeed, history provides us ample grounds for optimism about the potential for a dynamic energy market with life-changing breakthroughs-because America once had exactly such a market. For most of the 1800s, an energy market existed unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes, a market devoid of government meddling. With every passing decade, consumers could buy cheaper, safer, and more convenient energy, thanks to continual breakthroughs in technology and efficiency-topped off by the discovery and mass availability of an alternative source of energy that, through its incredible cheapness and abundance, literally lengthened and improved the lives of nearly everyone in America and millions more around the world. That alternative energy was called petroleum. By studying the rise of oil, and the market in which it rose, we will see what a dynamic energy market looks like and what makes it possible. Many claim to want the "next oil"; to that end, what could be more important than understanding the conditions that gave rise to the first oil? Today, we know oil primarily as a source of energy for transportation. But oil first rose to prominence as a form of energy for a different purpose: illumination. For millennia, men had limited success overcoming the darkness of the night with man-made light. As a result, the day span for most was limited to the number of hours during which the sun shone-often fewer than ten in the winter. Even as late as the early 1800s, the quality and availability of artificial light was little better than it had been in Greek and Roman times-which is to say that men could choose between various grades of expensive lamp oils or candles made from animal fats. But all of this began to change in the 1820s. Americans found that lighting their homes was becoming increasingly affordable-so much so that by the mid-1860s, even poor, rural Americans could afford to brighten their homes, and therefore their lives, at night, adding hours of life to their every day. What made the difference? Individual freedom, which liberated individual ingenuity. The Enlightenment and its apex, the founding of the United States of America, marked the establishment of an unprecedented form of government, one established explicitly on the principle of individual rights. According to this principle, each individual has a right to live his own life solely according to the guidance of his own mind-including the crucial right to earn, acquire, use, and dispose of the physical property, the wealth, on which his survival depends. Enlightenment America, and to a large extent Enlightenment Europe, gave men unprecedented freedom in the intellectual and economic realms. Intellectually, individuals were free to experiment and theorize without restrictions by the state. This made possible an unprecedented expansion in scientific inquiry-including the development by Joseph Priestly and Antoine Lavoisier of modern chemistry, critical to future improvements in illumination.18 Economically, this freedom enabled individuals to put scientific discoveries and methods into wealth-creating practice, harnessing the world around them in new, profitable ways-from textile manufacturing to steelmaking to coal-fired steam engines to illuminants. . . .
  • Topic: Development
  • Political Geography: United States, America
  • Author: Eric Daniels
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Objective Standard
  • Institution: The Objective Standard
  • Abstract: On June 23, 2005, the United States Supreme Court's acquiescence in a municipal government's use of eminent domain to advance "economic development" goals sent shockwaves across the country. When the Court announced its decision in Kelo v. City of New London, average homeowners realized that their houses could be condemned, seized, and handed over to other private parties. They wanted to know what had gone wrong, why the Constitution and Fifth Amendment had failed to protect their property rights. The crux of the decision, and the source of so much indignation, was the majority opinion of Justice John Paul Stevens, which contended that "economic development" was such a "traditional and long accepted function of government" that it fell under the rubric of "public use." If a municipality or state determined, through a "carefully considered" planning process, that taking land from one owner and giving it to another would lead to increased tax revenue, job growth, and the revitalization of depressed urban areas, the Court would allow it. If the government had to condemn private homes to meet "the diverse and always evolving needs of society," Stevens wrote, so be it. The reaction to the Kelo decision was swift and widespread. Surveys showed that 80 to 90 percent of Americans opposed the decision. Politicians from both parties spoke out against it. Such strange bedfellows as Rush Limbaugh and Ralph Nader were united in their opposition to the Court's ruling. Legislatures in more than forty states proposed and most then passed eminent domain "reforms." In the 2006 elections, nearly one dozen states considered anti-Kelo ballot initiatives, and ten such measures passed. On the one-year anniversary of the decision, President Bush issued an executive order that barred federal agencies from using eminent domain to take property for economic development purposes (even though the primary use of eminent domain is by state and local agencies). The "backlash" against the Court's Kelo decision continues today by way of reform efforts in California and other states. Public outcry notwithstanding, the Kelo decision did not represent a substantial worsening of the state of property rights in America. Rather, the Kelo decision reaffirmed decades of precedent-precedent unfortunately rooted in the origins of the American system. Nor is eminent domain the only threat to property rights in America. Even if the federal and state governments abolished eminent domain tomorrow, property rights would still be insecure, because the cause of the problem is more fundamental than law or politics. In order to identify the fundamental cause of the property rights crisis, we must observe how the American legal and political system has treated property rights over the course of the past two centuries and take note of the ideas offered in support of their rulings and regulations. In so doing, we will see that the assault on property rights in America is the result of a long chain of historical precedent moored in widespread acceptance of a particular moral philosophy.Property, Principle, and Precedent In the Revolutionary era, America's Founding Fathers argued that respect for property rights formed the very foundation of good government. For instance, Arthur Lee, a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, wrote that "the right of property is the guardian of every other right, and to deprive a people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their liberty." In a 1792 essay on property published in the National Gazette, James Madison expressed the importance of property to the founding generation. "Government is instituted to protect property of every sort," he explained, "this being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own." Despite this prevalent attitude-along with the strong protections for property contained in the United States Constitution's contracts clause, ex post facto clause, and the prohibition of state interference with currency-the founders accepted the idea that the power of eminent domain, the power to forcibly wrest property from private individuals, was a legitimate power of sovereignty resting in all governments. Although the founders held that the "despotic power" of eminent domain should be limited to taking property for "public use," and that the victims of such takings were due "just compensation," their acceptance of its legitimacy was the tip of a wedge. The principle that property rights are inalienable had been violated. If the government can properly take property for "public use," then property rights are not absolute, and the extent to which they can be violated depends on the meaning ascribed to "public use." From the earliest adjudication of eminent domain cases, it became clear that the term "public use" would cause problems. Although the founders intended eminent domain to be used only for public projects such as roads, 19th-century legislatures began using it to transfer property to private parties, such as mill and dam owners or canal and railroad companies, on the grounds that they were open to public use and provided wide public benefits. Add to this the fact that, during the New Deal, the Supreme Court explicitly endorsed the idea that property issues were to be determined not by reference to the principle of individual rights but by legislative majorities, and you have the foundation for all that followed. . . .
  • Topic: Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, America, London