Archive for the 'Property Rights' Category

Don’t Take Responsiblity, Take Money!

Posted by on Jul 11 2011 | Economics, Economy, Government Largess, PPC, Property Rights, Taxes

The Colorado Springs Gazette is about as solid on economic issues as a newspaper could ever get. With Wayne Laugesen at the helm of the editorial page, it’s no surprise. However, something must have slipped through the cracks over on the news side this weekend when reporter Emily Wilkins wrote on food stamps in the Springs. The article focuses on the fact that although many people are eligible for food stamps, only about 40% actually apply for them – despite our persistent unemployment and down economy. Great right? Well, not according to Emily Wilkins. Instead of praising folks for not going on the dole, she laments this fact. The article paints the picture that it’s unfortunate that many of the folks eligible for food stamps in the Springs are choosing to either hunker down, take responsibility, and work hard through this tough time or rely on private charity for help (or both). I happen to believe quite the opposite. Like Seth Richardson in this fantastic Broadside blog response, the nearly 60% who are not taking more money from taxpayers should be commended.

What’s more, the article espouses an egregious economic fallacy: that taking money from taxpayers and giving it to a select group of people to buy food promotes “job growth” and helps “economic development.” Worse still, the article goes on to explain that the unused dollars from the majority who do not apply for food stamps “translate into wasted dollars that would otherwise spur economic activity.”

Let me get this straight. The money that was not taken from taxpayers by force and transferred to people who did not earn it, sits idly and unused? The taxpayers who earned the money would have put it in their mattress? They would not have purchased anything with the money? They would not have invested it? But through the magic of government transfer, the money in the hands of the food stamp recipients creates “economic development?” So the government transfer itself creates growth? Is that it? I don’t understand because it makes no economic sense.

The next time Emily Wilkins wants to write anything on economics, she ought to ask at least one of the many economically literate people in the Springs. Her story offered no alternative perspective, just the pro-government transfer, economically devoid perspective. She could have asked her colleague Seth Richardson. Or the always venerable Sean Paige. Or even better, she could have consulted Colorado Springs’ resident economist Paul Prentice. Not only is Paul a senior fellow with us at Independence, he’s part of the faculty at the Mises Institute and co-founder of the Pikes Peak Economics Club. Perhaps those credentials were too lofty for such an article. Maybe next time she’ll contact someone with 5 less economics degrees than Paul Prentice. Like me.

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Kopel on the Right of Self-Defense

Posted by on Mar 30 2011 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, guns,, Kopelization, PPC, Property Rights, U.S. Constitution

My minion Justin Longo wonders whether, in the absence of our Constitution and thus our Second Amendment, how we could make a positive case for our human right of self-defense, which comes with it, our right to bear arms. In this podcast, Research Director Dave Kopel answers that question and provides some background in the origins of the wide consensus view that we do indeed have a human right of self-defense. Kopel also discusses how that right is extended to owning firearms, protecting our property, and protecting others who are unable to protect themselves from violence.

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Government Cheese

Posted by on Dec 06 2010 | Citizens' Budget, Economics, Economy, Government Largess, PPC, Property Rights

Not only will any economist worth their salt advise against it, our state constitution prohibits it: corporate welfare. It truly is the crown jewel of state granted political favors. It accomplishes two distinct ends simultaneously. First is the obvious direct payment (or tax break) to the private firm receiving the welfare. They enjoy the subsidy and the politicians enjoy the loyalty and the scratch on their future backs. Secondly, the voters mistakenly believe that the government just created something out of nothing. All of the sudden, a private firm offering new jobs shows up in town that wasn’t there the day before. Hooray! The government just made everyone better off right?


The truth is that corporate welfare is one of many exercises in the “broken window fallacy.” By only focusing on the seen (new jobs), the unseen lurks in the background, casting a giant shadow of costs (jobs unrealized, wealth stolen and transferred, diminished productivity, diminished standard of living). We hope that our Corporate Welfare section in our Citizens’ Budget shines a light on that nasty and costly shadow.

Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to read the Corporate Welfare section of our Citizens’ Budget, then apply the knowledge you learned the next time you read the newspaper or watch the news. Words that you used to accept at face value suddenly have new meaning: “incentive,” “stimulus,” “financial package,” “public-private partnership,” and so on. These terms are largely euphemisms for corporate welfare. They are just ways to transfer wealth from one part of the state to another – from one person to another. No new wealth is created. Indeed, the act of transferring the wealth dries some of it up. It’s like grating cheese – you’re always going to lose some of your cheese stuck in the holes.

We want our cheese, state legislators. All of it.

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Beware the Next RTD Rail Move

Posted by on Dec 03 2010 | PPC, Property Rights

The Independence Institute’s Property Rights Project applauds the Colorado Property Rights Coalition on its latest successful effort, a petition drive to educate Metro-area residents about serious concerns relating to a proposed RTD commuter rail station. PRP Director Jessica Corry (who also serves as special counsel to Hoban & Feola, LLC) represents CPRC and other members of the coalition. If you are interested in learning more about this effort, contact Jessica at To learn more about CPRC, visit

From the media advisory:



ADAMS COUNTY-A grassroots coalition of neighborhood groups and property rights advocates led by the Colorado Property Rights Coalition (CPRC), a H&F client, announced today that more than 1,000 people have signed onto a petition voicing opposition to the possible relocation of a proposed RTD commuter rail station (see copy of example petition attached).

Together with Concerned Citizens For Compatible Development, CPRC also announced today that its members have united to fight any reversal of a previous decision by County and transit officials to locate RTD’s Federal commuter rail station just east of the Federal Boulevard near West 60th Avenue on an industrial, blighted site.

Specifically at issue: Adams County officials, together with RTD, are now backtracking on their prior support for the above location, doing so in spite of a multi-year environmental and site-review process concluding that the site best met the needs of the local community.

Despite hundreds of hours of review involving multiple state and federal government agencies at a cost of millions to taxpayers, County officials are now reconsidering a site located approximately 1/4 mile to the west of Federal. Described by The Denver Post as “wooded and more pastoral, with Clear Creek and an accompanying bicycle and pedestrian trail,” the location had previously been rejected, in part, to its sensitive wetland topography and wildlife.

“With this petition, we’ve got more than 1,000 of us little guys standing up to a government we once trusted to be there for us as a community,” said CPRC President Tom Wambolt. “Our government pledged to listen to the people. While politicians listened, they must not have heard us over the loud voice of an out-of-state developer seeking to turn the west side into a series of high-density homes and businesses. Meanwhile, the east side – which has suffered from decades of neglect – once again stands to lose if not selected for the site.”

Petition backers plan to deliver the petition signatures to the County and RTD early next week.

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A small correction for Sandefur

Posted by on Oct 17 2010 | Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Due Process Clause Property Rights, Property Rights, supreme court, Uncategorized

(David Kopel)

Timothy Sandefur  produces important research on economic liberty. I’m pleased that the Independence Institute, where I work, recently hosted an event for him to promote his book. I’m also happy that he has become part of the team of Cato Institute writers, which I have been part of since 1988. As a contributing editor of Liberty, I have followed his writing since he was a law student. And of course I commend Eugene for inviting him to guest-blog for VC. However, one item in his blogging appears to me to be erroneous:

When talking about “substantive due process,” as I’ve been doing, one must address a number of myths about that theory that, sadly, are so common that many law students are never even taught what the theory even means.


Here is a good example: “the Supreme Court has never in its entire history tried to derive [substantive due process] from the text of the Constitution.” Nelson Lund & David B. Kopel, Unraveling Judicial Restraint: Guns, Abortion, and the Faux Conservatism of J. Harvie Wilkinson III, 25 J.L. & Pol’y 1, 3 (2009). Now, whether one accepts or rejects the idea of “substantive due process,” this claim is just false. The Supreme Court had repeatedly explained how substantive protections arise from the Constitution’s text.

The quote is not precisely accurate, and here, the lack of precision leads to a serious error. In the article that Sandefur cites, Nelson Lund and I were discussing and criticizing Roe v. Wade. After a quote from Roe about “the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty,” we then wrote: “This was presumably a reference to the doctrine of substantive due process, which the Supreme Court has never in its entire history tried to derive from the text of the Constitution.”

Our statement as actually written was accurate. Sandefur supplies no example to counter our statement that “the doctrine of substantive due process” (that is, of selective incorporation, unenumerated substantive rights such as those in Meyer v. Nebraska and Roe v. Wade, and so on) has never been the beneficiary of a Supreme Court attempt to derive it from the text of the Constitution.

Instead of showing a case where the Supreme Court did what we had said it did not do (explicate a textual basis for “the doctrine of substantive due process”), Sandefur instead supplies two quotes from Supreme Court cases that did something else.

The first quote, from Loan Ass’n v. Topeka (1874) is little more than an asserted conclusion, albeit one I happen to think is correct. The block quote from Hurtado v. California (1884) provides a litany of things that are not “due process of law”; such as bills of attainder, or special laws enacted to favor or harm a particular individual or group. The Hurtardo quote presents a common nineteenth century view of “due process of law,” with, at least arguably, hundreds of years of roots in American legal understandings. Some of the background of this thinking can be found in Frederick Mark Gedicks, An Originalist Defense of Substantive Due Process: Magna Carta, Higher-Law Constitutionalism, and the Fifth Amendment, 58 Emory L.J. 585 (2009) and James W. Ely, The Oxymoron Reconsidered: Myth and Reality in the Origins of Substantive Due Process, 16 Const. Comment. 315 (1999). Both authors trace the “due process of law” concept from Magna Carta’s “law of the land” provision, through Dr. Bonham’s Case (voiding a local monopoly on the practice of medicine) and its explication by Edward Coke, and to its understanding by the American colonists. This understanding (which might have been incorrect as a matter of English law) was adopted by the American Framers, and carried forward by antebellum state courts.

So yes, “due process of law,” in a textualist sense, can require judicial action against even laws which may have been enacted under proper procedures, such as special legislation (e.g., taking property from X to give it Y). And, quite obviously, this traditional view of “due process of law,” summarized in Hurtardo, has very little to do with “the doctrine of substantive due process.” The former, text-based view, condemns special legislation; yet you can’t use the modern Supreme Court’s “doctrine of substantive due process” to attack a congressional statute that was enacted for the obvious benefit of one corporation, whereas such a challenge might be plausible under the “due process of law” principle of Hurtardo.

In short, Nelson and I did not voice any objection to the principle of “due process of law” as briefly explicated in Hurtardo. Instead, we claimed that the Supreme Court’s doctrine of substantive due process (which is much more wide-ranging and dubious) has not been derived by the Court from the text of the Constitution. Hypothetically, it might have been possible to so derive at least some of the modern SDP decisions, but I suggest that the absence of any Supreme Court citations from Sandefur rebutting what we actually said is further support for our point.

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Interview with “MAD” Mom Amy Oliver

Posted by on Aug 06 2010 | Economics, Economy, Government Largess, PPC, Property Rights

Our Transparency Czarina Amy Oliver’s campaign to mobilize mothers to take action against our government’s massive deficit spending is well underway with her organization Mothers Against Debt (MAD). All moms should find it disturbing that each baby born today is over $43,000 in the hole before they can even say their first words. If we can’t get Moms “MAD” about that, then I’m not sure what will. (On second thought, leaving the toilet seat up might do the trick). Amanda Teresi, co-founder and president of Liberty on the Rocks, interviewed Amy a couple weeks ago on how Mothers Against Debt got started, how it’s going, and why it is important to get Moms on board. So if you’re a Mom, or know a Mom, watch this interview and get MAD!

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Policing for Profit: Prove Your Innocent!

Posted by on Jun 18 2010 | Civil Rights, Criminal Law, Drug Policy, Government Largess, Justice, PPC, Property Rights

Our friends at the libertarian litigation firm the Institute for Justice (IJ) are trying to fight the insane world of civil asset forfeiture laws. Where the police can take your property without arrest, without prosecution, and without much of a reason. Where you must prove that you are innocent while fighting the presumption of guilt. Talk about turning the justice system on its head! Take a look at how ridiculous this crazy world is in this new IJ video:

In their massive Policing for Profit report, IJ graded each state’s asset forfeiture laws, and how they protect citizen’s property. Unfortunately, only 3 states in the entire country received a grade of “B” or better, with Colorado getting a hard-earned “C.” Our Justice Policy Initiative Director Mike Krause wrote briefly about the report and Colorado’s asset forfeiture laws in this article.

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Same Show, Same Time, Different Name

Posted by on May 20 2010 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC, Property Rights, U.S. Constitution

There are lovers of the First Amendment on both sides of the argument when it comes to Net Neutrality. Decide who makes a better case: Barry Fagin of the Independence Institute or Tony Shawcross of the Open Media Foundation who argue over the intricacies of internet ownership and control. This under-the-radar, wonkish policy issue turns into passionate discussion concerning property, morality, and democracy. Don’t miss our first episode of Devil’s Advocate, still the same time as Independent Thinking, this Friday night at 8:30PM on KBDI Channel 12; repeated the following Monday afternoon at 1:00PM.

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What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

Posted by on Mar 23 2010 | Health Care, Property Rights

I help answer the perennial question now that Obama Care has been passed AND signed into law: What can we do to protect ourselves and our states from the monstrosity that is Obama Care?

Please take a listen to this quick 6 minute podcast on I did yesterday with Ben DeGrow.

Please join us in this important fight!
Read the amendment here.

Give us your contact info to help gather signatures.

And please donate to this fight here.

Become an Defend Colorado fan on Facebook!

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Free Market Movie Nights

Posted by on Oct 16 2009 | Environment, Events, PPC, Property Rights

Do you find yourself frequently at home on date nights? Is your mother worried that you no longer come upstairs to enjoy meatloaf on meatloaf night? Do you often have to listen to Captain and Tennille records to fall asleep? If so, we’ve got the solution for you. We are proud to reintroduce Free Market Movie Night, presented by the fine folks at the Independence Institute. Coming up this Sunday, instead of sitting at home watching another Cheers rerun with a pint of Double Fudge Rocky Road for company, come on out to the Harkins Theater in Denver and watch a movie with some other human beings – that are not your family. We will be premiering the Al Gore approved, anti-climate hysteria flick “Not Evil, Just Wrong.” For a taste, check out the trailer:

We are nearly sold out of tickets, so if you plan on going email or call us 303.279.6536.

Then, on Wednesday November 4th, we will be showing Begging for Billionaires at Jacksons Sports Grill downtown. In this movie, the filmmakers take eminent domain to task. Check out the trailer:

Again, if you plan on going email or call us 303.279.6536. Seating is limited.

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