Property rights already limited by existing laws |

Property rights already limited by existing laws

Several recent letters in these pages have referred to the ongoing issue of property rights by stating that the writers were willing to use physical force to defend their property against trespassers and meddling officials and environmentalists.

Those local defenders of freedom who broadcast the “property rights” call to arms should bear in mind that the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment protections are not absolute. Just as there are many limitations on the right of free speech, there are many legal limits on the right to do what one wants to do with deeded land. Many of these date back many decades, at least, and are well established. While there is some current litigation about the bounds of governmental control of property development, the vast majority of these issues are well settled. There is no doubt that “property rights” are very well protected under current law in this country.

It is interesting to note that other developed countries with perhaps a higher sense of the public good do not enshrine private property rights to the extent that many Nevada County zealots do. Article 14 of the German constitution, for example, states that ownership of property “imposes duties” and “should serve the public weal.”

Finally, shortly after Earth Day, we all may benefit from a reading of the famous quote by Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965):

“We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil, all committed for our safety to its security and peace, preserved from annihilation by the care, the work, and I say the love we give our fragile craft.”

Harry B. Wyeth

Grass Valley

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