Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don't Tread on Me

Via A Stitch in Haste

James Hetfield, the lead singer of Metallica determined that there was a problem with vandals on his private property and decides to erect a fence to keep people off of it. Sounds pretty straightforward to me (although not necessarily to MSNBC given the obvious tilt of the headline).

Of course, when the definition of "public use" involves the use of one's land by non-owners of that land, and the "public" thinks that they should have access to that land, things start to get a bit messy and needless controversy arises. I agree with Kip on all points, and for any defender of property rights, this is a no-brainer:

- The property is owned by James Hetfield. It is his and his alone to do with as he wishes so long as it doesn't violate the rights of others.

- It is his right, exclusively, to enter into an agreement that allows people access to his property on terms that he finds acceptable.

- If a municipality is unable to reach an agreement with Hetfield (or any other landowner) on terms regarding an easement (although libertarians would argue this is not a legitimate function of government), private individuals or associations of individuals can reach out to Hetfield and attempt to negotiate an easement at terms Hetfield would accept.

- If these measures fail, then access to the land is not granted.

This isn't the first time Hetfield has been in a situation where his stance towards protecting his own property has drawn criticism. I recall many upset Metallica fans circa 2000 when the band sued Napster.

Situations like this one remind me that the distinction between what is public and what is private is virtually non-existent. Worse, if we follow the tortured logic of the Supreme Court's abominable ruling in Kelo v New London, all a hack bureaucrat needs to do is argue "public use" as "public purpose" and argue a public benefit of keeping the hiking trail open to attempt to take the land via eminent domain. I am not arguing such an event would occur or it would be successful in the event that it would occur. However, the fact Kip or I would even think about eminent domain in this situation speaks volumes about the utter disregard many people have for private property rights.

Inspiration for the post title here.