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Land is not chattel

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Your otherwise excellent article on Measure 37 omitted one area that has cried for rebuttal — the term "property rights" (HCN, 7/24/06: Taking Liberties). All land in the United States (with the possible exception of tribal lands) comes as a conveyance from the government. That grant came and comes with strings, of which there are four: eminent domain; the right of taxation; escheat; and the right of regulation, the police power. These rights are held by all of us through the state and are prior to any subsequent owner’s rights.


The false arguments of the property-rights people ignore the fact that all land ownership is conditional. We are being seduced into thinking that land is chattel, and can be used, cared for, or discarded like a pair of shoes. The argument that needs to be framed is one that illustrates how property "rights" accruing to an individual are rights taken away from the community.

Richard van Pelt
Salem, Oregon

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