This is an excellent little article on property rights. The link is in the bold title below.
There was a recent story about a family in Wyoming that is experiencing the ruthlessness of government bureaucrats the hard way. The family built a pond on “their property” in 2012 and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is telling them it violates the Clean Water Act.
The government is claiming that the family is in violation of building a dam or creek without a permit, as well as claiming that contents from the family-built pond are running into other waterways.
The EPA is now threatening fines of up to $75,000 per day for the supposed violation. That is not a misprint. It isn’t $75 per day, which would seem harsh enough. It is $75,000 per day, which is a completely ridiculous figure. The family is refusing to pay.
There are so many questions that can be asked here, but the obvious one is in regards to property rights. Why is the government allowed to tell others what they can and can’t do with their own property?
If government has any role to play (in a free and just society), it is only to protect property rights and enforce contracts. In this case, not only is the government not protecting property rights, the government itself is violating the property rights.
Although this can be said about most things that government is involved in, this is a particularly egregious example, particularly when it comes down as so totalitarian.
If the property owners were polluting or infringing on other people’s property, then there would be a legitimate dispute. But there would also be an actual victim, which would be the owner or owners of the property being infringed upon. In this particular case in Wyoming, the EPA claims seem to be non-specific.
The next question is why the EPA has the power to simply dictate orders and fines people on demand. Shouldn’t the Wyoming family at least have their day in court to show that their pond is on their property and not violating anyone else’s rights?
A third question, that is perhaps related to this case, is why the government owns so much land. Why are there vast areas, particularly in the west, that are fully owned and controlled by the government, particularly the federal government?
I suppose the answer to this question is because not many people strongly oppose it. But this should really become more of an issue for liberty advocates. When the government owns so much land, then it gives these bureaucrats more power and more excuses to control others.
There is no valid reason for the government to own vast amounts of land. Even parks and forests can be owned by private individuals. We have been trained to think that if it weren’t for the government, then there would be no beautiful parks or forests to visit.
In reality, land would be much better cared for in the hands of private owners. It would be in their own interest to take care of the land. That is why, when you see forest fires raging, it is usually on government-owned land that was not being take care of or watched over properly.
When property is taken out of the hands of government, then disputes are actually less likely to happen. In this case of the Wyoming pond, another property owner could dispute an encroachment through the courts. There would have to be an actual victim for there to be any dispute.
Property rights should be sacred in a free society. The government should sell its vast amounts of land and the EPA should be shut down.