Who could forget that dramatic scene at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?
The Enterprise was disabled; Khan, realising he had been defeated, fires up the Genesis Device in order to take Kirk out with him. Ignoring pleas from the engineering crews, Spock charges into a room filled with deadly radiation, knowing he had signed his own death warrant, to fix the warp core so that his crew may survive. After the Enterprise clears the blast radius, Kirk comes down to the engineering decks. He watches through the protective radiation barrier, trying to keep his emotions at bay, as Spock slowly withers away.
Spock tells him not to grieve for it is logical. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one,” he rationalizes.
I hear this very Noble line, Noble sentiment often used by liberals and by ambitious government thugs when they look to steal an individuals property in order to promote “the public welfare”.
Does the same sentiment apply?
The Hampton Roads section of the 7/25/09 Virginia Pilot highlights another instance of the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority looking to purchase land in order to give to their developer friends to build up a convocation center, apartment buildings and retail shops. I see nothing wrong with any of this. The problem is the people who currently own the building and the land do not want to sell it.
When individuals cannot come to terms on buying and selling property, nothing happens. Each party must seek other opportunities. When the government cannot come to terms with an individual, the government says “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, condemns the land, and steals it under Virginia Code Title 25.1.
Does this logic really apply in such situations?
Maybe, if you don’t look at the big picture, you may be able to make such an argument. ODU students will have another option for a place to live near campus. People withing 2 or 3 blocks will have convenient access to new shops. A developer will get a juicy government contract. I will have an opportunity to sell an energy management system.
Logic is all about numbers; It is about un-emotional decisions. So if you look at this systems, you would logical conclude that yes, this is the correct decision. Around 200 people are set to benefit and only 3 people are set to get screwed. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”. Just as Mr. Spock said. So let’s not grieve for Tommy Arney, Krista Arney ans Ronnie Boone Jr. now that Norfolk Circuit Judge Louis Sherman has okayed the city seizure of their property, for it is logical.
But wait a minute. Mr. Spock used the word need. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.
The Housing Authorities executive director commented that “These properties are essentialfor the redevelopment of the area”. I don’t know, essential seems pretty strong to me. It has a certain totality. Certainly the community will not implode if these buildings are not built. Nobody is going to be hurt because this does not happen. So a more accurate statement might have been that these properties would be nice for the redevelopment of the area. But “would be nice” (though more accurate) just doesn’t have that same zing as “essential”. Plus it is harder to justify stealing from individuals for something that would be nice. Plus Mr. Spock didn’t say “The wants of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.
But what about the bigger picture? So far I have only focused on this one neighborhood and these three individuals. Most people who would argue for this government power do not look past this particular system sample. It is good for the neighborhood, so the few should be forced to sacrifice. Then I’m hit with questions why I should even care. I don’t live in this neighborhood and I’m not being asked to sacrifice. I neither benefit, nor am I injured. I care because I am not this short-sighted. If the government can do it to another, then the government can do it to me. The more they get away with it without a fight, the easier it becomes for them to do it to the next guy. By allowing such things to occur, we are giving up our fundamental rights. You cannot have a free society if individual property rights are not protected. If the government can seize your land, confiscate your assets at the whim of a city magistrate or non-elected government agency, we are not free men. We are feudal serfs who live and work the land under the goodwill of our government masters.
So, what may be nice for this one small neighborhood in Norfolk, is bad for every other individual who owns property in Virginia. This does not follow with Mr. Spock’s logic.
And going back to Mr. Spock’s situation one more time. He had a choice. He choose to sacrifice himself to save his shipmates. Tommy Arney, Krista Arney ans Ronnie Boone Jr. were not given a choice. They were told a city judge will decide how much their property is worth and they must take their penance and deal with it. Judges in this country are suppose to dispense justice, not strip individuals of their rights and appraise real estate. It is not ethical to force an individual to sacrifice in order to help another. That must be an individual choice. If I hold a gun to your head and take your wallet, it does not make it okay because I hand your wallet to someone else because I felt they needed the money more than you do. It is still robbery, it is still just as wrong as if I kept the money for myself.
Unfortunately the government is holding the guns and they don’t see it that way. They have a different motto:
“The wants of my campaign contributors outweigh the needs of the many”
My conclusion: “Eminent domain is illogical”