Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Bruce Willis' Own Private Idaho

In the property rights chapter of my book, I use the example of building restrictions on Lake Tahoe to show how we don't have absolute property rights in the United States and why that is a very bad thing.

In brief, property rights, along with democracy and the rule of law, are necessary for a free society and a free society is necessary to earn returns in the market. From Lake Tahoe to Hollywood in Idaho we get this:

Actor Bruce Willis will pay a $21,000 fine for violating federal wetlands protection laws by clearing a half-acre island in a pond at his central Idaho home.
I don't want to argue the science of wetland protection laws (I can't) only their implementation. As has been happening around the country, the EPA deems certain land restricted and all development must stop. They don't buy the land on the marketplace; they take it by bureaucratic decree. In this case, Mr. Willis purchased the land and has been paying the taxes on it, but is unable to use it for his purposes and he hasn't been compensated for it.

This is theft.

As I summarize in The Pure Investor when speaking of nationalized industries abroad:

What incentive does an entrepreneur [or actor] in these countries have to build anything for his family or himself when a thug-dictator [EPA] can seize them at will? A country that guarantees these property rights will prosper and attract individual who yearn for the assurance that they can keep what they build.
I'm sure that a $21,000 fine isn't going to force Mr. Willis to star in The Seventh Sense: I See Naked People, but these same fines are also being imposed on regular citizens daily.

Stay You.