July 09, 2014 - "It is not a little disquieting to realize that in private property there survives the last domain of privacy of any kind. Every other wall has been overthrown."
– "Ideas Have Consequences"
by Richard M. Weaver
Much like the Founding Fathers, I am a very strong proponent of property rights.
To me, a person's right to own property and utilize it for his or her benefit without the overbearing interference of government, corporations or overzealous, self-righteous activists is sacred.
Private property and freedom are inseparably linked. Taking the former intrudes upon the latter.
Property rights are the bedrock upon which our society is built.
As the 17th century English political philosopher John Locke observed in his Second Treatise of Civil Government, "The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property."
That's why I can sympathize with and admire Bruce Downey's willingness to fight for his land against the potential addition of a fourth right-of-way (or easement) across his 10.5-acre property in Oxford Township. Read the story on Page 1.
This U.S. Navy veteran wants to build a pole barn to meet his personal storage needs and aid in his plans to train hunting dogs and rescue dogs. But, according to Downey, if the proposed Rover natural gas pipeline is allowed to have a new 60-foot easement across his land, he'll have no suitable space left on which to build a pole-barn.
"(If) they go 60 feet, they're all the way into (the neighbor's) property and there's nothing left for me to build on," he told me. "That would take up the last piece of my yard."
That's just wrong. A man should be able to use the land he bought and pays taxes on as he pleases (within reason), especially for something as innocuous as a pole barn.
As the 18th century Irish statesman Edmund Burke observed, "[Men] have a right to the fruits of their industry, and to the means of making their industry fruitful."
Unfortunately, modern society doesn't seem to place the high value on property rights that civilized man once did.
Government takes what it wants via eminent domain. Folks routinely trespass on others' property to hunt, ride horses, dirt bikes and ATVs, or walk the dog. Intrusive planning commissioners strive to micromanage every aspect of developments.
But some of us still believe in the primacy of property rights and hold them dear.
Would that more people today took the time to read Locke's works.
"Reason . . . teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that . . . no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions," he wrote. "Government has no other end, but the preservation of property."
Would that more people read the works of Paul Elmer More (1864-1937), an American journalist, critic and essayist.
Given that life is a primitive thing that man shares with animals, he believed property alone is the mark of man, which led him to famously proclaim, "To the civilized man, the rights of property are more important than the right to life."
But protecting property rights isn't just good for the individual owners, it's good for the community as a whole.
Owning land, owning a house, owning a building – it all means you have a real stake in the community. You truly have something to lose and possibly something to gain.
Unlike renters, who, generally speaking, are transient in nature, property owners are typically in it for the long haul because they have an investment to protect and nurture.
Property owners are the ones who truly have skin in the game because they pay the local millages that provide all the public services and they invest their dollars in what they own, from the purchase price to repairs, improvements and maintenance to development for future use.
While it's true tenants help pay local taxes though their rent, when they leave, as they so often seem to do, it's up to property owners to pick up the slack on empty apartments or vacant commercial spaces.
Ultimately, when it comes time to pay local taxes, it's all on property owners to satisfy the bills or they could lose their buildings and land in a sheriff's auction.
That constitutes skin in the game.
Property owners are the ones who fund communities and provide the roots to help them thrive, thus their rights should be protected and championed with the utmost vigor whenever possible.
That's why property owners like Bruce Downey deserve our support. He should be able to use his land as he wishes, not be forced to sacrifice his property rights for a pipeline, if indeed it comes that.
I had dinner at Sullivan's Public House last week and I must say this new establishment is a welcome, and much-needed, addition to downtown Oxford.
I enjoyed the Irish baked onion soup along with bangers (i.e. sausage) and mash (i.e. traditional colcannon potatoes).
Everything was absolutely splendid, from the freshly-baked soda bread served with whipped butter to the house-made bangers seasoned to perfection.
The atmosphere was comfortable, intimate and relaxing – a true pub experience.
No frozen, pre-made food. No televisions assaulting patrons from every possible angle. No obnoxious noise level that makes friendly conversation almost impossible.
Sullivan's Public House offers a refreshing change of pace. Be sure to check it out.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.