St. Louis County, Mo. is planning to force property owners to purchase a landlord’s license to rent out or even allow friends or family to inhabit a privately owned domicile.
Not content with collecting fees for “safety” inspections and occupancy permits, the county government is now intent on imposing a landlord’s license and extracting yet another fee. Duplication of current law aside, this new requirement strikes at the heart of a fundamental legal right: the right to ownership of property.
Private property is the most basic principle in American jurisprudence. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he borrowed from the philosopher John Locke, who asserted three fundamental rights enjoyed by all: life, liberty, and property. Jefferson, at the urging of Benjamin Franklin, changed the last to “pursuit of happiness” because he did not want to give slaveholders any sort of legal justification should abolition finally overtake the “peculiar institution.” Still, everyone knew what Jefferson was getting at here, and though the Declaration is not a foundational legal document, it does illustrate the mindset of the Founders, who clearly believed in ownership of property.
As John Adams stated:
The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.
And so it is; without a sacred view of property, a society inevitably slides into despotism.
The first property right is self-ownership. We have seen the left nibble away at this concept, and the ObamaCare mandate has effectively tipped the scales toward state ownership of American citizens.
With that under their belts, the Progressives can now turn their lustful eyes back toward real estate. Actually, they have been nibbling away at the rights of property owners for decades. Eminent domain, the Fair Housing Act, zoning restrictions, occupancy permits, “safety” inspections (which are more often than not also about cosmetics), property maintenance codes – all circumscribe the rights of owners to have final say on the use of their property. Yes, many of these things were well-intentioned and have contributed to a more pleasant society, but the movement has been ever toward government regulation of private property. While property rights are not absolute, where does ownership end? If government tells the owner how he can use his property, can it be said that we have private ownership at all?
We’ve seen some huge leaps in recent years: the Kelo decision allowing property to be taken from the lawful owner and given to a developer, for instance, or the declaration of property as environmentally sensitive and so not allowed to be developed. We have the Cliven Bundy affair; Bundy had purchased grazing rights, which are in themselves a contractual interest. We’ve seen government shut off water to farmers , or allow lands to be flooded, bankrupting farmers and forcing them off their lands.
Now we witness the imposition of licensing requirements for property owners. The issuance of a license presupposes that government holds the rights and that the “owner” is being granted a privilege.
Read the bill here.
The bill is chock-full of “at the discretion of the Administrator.”