by Chris Mayer Daily Reckoning
Previously by Chris Mayer: Lose the News
There is one reason why you should oppose the proposed $5.3 billion Keystone XL Pipeline. And it has nothing to do with “green religionists,” as The Wall Street Journal calls the opposition in today’s paper.
Instead, it has everything to do with a foreign oil company using U.S. government power to force Americans off their land in the name of “eminent domain.” It has everything to do with putting a 78-year-old grandmother in jail, pepper-spraying protesters and using other bullying tactics that would make the Mafia proud.
This pipeline would connect the oil and gas producers in Western Canada with various U.S. endpoints. There are all kinds of economic benefits for a new pipeline. You’ve probably heard about the 16,000 jobs, for instance. I’m not disputing the supposed benefits.
What I don’t like is the eminent domain abuse. In fact, I don’t like eminent domain at all. The fact that a government can force you off your own property shows that property rights are not secure, even in the U.S. As the great economist Murray Rothbard put it:
“Certainly no one can say that the inviolability of private property is protected by the government. And when government confers this power on a particular business, it is conferring upon it the special privilege of taking property by force.”
The latter is what’s happening here. There have been many eminent domain actions against property owners in Texas, for example. One of the most famous is the case of the 78-year-old grandmother, Eleanor Fairchild. Police arrested her and threw her in jail for a night. Why? She was trespassing – on her own farm! A Texas court condemned the property at TransCanada’s request after she refused to sign over her property. They seized it anyway.
There are many more such stories. All you have to do is Google “TransCanada Pipeline” and “eminent domain.” You will find a long trail of news stories covering the struggles of property owners against the thuggish oil company and its bullying government henchmen. You’ll find the pepper-spraying protesters, threatening letters and other nastiness. And you’ll find TransCanada stealing a lot of property.
Here is an excerpt from an article from the Austin-based Statesman:
“The pipeline’s southern segment doesn’t require an international permit. It crosses about 800 tracts of land in Texas. According to The Associated Press, TransCanada has claimed eminent domain to condemn more than 100 of those tracts – an unusually high condemnation percentage (about 12.5%) for a pipeline project in Texas.”
Proponents of the pipeline overlook all this.
Chris Mayer is a veteran of the banking industry, specifically in the area of corporate lending. A financial writer since 1998, Mr. Mayer’s essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications, from the Mises.org Daily Article series to The Daily Reckoning. He is the editor of Mayer’s Special Situations and Capital and Crisis – formerly the Fleet Street Letter.