by Daniel M. Ryan
by Daniel M. Ryan
eleven years from now and certain changes are enacted into law Ė
ones that have begun in Tony Blairís Britain but then migrate to
America. The scenario below may jolt you, but a "living Constitution"
interpretation would declare them Constitutional. All it would take
is a crisis sufficient for the war State to be seen as protective,
rather than imposative, by the mainstream American.
Youíre at home
and the doorbell rings. Two gentlemen are there to greet you, both
in uniform. Their grooming is impeccable enough to make you insecure
about yours. The head man shows you government authorization and
asks to be taken to your personal library. Once there, they go through
the titles of your books as you watch: one reading the titles out,
the other entering them into a laptop. At the end of the inspection,
as youíre frozen into acting like youíre not in your own home, some
of the books are taken from your shelves.
Shrugged? Iím doing you a favor: youíll read it too many
times anyway. Same thing goes for the rest of the Rand.... Oh, you
like that kind of economics? Well, itís got to go too. Well, well
Ė the scholarís edition! Nice binding..... Yes, even Capitalism
and Freedom, though it was iffy for a time there. Same thing
with the Chomsky, even if he didnít mind being the nutcase at times....
Oh! Thatís Milton Friedmanís son, isnít it? A pity he had to be
Lest you think
that this is merely an updated version of Fahrenheit
451ís dark vision, consider this ending:
authorized by law, I am entitled to disburse you $280 for all of
these books which are now being sold to the Government of the United
States. Once you accept these funds as just compensation for the
property you have turned over, they are now the property of the
United States Government. What we do with them subsequently is up
does have this power now, even though it is largely confined to
real property, not personal property as yet. Itís called eminent
domain, and it has been used to confiscate personal property
in the past. Refusing to sell your gold coins to the U.S. government
back in 1933 made you liable for a felony conviction. The law used
to enforce the sale was the Emergency Banking Relief Act of 1933,
and it was deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court.
The EBR Act
extended powers under the Trading With The Enemy Act to times of
"national emergency," as declared by the President, which
President Roosevelt did in Executive Order 6260. The ultimate
source of the authority for it, though, is in the Fifth Article
of Amendment in the United States Constitution: "No person shall...
be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of
law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without
just compensation." Note that the Fifth Amendment makes no distinction
between real and personal property.
if the U.S. government can forcibly buy real property from U.S.
citizens, then it can buy personal property also. Your real estate
is just as vulnerable to a taking as your books, and vice versa.
All it takes for eminent domain to be justified for a taking of
personal property is a credible "public use" for it, such
as sending it to Canada to bump up the prestige of the United States
It is now customary
to justify almost any violation of the free market through invoking
what is called the "general welfare clause" of the Constitution.
As long as the war State is a permanent State, though, it is only
a matter of time before "common defense" becomes just
as elastic. These two phrases are part of the same clause.
this in a civics textbook fifteen years from now:
Books Patriation Act has been justified on the grounds that free
speech has not been significantly infringed due to the availability
of post-modern means of transmission of political discourse, ones
which the Founders could not have imagined at the time of the Founding.
Just as the modern corporation was never foreseen in a United States
which was largely agrarian, the advent of the modern Internet was
unforeseen too. Before continuing, you should stop and ask yourself
what use our Founders would have made of E-mails, chat rooms, voice
chat, and other, more advanced means of Internet communication.
are groups, such as the National Readersí Association, who dispute
the use of the term Ďreasonableí to describe the mainstream view
justifying the SBPA. They claim that the protections in the First
Amendment contain a special status in United States tradition which
makes the limitation of them on Fifth Amendment grounds incompatible
with our traditions. Although their point of view did not merit
the strike-down of the SBPA in the Supreme Court, views of groups
such as the NRA did prevail when the Academic Accuracy Act was struck
overtake the First Amendment in this way? To answer this question,
ask yourself what has become of the protections in the Tenth and
Second Amendments. The continual incursions on the latter have always
been justified on common-defense (public safety) grounds.
Letís go back
to the scenario that started this piece. After seeing the gentlemen
at arms walking away with the books they have just "bought,"
you go back to your study to look at the gaps in your shelves. You
know that buying the books now gone is still legal, even if they
are getting harder to find. Youíve even heard rumors that some opportunity-seeking
people are buying cheap used copies of books on the subversion list
and reselling them to the U.S. government at a profit. Although
this kind of middlemanship is tolerated, something seems disreputable
about it. The people who brag about doing it shrug off the disparity
as a kind of bounty, and also brag about being bounty hunters of
As you recover
from your shock, the odd feeling of being stripped from your own
home disappears too. The two men now gone werenít that unfriendly,
and they were polite. They did pay for what they took, and you did
get full price as specified in the rate schedule. Maybe your personal
valuation of the books now gone was only subjective. The prestigious
economists continually say that valuations do follow statistical
norms, and thus imply that anyone who feels cheated by these new
measures is an oddball. No mention of "profiteer" has
ever been made, to your recollection. No, profits are held in some
repute nowadays. What the country has turned into couldnít be a
socialist republic. The new money will come in handy, too Ė it might
even be needed.
interrupts your reverie Ė this time, itís a woman. Sheís dressed
in casual clothes, and even appear homey, but something about her
says "officious" all the same.
your new tenant."
You blink furiously
and then remember The Public Tenancy Authorization Act. Any householder
is now required by law to rent a room to any employee of the U.S.
government, in exchange for a fair rent decided by a rent commission.
The ones that got set up did balance the directors between landlords
and tenants, so it couldnít really be called confiscatory. The government
tenants youíve heard about are well behaved, and she acts that way
bemused? Iím not that good looking." There seems no
better way to answer her than to show her to her new abode. You
content yourself with the thought that you could use the extra money
each month, and the government did give you enough advance notice.
bring much with her. Casual clothes; stylish evening wear; uniforms
with captainís bars on the lapels....
M. Ryan [send him mail]
is a Canadian with a well-known habit of blundering into fields
for which he is inadequately prepared. Visit his
© 2006 LewRockwell.com