The Powerless Victims of Eminent Domain and Civil Forfeiture

Gillian Wong of the Associated Press reported on a lone, rural Chinese farmer that resisted selling his house to the local government so a new road could be completed.  The photo shows a house sitting in the middle of an almost finished road with pavement surrounding it.

If that had been in the United States, the house would have been gone long before the road was built—something Wong failed to mention is that this sort of thing happens in the U.S. all the time, and it seriously started during the decades when the roads and highways spread across the U.S. like spider webs.

In fact, local US governments do not need to wait for the owner of a house to agree to sell. It can force the owner to sell and then use the police/marshals to move him or her out using force if necessary.

I still remember reading about one incident in The Los Angeles Times that happened in Southern California during the craze to build freeways there.

The home owner was a combat veteran from World War II, Korea or Vietnam (I do not remember which war).  This vet refused to move out of his house even after the local government forced him to sell it.  He claimed he wasn’t being paid what he had invested in the house in improvements.

This American vet filled sandbags and stacked them against the walls of his house; he stocked up on canned foods, bullets, rifles and a gas mask along with a bullet-proof vest. No one was going to take his house away from him.

A swat team had to be called in, tear gas was used and the swat team broke into his house and swarmed him before he could shoot anyone. Then off to jail and court he went to be judged by a jury of his peers. I never did find out what the outcome of that trial was.

In the US, as states, cities and towns expand and improve roadways, sewer and power lines, communications and other system, local governments often secure or acquire access to private owned land. Without the government’s power to do so, the size and capability or public infrastructure would become inadequate to serve the needs of society (the people) and often in the U.S. the estimated value of a property does not match, because the government uses a different method to determine value not based on what the owner spent on the property but based on the average value of other properties that recently sold in the same community.  To the government, the value of the property is an estimated value. To the owner, it may be every penny he or she invested in the property.  – Find Law.com

In the U.S., this has been called legalized theft, and has been debated for decades. The law is called Eminent Domain, and it gives a government the power to buy private property for public use, usually with compensation to the owner.

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia says: “Government power to take private property for public use without the owner’s consent. Constitutional provisions in most countries, including the U.S. (in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution), require the payment of just compensation to the owner. As a power peculiar to sovereign authority and coupled with a duty to pay compensation, the concept was developed by such 17th-century natural-law jurists as Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf.”

After all, they happen all the time and are often ignored by the American media because they are so common. If you doubt what I say, watch the three-part PBS program embedded in this post. In addition, U.S. citizens are now becoming frequent victims of Civil Forfeiture. If you are a citizen in a country with Civil Forfeiture laws similar to those in the U.S., you probably don’t want to watch the following video and risk losing sleep.

My question is why was this incident in China was worthy of media attention in the U.S., and I wonder if China’s media ever reports on similar incidents in America?

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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