Horowitz: Venezuela in America: CDC to confiscate property rights with new anti-eviction order
“Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.” ~James Madison
Rational thought, constitutional rights, basic freedoms, and ability to breathe unmasked air have been axed at the altar of the coronavirus cult. Now, it appears that the CDC has the power to destroy the property rights of landlords and force them to house chosen classes of people on their property, contrary to contractual agreements. We fought a revolution over this issue.
On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced that the CDC will put a moratorium on all private lease evictions in the United States until December 31. Which, in this day and age, will likely mean that a government canceling of rent or evictions to some degree will be enshrined as a permanent policy of government.
After reading various headlines reporting the announcement, you might have thought this was referring to federally run housing units or at least rentals or mortgages backed by the federal government. Nope. The federal government is suspending all private rental evictions for individuals earning less than $99,000 or families earning less than $198,000. In other words, it is confiscating the private property rights of countless American businessmen who are struggling just as much as renters.
We have heard incessant accusations from this administration and other Republicans that Joe Biden and the Democrats will transform this country into a socialist hellhole. But if this order is not socialist, than the term has no meaning. At least the eviction cancellation provision of the CARES Act in March was passed by a legislative body and only applied to federally funded housing, such as mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This is an unaccountable executive action governing strictly private contracts.
The order will formally be published in the Federal Register on Friday.
Extra shocking, this order comes at a time when government is handing out free funding to everyone. So if officials plan to keep the country afloat through servicing debt, why is there a need to harm landlords? With all the handouts going around, they should just give the tenants the money to pay the landlords. Now government is taking its redistribution scheme a step further by using citizens’ private property for handouts.
“President Trump is committed to helping hardworking Americans stay in their homes and combating the spread of the coronavirus,” White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said during a briefing announcing the order on Tuesday.
Again, how is this different from Joe Biden – both in the approach to the virus and to economics? How about cutting off funding in the budget bill later this month to all states that continue the lockdown so we don’t continue to suffer the economic collapse fueling the rent crisis in the first place? If more states were like South Dakota, we wouldn’t have to worry about evictions. Alternatively, how about at least conditioning the federal eviction cancellation only to states exempting landlords from property taxes this year? Why should property owners have to suffer for government malfeasance?
What will happen with private rental businesses is the same thing government bailouts, mandates, subsidies, and confiscations do to every other industry. It will chase small-scale landowners out of the rental business and suck these properties into the grasp of corporate real estate moguls who have the economies of scale to deal with the eviction problems, gobble up the government relief programs, and use cheap prices to purchase property from desperate small-scale sellers.
This latest grab of power to terminate private contracts exemplifies the broader violation of the national social compact, expressed in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution. The government now controls our lives, liberty, and property without any due process or even legislative process or public input. It can just declare any long-term progressive goal vital to stopping the spread of the virus without showing any evidence of necessity, effectiveness, or constitutionality.
Whether it’s mandating the covering of our humanity with masks, the shutting of businesses and churches, the confiscation of land, or the release of violent criminals from prison, it’s all for the public good – and can be done by any executive authority. The CDC’s acting chief of staff asserted in the unpublished order, without providing any evidence, that the CDC has such power because an eviction moratorium is “reasonably necessary measure under 42 CFR 70.2 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States.”
How far has our government strayed from the principles of the national contract we all adopted in 1789? James Madison flatly asserted in Federalist 54 that “Government is instituted no less for the protection of the property than of the persons of individuals.” Even toward the end of his life, long after the Constitution was adopted, Madison was still concerned with property rights. He went on to explain at a constitutional convention of Virginia lawmakers in 1829 that individual and property rights “cannot well be separated” because “the personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property, when acquired, a right to protection, as a social right.”
In other words, government was created for the express purpose of protecting property. Now it is being used to retroactively dissolve private contracts voluntarily forged between two citizens and engage in Venezuela-style state-sanctioned theft. If government can do this so easily, what can it not do to us? As John Adams warned in 1787:
“The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.”
Our politicians continue to forget that there is no emergency exception to fundamental rights in the Constitution, most certainly not property rights. A decade before the American revolution, Sir William Blackstone, the English jurist who so greatly influenced the legal thinking of our Founders, wrote in his “Commentaries on the Laws of England,” “So great moreover is the regard of the law for private property, that it will not authorize the least violation of it; no, not even for the general good of the whole community.” Which is why Jon Jay concluded, “No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent.”
Sadly, the only rights that have not been infringed upon under the guise of emergency powers this year involve the one true constitutional exception to fundamental rights, which is habeas corpus during a rebellion (Art. I, Sec. 9, Cl. II). Nobody is even asking for the rioters to be held without habeas rights or other due process, but they are not even being held or stopped with those rights. They have free rein to plunder, burn, and maim without being prosecuted. Meanwhile, coronavirus is being used to illegally strip peaceful business owners of their property rights.
Unless this tyranny changes, Joe Biden and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will have won this election regardless of the vote tally on November 3.
Author: Daniel Horowitz
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.