TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Supreme Court Properly Slaps Down EPA’s Assault on Property Owners, But . . .

The Supreme Court helped protect property rights yesterday by deciding unanimously that Mike and Chantell Sackett can legally challenge the EPA’s demand that they cease work on building their new home. The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), which represented the Sacketts, announced the victory.

A Reason TV video summarizes the case. After the Sacketts purchased property near Priest Lake in Idaho for the purpose of building a home, the EPA declared that they could not build because the government had designated their property a “wetland.” Further, after the EPA ordered the Sacketts to stop work and threatened them with severe fines if they continued, the EPA declared that its threat could not be challenged in court.

The Supreme Court ruled that the EPA’s claim could be challenged on the grounds that the land in question is not a “wetland.”

Damien Schiff, the PLF attorney who litigated the Sacketts’ case, said the following about the decision:

This is a great day for Mike and Chantell Sackett, because it confirms that EPA can’t deny them access to justice. EPA can’t repeal the Sacketts’ fundamental right to their day in court. And for that reason, it is a great day for all Americans, for all property owners, and for the rule of law. . . . EPA can’t try to micromanage people and their property—it can’t order property owners to dance like marionettes—while denying them any meaningful right to appeal to the courts. It can’t threaten property owners with financial ruin and not have to justify its threats to a judge. And it can’t issue lazy, drive-by ‘wetlands’ edicts about private property. It will have to put in some honest work and use credible science, because the regulators must be able to justify their wetlands orders in a court of law.

Kudos to PLF and the Sacketts for their victory and to the Supreme Court for stopping this particular assault by the EPA. However, the fundamental problem is not that the government improperly identified the Sacketts’ land as a “wetland,” nor that the EPA might have violated property rights without judicial review, but rather that the EPA and the government are able to violate property rights at all.

As the Reason TV video points out, the EPA acted against the Sacketts on the authority of the 1972 Clean Water Act, which (among other things) effectively nationalized any property that the government declares a “wetland.” But property owners have a moral right—and properly a legal right—to drain their land of putrid swamps and other so-called “wetlands” if they want, or to preserve or create ponds or other water features as they see fit. What owners do with their property is properly none of the government’s business (unless property owners somehow violate the rights of property owners downstream or the like).

While the Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for property owners, it is only a small step in the right direction. Anyone concerned with protecting property rights must embrace as his ultimate goal the elimination of all rights-violating government policies and actions, including all those of the EPA.

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Related:

Image: Pacific Legal Foundation (Image of the Sacketts and Schiff)

Posted in: Environmentalism, Individual Rights and Law

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/ffXz3Fcmq.XFH_Yl__T2G9rL1aU3#8a634 Mike Kevitt

    This appears to be a complete success for the Sacketts, personally, and that, of course, is great.  But, it leaves the principle (it’s actually just a notion) of statism totally unchallenged.  It’s a small step toward trying to put a “human face” on statism, distributing a little of its “authority” and power beyond a central core of “officials”.  And, as more property owners try to do the same, the less will be the personal gain and chance of gain because, within statism, it is, and can only be, a zero sum thing.

    The court said it’s NOT a wetland, so the Sackett’s challenge is automatically accepted, and given a favorable ruling, so they can drain and build.  But, the EPA can keep throwing its weight around and it’ll try to keep its “authority” as central as possible.

    The small step is only a small step within the box.  The EPA’s “AUTHORITY”, the “authority” of the 1972 Clean Water Act (which is not a law, but a criminal plan), must be challenged, not just how that “authority” is distributed.  It was not a peaceful establishment of that “authority” in 1972.  The guise of established proceedure was only a veneer, a cover, to make it look peaceful.  Assumedly, and hopefully, the same tactic can be used to DIS-establish that “authority”.  Despite the appearance of peace, let’s realize the real and essential nature of what needs to be done, and that it’s RESPONSIVE (or retaliatory) against a crime already done.

    That’s what’s needed to re-establish full rights of property ownership.

  • Anonymous

    Correct Mike. And who violates property and all other rights more than any other group? Government. The first step toward eliminating the majority of violations is to abolish government. Who will protect us then? Private enterprise. It gives us everything we need or want, cheaper, faster, and better than the public sector.

  • Anonymous

    To 1voluntaryist:  I’m assuming you’re serious about abolishing gvt. and not just playing with me.  I could write an essay about this, but I’ll make it brief.

    The majority violator ain’t, strictly speaking, gvt.  It’s gvt. out of its proper function, performing the “function” which is actually crime.  All crime is violation of rights, and vice versa, including when gvt. does it. When a private person does it, he’s a criminal, not law abiding.  Same with gvt., and also the gvt. employees, elected, appointed, etc.  Also: passed & signed legislation that violates rights are criminal plans, not laws. 

    The proper function of law & gvt., most basically, is to perform the delegated individual right of self defense, meaning, responsive (retaliatory) force against initiatory force, which, by definition, is the general form always taken by crime or violation of rights.  So, we need to get the crime, the criminal plans and the criminals out of law & gvt.  That leaves us with law & gvt., for delegated self defense, by the cops at home and by the military against threats from abroad.  Elected office holders and candidates for office will then be true politicians, not criminal opportunists. 

    This organization, law & gvt., must have an exclusive monopoly on exercising its proper function: one system of law & gvt.  It’s an extension of the private, autonomous individual, as is private enterprise.  Thru private enterprise, he funds most of the cost of gvt.  Thru law and law making, everybody, by due process, makes and keeps this monopoly against crime, as a monolithic bloc against it. 

    So, law & gvt. is a private, though in itself, a non-profit enterprise, and is OF the rest of private enterprise and of all private (non-criminal)individuals.  This is the best way to assure focusing its protection on the right thing: individual rights, in the most efficient way possible.  We don’t want law & gvt. to even try to provide us with anything else we need or want.  The rest of private enterprise can do that. 

    So, we don’t want to abolish gvt.  We only want to de-infest and disinfect it of crime.

  • Anonymous

    This is how I understand your argument.  Gvt. is an extension of the individual’s self defense right, and as such works by establishing a body of law, which must be consistent, non-contradictory, universal; in order to establish equal justice. Gvt. produces justice. Producing a product makes it like a private enterprise. But unlike private enterprise gvt. must be given a monopoly. 

    You make three assumptions I disagree  with. 1. Gvt. is an extension of me. 2. humanity knows how to produce justice. 3. Only a monopoly can give us justice. 1. It I don’t judge a law to be moral, but society (or a majority) does, how am I represented? Clearly, I am not. Therefore, the gvt. is not an extension of me, but mob rule, i.e., elite rule given a moral blank check by the mob. 2. Objectivists can agree on a definition of justice and still disagree on its implementation. What is the best way to settle the dispute? By agreeing to a judge, or by a variety of methods which fit the particular dispute. Culture, custom, or personalities may vary. 3. Gvt. is not flexible and law often does not give us justice. But a monopoly forces injustice on all. No plan to limit a monopoly has ever worked. We can all agree that a monopoly on the provision of any other product or service would not work. Why is justice different? If history is our teacher, clearly there is no difference. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRE6REGHBOCNFLN4NJIXNMIEFM Mike Kevitt

    1voluntaryist:  I’ve replied above, in the form of a new comment.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRE6REGHBOCNFLN4NJIXNMIEFM Mike Kevitt

    1voluntaryist: I’m answering your last reply up here, as a new comment, to keep the lines from getting too short.

    Gvt. is THE extension of the individual’s delegated right of self defense. It duly legislates laws, which are rules specifically recognizing and implementing this right in ways applicable to actual situations. True to this purpose, they’ll be consistent, non-contradictory. If a contradiction(s) are found, there’s a “law” not true to to this purpose.

    Proper enforcement and judicial process, and appeals, IS justice, the product. This product, justice against crime, meaning, against initiatory force, is the monopoly of gvt., covering the geographic area of its authority, not necessarily one gvt. over the whole world.

    It must be a monopoly because, although gvt. is a private entity, justice is physical force, in response to crime. Absolutely any force by person upon person (or upon another’s property), including by gvt., is subject to scrutiny by law, as to who started it and who responded. Brands of enforcement, and of law itself, can change thru elections, but the nature of legislated rules as LAWS, had better not. They had best keep recognizing and implementing rights in ways applicable to actual situations. Otherwise, they’re not laws, but criminal plans, enforced by criminals (which is what I really mean by gvt. out of its proper bounds). The real, basic nature of the monopoly is laws. Law and gvt. is, indeed, inflexible against crime.

    If it’s a law, it’s moral. Judge it by its contents stacked up with self defense against initiatory force. Law is an extension of and represents the law-abiding, meaning, the non-criminal, meaning, those who don’t initiate force.

    Force is force. Force by person upon person or prop
    1voluntaryist: I’m answering your last reply up here, as a new comment, to keep the lines from getting too short.
    Gvt. is THE extension of the individual’s delegated right of self defense. It duly legislates laws, which are rules specifically recognizing and implementing this right in ways applicable to actual situations. True to this purpose, they’ll be consistent, non-contradictory. If a contradiction(s) are found, there’s a “law” not true to to this purpose.

    Proper enforcement and judicial process, and appeals, IS justice, the product. This product, justice against crime, meaning, against initiatory force, is the monopoly of gvt., covering the geographic area of its authority, not necessarily one gvt. over the whole world.

    It must be a monopoly because, although gvt. is a private entity, justice is physical force, in response to crime. Absolutely any force by person upon person (or upon another’s property), including by gvt., is subject to scrutiny by law, as to who started it and who responded. Brands of enforcement, and of law itself, can change thru elections, but the nature of legislated rules as erty is exactly that. Force by person upon person or property is either initiatory or responsive. Absolute, in the face of all contingencies everywhere at all times. Define “justice” accordingly and you have an absolute, unchanging concept and definition of justice. Work out the changing details thru elections.

    Law, and proper enforcement (gvt.) IS inflexibly unchanging in its basic nature as responsive force. Properly derived, and applied WHERE it applies, a law assures justice. Over time, new kinds of civil and criminal disputes come up that existing law can’t cover. Those are the basis for deriving the needed law(s) in line with rights and self defense. The monopoly forces justice upon all criminals to the benefit of all others. It works because, and as long as, it keeps within its proper bounds: the delegated right of self defense. Other monopolies don’t work because they trash law and take gvt. out of its proper bounds, destroying rights and initiating force by legislated criminal plans. But the laws are still there, for the individual to invoke in self defense.

    History teaches the difference. I cite the United States. The only reason it’s been ceasing to work is it’s been progressively abandoned over the last 100 years or more, by those who know, but evade, history, because they don’t like justice. They prefer crime.

  • Anonymous

    Mike K.: I will start with what we agree on. We agree on NAP (non aggression policy). Enforcement of NAP is justice. Laws are details. A group selected to work out the details (make law), enforce it, and judge how well they did, is called government. If gvt./law does not promote justice, it is not gvt. or law, but a criminal gang/criminal plan. 

    How do we get from theory to practice, i.e., how do we implement theory? Ayn Rand did not answer this question, but she did point out a problem with the practice of delegating authority in her essay “Who Will Protect Us From Our Protectors?”. When we examine the history of societies we can detect a pattern. New societies of any cultural background (multi or mono) who start out without formal organization (gvt.) have a very loose spontaneous order allowing for maximum freedom thru minimum control. This promotes maximum productivity. For example, the American frontier was not as depicted in popular literature, i.e., “the wild west”. Violence was not rampant. According to political theory it certainly should have been. Every ingredient was present, especially in the gold fields, e.g., mostly heavily armed males, poverty, concentrated living under stressful conditions, and no law or protective group. Early chroniclers record a very high level of civil living. How can this be? We are told by our protectors (rulers) that we need them for civilized living. We are warned, even threatened, that without them we are doomed to live a barbaric life of chaos. When we complain about the unfairness or injustice under what is commonly referred to as “government” the response is: “What do you want? Anarchy?” But anarchy is exactly the state humanity lived in for most of our existence. How did we ever survive? How did we create and produce wealth? Why didn’t we self destruct? In fact we prospered and created so much wealth that an excess grew and grew until a few got the idea that they could live without producing anything of value if they could get others to hand over some of their wealth. How? By creating a myth (lie, superstition) that played on fears, e.g., fear of crime, or fear of mortality. Also, the myths filled a deep seated need for a comprehensive world view, even if illogical and flawed. When the ability to think is not common, people are vulnerable to myth. And so we live with the myth that if we give up self responsibility with respect to justice by delegating authority to others who act with a moral blank check (monopoly), we are some how fulfilling a “need”. Furthermore, that it is not enough for us to accept domination, it only works if we FORCE everyone to live under the tyranny of an elite group of rulers. And if we complain that we suffer injustice and we see injustice everywhere, we are asked to forbear it for “the common good”, i.e., sacrifice our self, our sense of justice, our judgement, for the majority. “It’s the democratic way.” And everyone knows, or at least is taught in gvt. schools, that a democracy is best for humanity. What happened to a republican form of government? Blank out! We’re all democrats now. 

    In conclusion, we have no “government’ anywhere,by our definition. We have criminal gangs/criminal plans. How do we protect ourselves from them? We reject the myth that we achieve protection by subjection to authority. We need no subjection. We need no warrant for our being. “I am my own warrant.” 

     

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRE6REGHBOCNFLN4NJIXNMIEFM Mike Kevitt

    We go from theory to practice by applying the theory with our own resources.  So, we have science, technology, invention, production, trade, use.  This applies to the “soft”, as well as the “hard”, sciences.  The theory merely has to be a general statement about something that exists and of how it works.  Electromagnetism is theory; radio is practice.

    In the state of anarchy you describe, there’s apparently no theory of human relations being practiced to guide people’s relations. People act on their own implied assumptions, sub consciously, in dealings with each other.  There must be undesirable quirks now and then, since there’s fear of crime.  Might the quirks be crime, occasionally?  This gives potential “protectors” and those who would live off other’s work their chance.  They offer theories of human relations that might work for their purposes, which are to couch their own crime under a deceptive appearance of “protection”.  With no substantive definition, they call it law & gvt. vice implied assumptions (anarchy).  They apply the theory by force, although starting, perhaps, with your concent.  The highest quality theories for use on fools, lackeys or “sheep” can, and have (and, perhaps will), last for centuries.  Heretofore, people have most always been fools, lackeys and “sheep”.  Anarchy can’t last.  Implied assumptions are not within the conscious control of those who hold them.  It gives way to “protectors”

    Unless those who hold them adopt a theory of human relations that suits the purpose of human life as per the needs of human nature.  The implication SPECIFIED is that those needs entail the right of the individual to act in relationships mutually chosen by all parties to them, and the right to defend such action from anybody who tries to stop him.  That means his responsive force against such attempt, such attempt being crime: initiatory force.  The theory is practiced by EXERCISING that right of self defense.  Basically, it’s just that simple.  That’s the best way to assure continuing human relations peacefully, as per the required SPECIFIED assumptions conducive to something resembling the state of anarchy you describe.

    In general, that’s the approach.  The details can be filled in later.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CRE6REGHBOCNFLN4NJIXNMIEFM Mike Kevitt

    1voluntaryist must have disappeared and moved on, perhaps thinking there’s an unbridgeable gap between his position and mine.  The details of the general approach I site, above, would probably show otherwise.  I’ll fill them in later, elsewhere.