Initiative 933 is on the ballot for Washington State this fall. Here’s the summary:
This measure would require compensation when government regulation damages the use or value of private property, would forbid regulations that prohibit existing legal uses of private property, and would provide exceptions or payments.
Read the full initiative here: http://www.secstate.wa.gov/elections/initiatives/text/i933.pdf
I am against this initiative. There are numerous practical reasons why it is bad, such as the billion dollars each year it would cost to administer claims, but I’m going to argue a more philosophical bent:
Any kind of law which reimburses you in the event of damaging government action should also do the opposite: if the value of your property goes up as a result of government action, you should be charged for it. I can’t imagine why you’d design a system with one but not the other. For example: all the people along the west slope of downtown Seattle, whose property values would skyrocket if the viaduct came down, should be charged to pay for a new tunnel. Taken to its logical extreme, every time the government imposes a necessary burden on someone (say, for example, a landfill in their backyard), everyone else gets an implied beneft (no landfill in their backyard) — and therefore, they should be charged for it. Guess what? That’s called paying taxes. And I’m guessing that the neo-nimbyists behind this initiative aren’t going to start clamoring for increased taxes to pay for all their reimbursements.
At the heart of capitalism is the assumption of personal risk. Nobody has guaranteed that your property will always be valuable. The price you paid for your exurban McMansion isn’t some fundamental constant of the universe. If you can’t handle the idea that it could go down, maybe you’re better off investing in some writings by Marx.
This initiative is a sociopathic attack on the fundamental ability of the government to govern. The point of a governing body is to create laws that enhance the common good. Sometimes that involves affecting one individual more than others, but in the end everybody benefits. It’s like a stop light at a busy intersection: some people need to wait a little longer than others, but in the end everybody gets where they need to go in much less time. Who could possibly think it’s a good idea to pay people to not run red lights?