The Russian movie “Leviathan” illustrates a disturbing feature of governmental tyranny over property rights. The central story concerns a mechanic who has built his home on a promontory overlooking the ocean. His life is good but sours rapidly when the mayor of the city conspires to take the property away to build an Orthodox church. The mayor corrupts the courts and frames our hero for murder. The last scene shows a congregation of well fed bureaucrats exiting the church.

Someone at the city commission meetings mentioned that there was a very attractive piece of land near the city center which was for sale at a modest price. (I presumed that we would have to borrow.) When I asked about the zoning, I was told that after we bought it that we could change it to anything that we wanted.

So, if a chemical plant approached our planning and zoning with promises of jobs and great tax revenue, we would encourage and even subsidize the development.

The neighbors who had anticipated seeing a nice neighborhood next door, have instead a pungent factory. Their property rights were protected by the yet more pungent regulatory skunk.

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