Today, Monday, March 20th, at 10 am, the United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments on an important case for Liberty Conservatives. In this case, the state of Wisconsin will argue that they have the right to tell a land owner who owns two contiguous lots that the landowner can no longer sell just one of the lots. In addition to telling you that you cannot sell the lots independently of each other, the county has the right to tax you on the full value of each lot.
The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
In 1960, William Murr and his wife purchased a lot on the St. Croix river in St. Croix county Wisconsin. They improved this lot by building a three bedroom cabin. In 1963, The Murr purchased the adjoining lot as an investment. In 1976, a county ordinance went into effect that combined adjacent lots that are held in title by the same individual. In 1994, Mr. and Mrs. Murr transferred the improved lot to their children. In 1995, they transferred the investment lot to their children.
In 2004, the children decided that they wanted to sell the investment lot. They would take the proceeds from the sale and improve the family cabin. They discovered that they could not sell the investment lot because of the county ordinance. They applied for a variance – but were denied. After a decade of fighting in the courts, this case has made it to the Supreme Court.
Private property is a fundamental principle that our founding fathers were careful to defend. They understood that, at times, government would have the need to “take” private property and convert it to public use. We all benefit from roads.
In this case, the county has been charging taxes to the Murr family on two separate lots. The county loves the income that it receives from property taxes. However, while taxes must be paid on two separate lots, the county is restricting the sale of the investment lot.
The Murr family is arguing that because they cannot sell the investment lot, this is a government taking and they must be justly compensated. The county is arguing that the family still owns the same amount of land and thus nothing is lost.
The counties argument goes something like this. You purchased two purebred German Shepherd puppies from Germany and imported them into the United States. Your plan was to keep one as a family pet and after you trained the second puppy, sell it for a profit. You hoped that the increased value on the second puppy would offset the costs of purchasing both puppies. However, the government takes both untrained puppies and gives you a fully trained one-year purebred German Shepherd. The government argues that they have not taken anything from you because the one dog they gave you is worth the same as the two untrained puppies that you carefully selected and imported into the country.
Even a four-year-old knows that the government took something from them. Yes, you have one dog that may have the same value of the two dogs, but you do not have the ability to have made a profit on the second dog in order to cut your losses on the original purchase. The basic fundamental principles of liberty are understood by a child. A taken is not a taking just because you give something back.
As a Liberty Conservatives, we do not like it when we see wasteful government spending. We also hate to see governments take the property of individuals with legislative force. The government makes the rules, they determine whether it is a taking or not, and then you have to go to the government courts to show that government is violating the Constitution. This is one reason why conservatives are fortunate to have organizations like Pacific Legal Foundation.
This is not a case of wasteful government spending. This is a case of greedy government who charges taxes for the full value of your property while putting restrictions on you to keep you from using the full value of your property.