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Tom Pattantyus: Protection of private property

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: October 1, 2009 4:49 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Since 2008, the U.S. economy has been buffeted with one crisis after the other.

The enormous debts, both public and private, and the abnormally high energy prices shook the foundations of the national economy. Large banks and insurance companies were collapsing or on the verge of collapse.

The government's corrective action was provided by Public Law 110-343, or TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program), a.k.a. "bailout," allowing the Treasury to purchase non-liquid, difficult-to-value assets from banks and other financial institutions using public funds.

The assistance came with conditions: Top executive salaries were limited at $500,000; bonuses and other entitlements were prohibited.

These measures appeared to be equitable, but do those payments - determined by previous contracts - rise to the level of private property?

By law the TARP funds did not buy any shareholders' voting rights for the government in the financial businesses, thus the government really had no right to interfere with their day-by-day management.

Has the mantra "too big to fail" interfered with privately owned wealth when some corporations have been allowed to fail while others are saved with public assistance?

Class revenge disguised as "social justice" has been mentioned quite often while various companies (automobile manufacturers), organizations (unions) and individuals (owners of foreclosed homes) have been bailed out with our tax money.

Peter has been robbed to pay Paul. Have Peter's constitutionally guaranteed property rights been violated by granting property rights to Paul?

Confiscation of private wealth played a prominent role in the seemingly lawful communist takeover of Hungary from 1945 to 1949.

The stages of takeover were:

n Land reform: Deemed socially justifiable because of the wretched and often hopeless condition of the landless agricultural workers, this was really confiscation without compensation.

n Artificially fueled hyper-inflation: This "stole" most of the privately held liquidity and was equally damaging to rich and poor (see my Aug. 23 column in The Signal).

n Nationalization of banks, large industrial companies, mines and their pension funds.

n Nationalization of wholesale commerce, medium size companies, apartment houses and privately owned transportation companies.

n Nationalization of small businesses (employing more than five people) and small shops down to the level of mom-and-pop grocery stores. Confiscation of summer cottages and privately owned family homes from politically "undesirable" elements.

n Forcing the recipients of land from the 1945 Land Reform into Soviet-style cooperatives.

Large groups of farmers had to pool their lands, farm collectively and earn "work units" - awarded after the length and type of work performed.

In 1951, came the most cruel and disgusting violation of basic private property rights.

In large industrial cities, dwellings had to be found for the new communist aristocracy and the increased workforce of enlarged or new industries.

The problem was solved by throwing 5,000 families out of their homes with 24 hours notice.

The allotment of their personal belongings was severely limited and they lost all their valuables exceeding the limits unless they could place those items at the homes of family members or trusted friends.

The unfortunates were further punished after their eviction. The regime artificially created a new class of enemies in the villages called kulaks (it is a Russian word that has not been translated).

They were envied farmers who previously had worked on a larger tract of land but not rich enough to be branded large holders.

Their land was confiscated and "donated" to the cooperatives without allowing them to also join because they were regarded as class enemies.

The evicted city folks were forced onto the kulaks who had to provide a small room or a corner in the barn.

Forced to work under police supervision, the evicted people were confined to the village and had to report to the police weekly.

Having witnessed those sad examples, I cannot take any infraction to our basic, constitutional rights lightly.

The Nazi fascists confiscated the wealth and private property of the Jews, and the socialists (communists) from "real" or perceived class enemies, but in both cases it was the first step down the slippery slope pointing to dictatorship.

Once one-party rule is gained and property rights, freedom of speech and equal justice are not respected, democracy is destroyed, as we have learned from the history of the 20th century.

Tom Pattantyus is a retired electrical engineer. E-mail him at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Right Here, Right Now!" appears Fridays in The Signal and rotates among local Republican writers.


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