>(REPOST FROM Saturday, July 01, 2006)
Don’t know who they are? Read the story here. But hopefully anyone reading this is already a bit familiar with the situation.
More than a few libertarians believe the South Central Farmers are illegal (perhaps so) and even immoral (not at all, as will be shown) squatters. They have “taken over” land that rightly belonged to a Mr. Ralph Horowitz and his fellow partners in the Alameda-Barbara investment company. The company purchased it’s share of the land – 80%, in 1980. In 1986 the city used eminent domain – the state’s ability to expropriate property that isn’t theirs, or theft – to obtain the land that is now a fruitful garden, quite literally.
So, if this guy’s land was taken from the city, why can’t he get it back? Kevin Carson and Charles Johnson at the Mutualist blog and Rad Geek’s People’s Daily blog respectively, have been over this issue extensively. They have their own reasons for supporting the farmers, but my ultimate justification is based on the absence of original homesteading efforts by the company that Horowitz represented. That is, he purchased land from the city (who has no right to sell it, being not only a state party in the “transaction”, but itself not an original homesteader in this case) and let it lay idle, apparently waiting for some time in the far off future to begin building something upon it.
Now if this turns out to be untrue, and Alameda-Barbara had begun “mixing its labor” with the land, then I believe it has a right to have that parcel of land returned to it. Though I doubt it, based on the accounts I’ve read, including this from “Nimda” at Nader.org:
A little history will frame the present conflict. In 1986, the City of Los Angeles took over this scarred, debris-ridden tract by eminent domain for the purpose of building a waste incinerator.
Debris-ridden eh? This seems to be the consensus. In all of the descriptions and rundowns of the saga I’ve come across, there is no mention of any kind of actual structure having been bulldozed in order to put in place the eventually abandoned trash incinerator idea.
Anyway, recall that they only “purchased” 80% of it, which would at least cause one to cry foul at the city’s selling back to Horowitz the entire parcel. And in addition, as others have noted, why should Horowitz be given even the 80%, seeing as he was just one of god knows how many partners, or co-owners?
So, what it all comes down to is that these farmers were the first to homestead the plot of land in question; thus, they are its true owners. Horowitz has nothing to get back from the city, other than a promise that he gets to be the one who builds…eventually. But that was a promise they had no right to make, being non-owners themselves.
Imagine me standing atop some building downtown and, with my binoculars, claiming some far off field on the horizon to be mine. The next day, I tell you that it I’ve decided that it’s yours now, if you’ll have it, and you accept, paying me, say, 20 bucks. Meanwhile, in the time it takes for you to get your shit together and walk on out to that field, some group of people have already begun turning it into a makeshift apartment complex. You’re pissed.
Too bad, it’s theirs. There is no “property by decree”.