May 14, 1995

Life and Times

4401 Sunset Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90027

Re: Your TV Discussion of the Attack on the Endangered Species Act


Let's examine the notion that private property rights should take precedence over the Endangered Species Act.

First of all, the "owner" obviously must have clear title to the land, or it is not theirs to control. But when any of us in the U. S. trace our ownership back, we find that our land was stolen from the Indians. So much for "private property".

Well, lets's assume that we actually "own" the land. What does this really mean? It doesn't give us unlimited power to do with it what we wish. Numerous laws restrict what we can do, in order to protect the rights of our neighbors and the long-term interests of the community. In other words, the vision of unfettered use of "private property" presented by Republicans is pure fantasy.

But let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that we really do have control of the land. What can we really control? Certainly not the animals and plants and other forms of life found there, because they are independent beings with mind of their own. In fact, it is unthinkable that any law can give us control over such wildlife, because one of the cornerstones of our democratic form of government (and of U. S. history in particular) is that the governed must have access to the legislative process -- "No taxation without representation". Since wildlife did not and can not vote on legislation, our courts, legislatures, and executive branches have no jurisdiction over wildlife, and hence no legal right to allow them to be harmed.

Assuming that we continue our selfish human tradition of considering wildlife as the "property" of mankind (and Republicans represent the most selfish of our selfish race), should the community guarantee the profitability of every landowner? No, of course not! We don't guarantee the profitability of any other businesses (except utilities, which are required to benefit the community). Why should we single out land speculators for subsidy?

Even if we agreed that their losses were unfortunate, how could we blame this on the government, which is merely enforcing the will of the community? Should we now have to indemnify every abuser of the will of the community? Should we pay burglars for their loss of potential income when we arrest them? Should we have paid slaveholders when we freed their slaves? If so, then we are saying not only that crime does pay, but that honesty does not. While this may be arguably be the Republican credo, it isn't mine!

I have just one question. Where does a country that expects to get paid every time they obey the law get the money to pay for that? Is this the same party that claims to believe in fiscal responsibility?


Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.