Congressman Pombo (Rep., Calif.) and Farah (former editor of the Sacramento Union) mount a spirited, effective defense against what they argue is a determined assault on the very concept of private property in America by an alliance of elitist environmental groups, high-handed bureaucrats, and complicit lawmakers. Marveling that ``a society increasingly obsessed with rights, real and imagined,'' has become perilously casual in its approach to a prerogative free people have deemed inalienable, the authors assess the guarantees afforded by the US Constitution, notably the Fifth Amendment, which asserts that private property cannot ``be taken for public use, without just compensation.'' The authors go on to show how perverse judicial and legislative interpretations of the Constitution's Commerce Clause have undermined, if not erased, this guarantee. They also cite a wealth of outrageous instances in which federal agencies (the Army's Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, EPA, et al.) have run roughshod over the rights of property owners in the name of conservation or some other greater good, invariably at the behest of affluent, tax-favored organizations like the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club. In the meantime, Pombo and Farah assert, news-gathering enterprises that jealously guard press freedoms remain singularly uncritical of the eco-federal coalition's arguably dubious ends and means. On the plus side of their ledger, the authors discern a network of grassroots organizations emerging to resist further encroachment on property rights. In a concluding chapter, Pombo and Farah offer down-to-earth proposals for putting people first while ensuring appropriate levels of protection for creatures and habitats truly at risk. A manifesto that could prove the opening statement in an overdue debate on property rights and the ties that bind them to personal liberties.
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