Recently, I stumbled across an interesting Los Angeles Times article. In rural Bazhou of China, there lives a man named Shen Jianzhong, who takes kung fu very seriously. Well, a Communist Party official seemed interested in buying off Shen’s land, so he sent some dashou, or hired people, to evict Shen and his family forcefully. The problem was that kung fu Shen beat them up pretty badly.
To check out the article, click here: LA Times-If Bruce Lee Faced Forced Eviction in China
Is what the official did legal? Apparently, in China it is.
At first glance I thought China was making some corrupt laws. Then, I realized, hey, didn’t the US Constitution also say that the US government could take away anybody’s property, as long as there is fair compensation? This brought up a question: why does this law work well in the US but not in China?
Well, first of all, China has the world’s largest population. It’ pretty much crowded everywhere, and to try to find any available living space, let along farmland, is near impossible. (Maybe I’m exaggerating too much.) Now note that the Chinese officials target rural areas. More than likely are those getting evicted farmers. On the other hand, in the United States, our country is somehow more spacious with a much less population. If a family gets evicted, they should have no problem finding new living space (unless in bad financial situations).
Besides population, another reason is that America is a democracy. The US gov’t can be corrupt and start evicting everybody off of their property so it can take their land. The problem, however, is that the American people will start protesting and rebelling, and since the people have the power, they can refuse to vote someone who is not against all this corruption. There is usually always another politician, however, who seizes on this chance and becomes anti-eviction so he can win office. And to those in office, they don’t want to lose their jobs, so they have to also be anti-eviction to convince the people that they’re on their side. On the other hand, in China, they don’t have this kind of limitation, because China is not a democracy. The government can take away as much as they want, and they won’t get into that much political trouble.
However, the Chinese people are beginning to resent this. The American people generally don’t. Perhaps the reason is that the Constitution says the government must make fair compensation. The China government contrarily can pay any amount they want.
So far I am in a sense showing American superiority on this issue. But even if America is superior, is it right for the government to ever violate a person’s right to private property for the public’s good? In other words, is eminent domain truly right or wrong?
Past US Supreme Court cases have interpreted eminent domain as for the good or the improvement of the public. In one case, the court ruled that eminent domain could be used to allow a mill owner to expand his dam and operations by flooding an upstream neighbor. The court opinion stated that a public use does not have to mean public occupation of the land; it can mean a public benefit. I disagree with this. American society is not and never will be an Utopian society; nobody should be forced to give up something just to improve the public. Yes, one should be forced to give up property rights if it is necessary for the survival of the society. But just to improve it is not a good enough reason, in my opinion.
In another case, the Supreme Court approved the Hawaiian Housing Authority to be able to transfer a land lessor’s title to its tenants who owned and occupied homes built on the leased land. How did this support the public? The government said it would help the economy by breaking up a housing oligopoly. Um, first of all, this sounds like socialism. Secondly, is this really a sensible reason? By helping the economy the government can really improve society? I suggest the government focus on the welfare of society, not the economic situation.
Pretty much, my case is that America’s eminent domain needs a little bit fixing. China’s however, definitely needs tons of fixing. In the long run, I am sure China’s will get fixed, because here’s one thing I learned: whether the government is dictatorial, democratic, or communist, the people always have the power. Right now, the Chinese people are protesting against this eviction dilemma. The Communist Party can keep on ignoring, but when the protests start gaining more voices, the party will one day have to bow down to what the people want on this issue.