Michigan's Property Rights Groups
Outposts of Libertarian dissent
April 19, 1997 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service
There are about 30 organizations actively working in Michigan to weaken or repeal environmental laws, which they view as a threat to private property owners. According to their policy statements, these groups generally believe that any government action that interferes with a person's ability to use his land as he sees fit constitutes a "taking" of private property. Among the leading organizations are:
The Oceana County Drain Commissioner, Calvin Ackley, founded this increasingly prominent group after a conflict with the federal government over wetlands protection law. CARR's brochure says it is "an organization born in the hearts of conservationists and based in the heartland of farms, forests, and great lakes. We recognize that the growth encroachment of the government with "Environmental" laws and regulations threatens our basic freedom."
Michigan Farm Bureau Federation
Michigan's top agricultural trade organization, the Farm Bureau Federation in Lansing has emerged as an influential advocate for private property rights. In 1995, the group adopted a strident new policy that said, in part:
"We believe that any action by government that diminishes an owner's right to use their property constitutes a taking of that owner's property. Therefore, government should provide due process and compensation to the exact degree that an owner's right to use his property has been diminished by government action."
The founders of this group, based in Haslett, are vehicle collectors who believe most zoning codes that limit automotive nuisances are unfair. A flyer circulated by CARZ says:
"We soon discovered that nuisance zoning regulations were a common method for that certain segment of society that enjoys pushing people around and wants to make everyone conform to some predetermined standard. We admit that on occasion nuisance zoning control is warranted but not as often as the affluent public that instigates zoning thinks. Now we rabidly dislike most all nuisance zoning and blight codes, as well as the enforcers which we generally find to be zealots in the extreme."
The state Chamber, based in Lansing, has become an ardent opponent of environmental protection laws. It has lobbied hard for legislation to require the state to assess all new laws for their effect on private property.
In 1994, the Chamber's board issued a formal policy that called for repealing laws that could "encroach on the rights of property owners," and urged federal and state lawmakers to approve a "property owners' bill of rights that redefines already existing constitutional guarantees."
Co-founded in 1987 by Gov. John Engler, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland is probably the best-funded political think tank in the state. With an annual budget of $1 million and a 15-person staff, the Center champions a reactionary, anti-government ideology, and is fiercely opposed to environmental protection measures.
In 1996, the Center published a study that calls for new laws providing compensation whenever "a governmental action affects private real property, in whole or in part, temporarily or permanently."