Paul Jacob

The world is full of dictators. Fidel Castro comes to mind. After more than four decades of iron-fisted rule, he is still tossing pro-democracy activists into prison for the awful crime of being, well, pro-democracy. (Still, some in the Hollywood crowd sing his praises.)

On the other side of the world, 75 percent of Iranians voted in their last election for candidates favoring democratic reforms. As new elections approach, the ruling clerics have thrown most of these pro-democracy candidates off the ballot.

One-man rule in North Korea not only threatens nuclear attack against its neighbors, but starves its own people through an ugly combination of incompetence and evil.

Of course, who could forget our allies in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and?the list of both allied and enemy dictatorships goes on and on. Thank goodness, there aren?t any dictators in our country.

Except that there are.

Tyranny, American Style

Oh sure, we overthrew the King of England a long time ago. But, we still sometimes suffer from the dictatorship of the elected. True, our dictators don?t cut off the fingers of dissidents or take over stadiums to stage mass executions. Compared to tyrannies abroad, we?ve got it pretty good.

Still, when those in power steal the public?s right to decide the public issues of the day, when they use their power not to do the people?s will, but rather, to ride roughshod over the people they are supposed to help, then we are served a slice of dictatorship. Sometimes it is merely a taste; too often we get much more than our fill.

Under what kind of system--democracy or dictatorship--would government functionaries force you from your home simply so that they could give your land to someone else who would provide them with more tax revenue?

They?re trying to do just that in Lakewood, Ohio, and in cities throughout our country. Using eminent domain, local governments are taking homes and businesses away from those who own them, only to hand the land over to private developers to build new homes and businesses that will generate higher tax revenue. Elected dictators have stood Robin Hood on his head, shaking down the poor to give to the rich.

Granted, when using eminent domain, the owners of the property seized must be compensated by government according to the market value of the property. But after living in a home for decades, rearing your kids there, who can place a "fair" value on those memories?

On the Make to Break You

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.