Saturday, April 23, 2011

California steals its citizens' property???

The Ludwig von Mises Institute reports that private property in California now appears to be regarded as yet more fiscal fodder to feed that State's insatiable financial appetite.

As reported by ABC News, what started out as a program to hold unclaimed property, such as the contents of safety deposit boxes owned by people who have moved away without a forwarding address, has gone wildly out of control. The program is now using the flimsiest of excuses to drill safe deposit boxes and sell the contents, often for below-market value, the proceeds going to the state’s general revenue.

In a case reminiscent of the Monty Python organ donor skit (or perhaps the movie Repo Men), a San Francisco woman’s jewelry appraised at over $80,000 was sold even though she lived a few blocks from her bank, had not moved, and was current on all of her box rental feeds. In another case, a man’s retirement savings consisting of $4 million of stock certificates were sold; and "A Sacramento family lost out on railroad land rights their ancestors had owned for generations".

The program began life as a place to hold unclaimed property for up to 5 years while the state made attempts to locate the owner. Both the holding period and the efforts to locate the owner have diminished over time. ABC news indicates that there have been internal debates within the state on these changes, with an internal memo objecting to efforts to to find the owners on the grounds that "It could well result in additional claims of monies that would otherwise flow into the general fund".

There's more at the link. Unfortunately, the ABC News article referenced by Mises appears to have been taken down; but extensive sections of it were quoted by the Classic Liberal blog in reporting on the same issue. I recommend you visit there to learn more.

I was amazed that this sort of thing could happen in America. Who would expect that laws could be passed to permit the State to loot the possessions of its citizens and residents, without compensation? I don't know whether other states are also doing this, or something similar, but it occurs to me that California can hardly be alone in its rapacity. Can any readers comment on whether the same thing is happening in their States of residence? Is it a widespread problem? And are any court challenges being mounted - or even permitted?



Anonymous said...

And this is surprising how? Our government has become a bureaucratic monster that literally sucks the economic life out of every of value it can touch. It's like a Dickens novel only the greedy money grubber is the government we elected to manage day to day affairs. I foresee two likely outcomes; either the economy collapses or we develop a pervasive attitude of cost reduction in our government as private industry does as a matter of course.

Anonymous said...

This is actually a legal doctrine called escheat and New York state does the same thing. However, New York goes further in escheating "abandoned" savings accounts.

trailbee said...

Personally, I don't think I have anything lying around, not nailed down, that Moonbeam would want, well, except my house, my land, and the well; but I'm sure he and the troll will come up with a new wrinkle to take care of that.

Nebris said...

I don't think I have anything...that Moonbeam would want

Most of this seems to have taken place on The Governator's watch, Pugster.

Sendarius said...

Here in West Oz, the government has a similar attitude to "asset forfeiture".

In recent years, a young man died of a drug overdose at the home of a doctor. It was alleged that the doctor supplied the man with the veterinary anaesthetic "ketamine", and the doctor was charged.

While being held (without bail) pending trial, the doctor suicided, and thus was never convicted of any crime.

The state seized the house where the man died, and a rental property owned by the doctor, under some bizarre interpretation of "criminal asset forfeiture" and "proceeds of crime" legislation.