Private property, interrupted
News Service Aug. 31, 2007, 8:15am
These days, everyone's an auctioneer if they want to be.
That's thanks to eBay, the web juggernaut that has made liquid markets for hundreds of thousands of products out of thin air. Even those crusty statist anti-capitalists among us cannot deny the benefits. Sellers in their pajamas now find buyers where there once were none; buyers perched near an isolated Allegheny mountain top can now find the best prices in a click.
Which brings us to retired Cabell Circuit Judge L.D. Egnor, who must feel trapped in a time warp.
Maybe he's in the Soviet Union, circa 1960. Or perhaps it's East Germany in the year 1980. Wherever it is, there exists nothing like eBay. Buying and selling in Egnor's world transpires not in response to supply or demand, but at the pleasure of government bureaucrats.
In this case, West Virginia's apparatchiks seem to be taking pleasure in halting commerce, or Egnor's attempt to auction off his Huntington home. First, they (incorrectly) told him he'd need to hire a state-approved auctioneer to handle the sale. Then, when Egnor protested, they threatened his lawyer with retaliation unless he dropped Egnor as a client.
So representing himself, Egnor explained his plight to Kanawha County Judge Paul Zakaib earlier this month. But Zakaib said there was nothing he could do, because Egnor "has demonstrated no harm."
Time, apparently, doesn't equal money on the value-o-meter of government officials. And common sense too often doesn't register at all.
We're not sure why West Virginia citizens need to get state approval-- hiring, as per the self-importants at our state "Real Estate Commission," a West Virginia-licensed auctioneer and a West Virginia-licensed real estate broker-- to auction off their own homes. But taking in the absurd run-around to which L.D. Egnor's been subjected, we're dead certain what's driving the actors behind this saga: raw vindictiveness.
The purpose of state regulation in all its forms is to protect society's most vulnerable, not harass one's political enemies. All state officials and employees should take heed of the distinction, lest they one day catch the brunt of their own institutional pettiness.
"There is a basic inherent evil to certain aspects of our bureaucracy," Egnor told Judge Zakaib. "I'm just getting so worn out with this."
To be sure, he's not the only one.