FOR 30 YEARS ACROSS AMERICA, LOCAL, state, and federal governments have been begging, borrowing, and stealing trillions of dollars of private property with little or no compensation. Any voices raised in protest were drowned out by the cheering of environmentalists. But in Connecticut, the Supreme Court allows a city to take a few homes—even when it pays for them—and the anger falls like acid rain.

Better now than never.

For the first 180 years of our republic, the courts took property rights seriously. Judges insisted that government could only take private property under extreme circumstances. And then, of course, it had to pay for it.

But for the past 30 years, we've been on a slippery slope of government land-grabbing. At the federal level, the Endangered Species Act has outlawed the private use of private land on millions of acres. Few say that private use has been “outlawed.” They say it has been “set aside.” George Orwell was right: Control the word, control the thought.

In California alone, 5.4 million acres have been set aside for the red legged frog. Two million more acres have been set aside for sheep, shrimp, snails, and grasshoppers. Together this is larger than the entire state of Connecticut.

A recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife report shows that setting aside just a small portion of this land in California will mean an economic loss of $965 million and destroy 259,814 housing opportunities.

The list goes on all across America: The piping plover enjoys 508 miles of free waterfront property in nine states adjoining the Great Lakes. In Arizona, the pygmy owl gets 800,000 acres—with not a penny going to the people who own any of this property.

More than 20 million people are crammed into the 800,000 acres that make up Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Atlanta, and Boston. Meanwhile, 78 pygmy owls have 800,000 acres of land in Arizona. That's almost 10,000 acres per owl.

In Southern California today, the wholesale destruction of our property rights means that only 6.4 percent of San Diego residents can afford to buy an average-priced home. In Orange County, the number is 3.8 percent. The rest of the state is not much better off.

The implications for a whole generation unable to buy their first home are staggering—and catastrophic. Yet no one seems to notice. To paraphrase Lenin, steal a few homes in Connecticut and that is a tragedy. Steal hundreds of thousand in California and that is a statistic.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.