Imagine having the power to declare something legitimate with the stroke of a pen, the press of a stamp, or the enter button on your keyboard.
The government has that power. But it is part of the magical myth of government legitimacy. That is the main service government provides: legitimacy.
It can make stealing legitimate. It can make kidnapping legitimate. It can make assassinations, genocides, and wars legitimate.
And the government can also make housing deeds legitimate. They do the official processing to make sure that everything is in order. In their sacred temple of city hall, they bless the official papers with holy stamps, and all is right.
Except when it’s not.
New York City approved fraudulent papers which allowed a man to “officially” steal a woman’s house.
The forged deed was homemade, but the city government still processed it. They said stopping the fake deed from being processed would have been like finding a needle in a haystack. It sounds pretty easy to steal someone’s property with forged documents using the government’s system of verification.
After years of effort, the woman, Jennifer Merin, was finally able to hold the man accountable. He is now serving a year in prison.
But holding the city accountable is another story.
Merin, 74, had sued the city for not catching the forgery when the paperwork was first filed, but lost on appeal when the court backed a judge who said she couldn’t prove the city was negligent.
The feisty homeowner is fuming and has vowed to fight the decision.
“I find it absolutely astonishing and sickening that the city that gave away my property without due process by registering an obviously fraudulent deed, while it was still charging me for taxes on that property and water usage on that property, is now insisting that it has no accountability for those actions,” Merin told the Daily News.
Big governments are a lot like big corporations in some ways. They are dinosaurs. They can not maneuver and change with the times. In business, these megacorporations usually end up being upset by small startups with innovative business models.
And the same could happen with government.