As I often write, history can be so crazy as to defy belief.

What are the odds that Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and John Adams, who chose him to write it, both died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence?

And what are the odds that the nation’s first parking meter, Park-O-Meter Number 1, which was installed this week (July 16) in 1935, on the corner of First Street and Robinson Avenue in Oklahoma City, Okla., would lead to a claim that parking meters violate our “due process of law” protection as outlined in both the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments?

The pertinent language in the Fifth Amendment states that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law … ” The pertinent language in the Fourteenth Amendment says, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law …”

In effect, the Fifth Amendment prevented the national government from taking someone’s life, liberty or property without due process, while the Fourteenth Amendment applied that same due-process requirement to the states. Therefore, no government — national, state or local — can take our life, liberty or property, without a judicial process to determine whether the government has that right.

So, for example, income taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes and inheritance taxes all pass the due-process requirement because laws were passed (or in the case of the income tax a constitutional amendment ratified) allowing such taking of our “property” (wealth), and when those laws were legally challenged they were upheld.

But to its opponents, the Park-O-Meter, which required car owners to deposit money in the meter if they wanted to park in downtown Oklahoma City, was a “taking” of their property — a tax on their cars — even though no law was passed allowing that, meaning due process was not observed.

It was, as I said, a crazy interpretation of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendment’s “due process” language, but from a strictly legal standpoint it was arguably correct. No law allowing this “taking” of their property by forcing drivers to pay to park their cars had been passed.

However, despite the opposition, the meters were installed throughout Oklahoma City, costing a nickel per hour. The city’s merchants loved them because they encouraged a quick turnover of cars, meaning quick turnover of new customers.

And, constitutionally allowable or not, they are with us today, as no court decision striking them down has occurred. After all, between the money we put in the meters, and the parking tickets we pay if we don’t, it generates lots of money for the government.

Email Kauffmann at bruce@historylessons.net or follow him on Twitter @BruceKauffmann.

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