On artists, takings and theft


If you take something from someone without paying them the full market value the Americans call this a "taking". In their Constitution (actually, the Fifth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights) this is expressly forbidden, the taking of private property for public use without just compensation.

While this is, sadly, often honoured only in the breach the reasoning behind it is quite simple. To use the law, or the power of government, to take the property of a person is theft in the wider sense of that word.

The impending closure of the Colony Room, the Soho drinking den patronised by louche figures from the art world including Francis Bacon and Tracey Emin, may be averted after an intervention by English Heritage.

The advisory body is rushing through an inspection to determine whether the club, which has witnessed 60 years of booze-soaked misbehaviour by some of Britain's most creative drunks, merits listed status.

Quite why the room where artistic livers have been destroyed should be listed escapes me, but the real reason why they want to try is this:

Artists who are campaigning to keep the Colony Room open believe that listed status will help them to come to an arrangement with the landlord because it would be harder to redevelop the premises.

Making it harder to redevelop the building means that the landlord will lose some of the value of the property. That value will be transferred, by law, from the landlord to the drinkers, for the landlord will lose any development profits while the artistes will be able to drink in Soho without paying the full cost of the premises in which they do so.

That the law is used of course makes it entirely legal but in my opinion this is still theft.

Don't list it, don't create such a taking, let Tracey and her friends cough up the full cost of their tipples and the room they like to spill them in.