Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sandefur on Eminent Domain

The Washington Times is not a publication I usually cite favorably, but even they manage to publish worthwhile things from time to time. My fellow Panda's Thumber Tim Sandefur has written this interesting op-ed for them about government abuses of eminent domain. I don't know enough about the cases he cites to comment with any authority, but I have no trouble believing that the government is abusing its power in the ways Sandefur describes. Here's an excerpt:

Government's power to take property against the owner's will is called eminent domain, and it is the subject of a case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear on Feb. 22. In Kelo vs. New London, the court will consider whether the Constitution places any limits on eminent domain.

The Fifth Amendment says private property may only be taken for “public use,” which in the past meant highways or government buildings. But in the Kelo case, a Connecticut town decided to “revitalize” by taking several properties and replacing them with a hotel, a health club and a marina, to accompany a new research facility for the Pfizer Inc., the pharmaceutical company. Health clubs and corporate research are private uses, not public uses.

But the city argues “revitalization” would increase tax revenue and “create jobs.” And a public benefit, the city says, is all the Constitution requires. The problem with that argument is most businesses benefit the public.

If our homes can be taken away whenever bureaucrats decide somebody else would use them more effectively, our property rights are rendered meaningless.


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