Jul 1, 2005

Thoughts on condemnation/eminent domain

What does the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on government powers of condemnation mean?

Before this decision, the meaning of "public purpose" requirements for condemnation meant taking land for roads, schools, etc. With the new ruling, government can take property away from an individual if the government thinks a developer or other party can generate a little more tax revenue for the government than the existing property owner. Even if the existing property owner doesn't want to sell at any price.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in her dissenting opinion, "Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded -- i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public."

The Supreme Court has taken a socialist position in this ruling. Personal property rights have been kicked to the curb. The court is saying a government has free reign to decide what the public interest is, and make plans to enact the "public interest", but can do so so without any regard for the private property rights of the individual who owns that land.

This is the kind of action you used to read about when the old Soviet Union released its central plans- The state can do anything it wants- in a collectivist society the individual has no property rights.

As Justice O'Connor stated in her dissent, "nearly any lawful use of real private property can be said to generate some incidental benefit to the public." If the Fifth Amendment requires only that a taking provide some such benefit, she wrote, "the words 'for public use' do not realistically exclude any takings."

But property rights are one of the most basic of human rights. Property rights are just as valuable and sacred as freedom of speech or freedom of religion.

When was the last time your freedom of speech was taken away by the government because what you said wasn't in the "public interest"?

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