Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Eminent Domain Coercion?

Samuel Gregg:
"By expanding the concept of eminent domain to embrace the notion of “economic development,” Kelo overrides all these limitations. First, the public use requirement is rendered meaningless. In the name of what it decides constitutes “economic development,” local government can transfer one piece of property from one private person or business to another private person or business.

Second, it suggests that the basic justification of ownership is no longer found in the fact of legitimate possession, but rather in which private individual or business is deemed more likely by local government to use the property in economically productive ways.

And here we find potential for very disturbing developments. St. Thomas Aquinas once wrote that private property was a great bulwark against undue expansion of state authority, precisely because my ownership of a property means that I, rather than government officials, make most of the decisions about how to use it. Kelo’s expansion of eminent domain undermines this very basic protection against excessive government power.

Worse, it creates tremendous incentives for businesses seeking to expand their holdings to disdain the normal methods of acquiring another’s property, such as offering to buy it from the owner. Instead they can aggressively lobby local government officials to invoke eminent domain and use the state to take another’s property for their own use. Such behavior is as much an instance of corporate welfare as tariffs and subsidies. Moreover, like all forms of corporate welfare, it is a recipe for corruption."
This last paragraph seems to be supported by the practice of local governments to THREATEN the use of eminent domain before much of an effort has ever been made to acquire property through the normal process of market exchange.

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