Monday, December 19, 2005

Eminent Domain for the Public Good?

From a Star Tribune editorial,

What bothers people is the use of eminent domain to benefit private development and the public tax base. But while that sounds alarming at first hearing, it's much ado about not very much. . . . Eminent domain is used sparingly in most states . . . . Its real value lies not in its execution but in its leverage. Just having the authority to condemn blighted land has been enough to help hundreds of cities reclaim abandoned industrial waterfronts, derelict warehouses and substandard residences for the greater good.

The role of government advocated here is inconsistent with the American system of political economy and disseminates a lie as it advocates threats to property in order to advance the greater good.

The advancement of the greater good is not a political or economic end the Founders of the United States sought to achieve. The Founders believed that individuals have rights that exist before the creation of government. Government does not grant rights to individuals, rather all individuals are born with natural rights. The most natural of rights is of course the right to property. What individuals do with their property is up to them, so long as they don't harm someone else along the way.

As it turns out, this right to property is the key to the creation and maintenance of an economically prosperous nation or community. It is when property rights are poorly defined and threatened that individuals fail to acquire wealth and prosperity because of the disincentive they face to produce. To promote any activity that threatens the right to property will do more harm than good because of the produced disincentive.

This doesn’t sound like the greater good to me. It sounds like a minority of individuals will benefit from eminent domain abuse while the majority is faced with the decision of how much to invest in property. With threats of eminent domain lingering over their heads investing in property to develop is taking a risk as it may be taken for someone else to develop instead.

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