Friday, October 07, 2005

Speaking of the Supreme Court,

Liberalism, and Tennessee...

I thought this may be an interesting read for us. Here's the question, civil liberties fans: when should the government be able to use eminent domain to take away your home or land? Should they ever be able to take it away, and then turn it around and sell it to others as private property?

DADvocate chimes in with his opinion on the matter here. And a hat tip to him for coming across this article from Facing South.

IMHO, eminent domain should only be used in the most rare of circumstances, when the need for public works must outweigh the property rights of the individual. Major highways, lakes (like what the TVA was supposed to do...), cleaning up hazardous pollution and clearing out blighted areas. But those lands are confiscated lands: lands confiscated from individual owners. Just compensation must be made, and that land then belongs to the public (as the government belongs to the public).

The idea of governments turning around and selling these lands to higher bidders, so those bidders can make a profit is just wrong and one of the most un-American things I can think of.


Dante said...

I remember back in 6th Grade when I first learned about eminent domain. I was shocked to learn that the government could just take land to build roads, government buildings, etc. My teacher argued that the owners of that land were given just compensation. In my opinion if you offer someone an amount of money for something and they say "no," you didn't compensate them justly. I don't like the idea of eminent domain. I'm willing to live with it for projects like roads than cannot simply be located elsewhere. This is just opening the door for a whole new level of corruption for state and local governments.

mikey said...

I think most of us can agree that eminent domain does not give the government (any government federal, state, or local) authority to act like a stock-broker with a military. Furthermore, I don’t think the guys making the argument that it does would be doing so if it was a high end condo complex being confiscated so a private hospital could build a methadone clinic instead of poor, black neighborhood being sold to a country club.

Now that being said, the whole concept of eminent domain is tricky. “Just compensation” for interest is typically defined as fair market value. But fair market value leaves a lot of things out of the equation. For instance, let’s say that my family has lived on a particular plot of land for generations. Though it may not be worth much economically, it is worth a ton to me historically. Even more striking, fair market value is a simple snapshot. It pays no attention to potential worth. Let’s say I live in West Texas (this is for you Dante) and my land is taken over by the Federal Government in order to build an Interstate Spur. While building this spur, construction crews happen to find out that beneath the land is a rich oil well. The land’s value skyrockets but I don’t see another dime.

I’m not a huge fan of strict protection of private property rights because it is often used to stop communities from passing zoning regulations that would protect their neighborhoods from an influx of environmentally dangerous industries like, say, Mega-sized Hog Farms. But I do believe that Government’s right to eminent domain and their interest in neglecting private property rights should be limited to activities that directly benefit the PUBLIC GOOD, not a stock portfolio.