Abusing eminent domain: Big-box bullies — Pittsburgh (PA) Tribune-review, 12/13/04

Big-box retailers use Big Government to box-out the little guy.

Mega-merchandisers such as Costco Wholesale Corp., Home Depot Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. try to control acquisition costs the old-fashion way — they have politicians take the desired land from property owners so it can be transferred to them.

"Legalized theft" is not an oxymoron to those familiar with eminent domain. Government's right of eminent domain had been limited to taking private property, and offering compensation, for truly public uses. New roads. Fire stations. Courthouses.

Now government grabs private property on behalf of the big-box bullies. The confiscation is rationalized as being for the greater good, supposedly to create jobs and produce taxes. And the original owner is offered some money.

The jumbo-jerk arrogance was epitomized by Costco vice president Joel Benoliel. He told shareholders two years ago that "probably dozens" of its projects involve eminent domain "or the threat of it." He also offered that this is not a corruption of the free market and that limiting government land-grabbing to genuine public uses was a "simplistic" libertarian argument.

Big-box stores could be made to appreciate the simplicity of that libertarian argument if government ever grabs their real estate — in the name of "the public good" — to hand over to their competitors.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: