Early this year the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in an important property rights case, one that could - and should - put legal limits on "public use" of property seized under the government's constitutional power of eminent domain.
Most Americans readily support the notion that there are times when the government must have the power to buy land from unwilling sellers, such as to build a road. But in recent years local governments across the nation have begun to abuse the awesome power of property condemnation.
The victims usually are ordinary people. In one of the more infamous cases of abuse, an entire community in Detroit's "Poletown" was condemned for a General Motors plant that was never built; the Michigan Supreme Court recently overturned that taking.
Local and state governments for the most part have turned a deaf ear to their pleas, because, well, too many politicians tend to enjoy playing developer with the power of government.
Sadly the Bush White House appears to be having a difficult time deciding which side it should be on in this case.
Concern about the administration's possible hostility to ordinary property owners is so great that 44 conservative and libertarian organizations, ranging from the Institute to the National Taxpayers Union and the Family Research Council, have sent a highly unusual joint letter to the White House pleading for the president to order his lawyers to at least, if they can't bear to do the right thing and support limitations on the government's condemnation power, to stay on the sidelines.
But Americans deserve better than that. They deserve to have the White House stick up for ordinary Americans' property rights and for a recognition that there properly should be limits to government power, especially the power to take property gained by the sweat of one's brow.
The Minot Daily News: www.minotdailynews.com
If you wish to add your voice to the appeal to the Bush Administration on this key property rights issue, elephone comment numbers and email addresses are as follows:
The White House (202-456-1111): firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dept of Justice (202-353-1555): AskDOJ@usdoj.gov