Eminent domain cheats owners: Indiana Statesman (Indiana State Univ), 7/6/05


By Chuck McDonald

On June 23 the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that cities and states may take private homes, businesses and land for its owners and give it to other private companies that could provide the city or state with more tax revenue but the purported tax revenue does not always come to pass often times because big business are given breaks to bring their company to different areas.

The ruling stemmed from a New London, Connecticut case in which city officials want to take home owners' land by using eminent domain to apply to "economic development" because it will increase tax revenue by allowing a 270 million Pfizer research center. The government generally uses the law to condemn slums as well as build highways, parks and other public use facilities. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in a dissenting opinion, "The court today significantly expands the meaning of public use. It holds that the sovereign may take private property currently put to ordinary private use, and give it over for new, ordinary private use." Justice O'Connor is correct.

The new program's proponents of the new development say the government will use it carefully and not abuse the power. The government can not be trusted. The government is an entity that continually takes more power little by little or in this case large chunks at a time and invades our lives. Once the government usurps power from the people it is never returned. This use of eminent domain sounds like a communist line of thought in that the government distributes resources.

One critic of the new policy, Logan Darrow Clements, suggested to town officials in New Hampshire that Justice David Souter's home be taken to create a hotel to increase tax revenue. Justice Souter joined in the majority of the Supreme Courts decision in favor of the new use of eminent domain.

Congress is also working to prevent abuse by local governments by not allowing government funds to go to private companies that benefit from eminent domain use in a bill sponsored by Republican representative Scott Garrett from New Jersey.

If a private company wants to use land owned by individuals it should be willing to pay for it on its own and not use eminent domain. Property owners are required to be paid market value for their property when a government uses eminent domain. This is sensible when the land will be used for parks, highways, or schools but when a private company wants to use the property the value goes up because the owners know the suitors can pay more and should raise their price. That is part of being in a capitalist society which is the way it should be.

Property owners all over the U.S. should be outraged. Citizens should boycott businesses that take over people's personal property because they want cheap land and the local government wants more tax revenue. As officials get the smell of more money in their noses it is likely to spread to all areas in the U.S.

Congress needs to do more by defining a set of rules to reign in rogue towns that wish to pull private property from owners for other private interests. Ideally states would govern the local eminent domain but since the Supreme Court ruled on the issue Congress will have to create the rules. Property owner's should write their representatives and demand the stop of the eminent theft of their land.

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