NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

EMINENT DOMAIN: THE "DESPOTIC POWER"

September 29, 2004

For years, governments have taken private lands with almost no thought to constitutional limits or the injustice of their acts. The nation's highest court may soon bring this to an end, says Investor's Business Daily (IBD).

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to take Kelo v. New London, the case of a group of working-class homeowners who are fighting the city of New London, Conn., which has plans to demolish their houses to make way for a private development.

  • The Institute for Justice documented more than 10,000 cases between 1998 and 2002 of governments abusing the power of eminent domain.
  • That power was intended at the birth of our republic to let authorities condemn private property for public -- not private -- use, but not without the just compensation required by the Fifth Amendment.
  • The Institute for Justice believes the number of actual seizures is far higher because there is no single source from which to gather the data.

Should the appropriate ruling be made, governments' habit of taking property for use by other private interests is likely to be halted. There would be no more cases like the one in New London, where the city has tried to seize homes to help a commercial development that officials favor because it means more tax revenues, says IBD.

As the Institute for Justice has well documented, it's easy to see where that sort of mind-set leads to an unchecked corruption of government power that drives more of the elderly, the poor, the middle class, the struggling, the successful and the young out of their homes and small businesses, says IBD.

Source: Editorial, "Despots In Power," Investor's Business Daily, September 29, 2004.

 

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