States Fighting Expansive Government

The 5-4 Kelo decision by the Supreme Court allows states to use eminent domain to seize property for commercial use based solely on the fact that the new owner can generate more revenue. This abusive expansion of government is not making very many people happy. There are valid concerns that people or even businesses could lose their property simply because a wealthier, better connected entity wants the property and can generate more revenue for the state in the form of taxes. The decision could be based on a larger employer’s ability to provide more jobs, thus giving government an excuse to take a person’s property.

Many states are fighting this by introducing and passing legislation that restricts the ability of government to seize property. There are however, some groups that are not happy about that. These groups believe that your property should not be of any more value to you than to the greater good of the community. Here are a few quotes from an article in the NYT:

The National League of Cities, which supports the use of eminent domain as what it calls a necessary tool of urban development, has identified the issue as the most crucial facing local governments this year. The league has called upon mayors and other local officials to lobby Congress and state legislators to try to stop the avalanche of bills to limit the power of government to take private property for presumed public good.

“It’s fair to say that many states are on the verge of seriously overreacting to the Kelo decision,” said John D. Echeverria, executive director of the Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Institute and an authority on land-use policy. “The danger is that some legislators are going to attempt to destroy what is a significant and sometimes painful but essential government power. The extremist position is a prescription for economic decline for many metropolitan areas around the county.”

The problem these groups have is they fail to realize there is a provision in the Constitution for eminent domain. The government is allowed to take property, with fair compensation, to build public structures for the greater good. Schools, roads, bridges, and court houses would fall in this category. The Constitution does not allow private property to be taken for private purposes. It would be like Bill Gates telling a state government that if they tear down a public housing area he will build a mansion there and his property taxes will be far more than generated by the public housing. That is unfair and unconstitutional.

Since the right to take private property has not been addressed in the Constitution, the SCOTUS was wrong in deciding it was legal. States are now rushing to fix the legal snafu the SCOTUS caused when it made this boneheaded decision. Government already intrudes in our lives far more than they should. This is an intrusion that should have people up in arms and it does. We can not allow the government to take what we have worked hard to achieve (though they do it with taxes) and we need to ensure they do not have the power to do it.

States are correct in their positions. They are making sure that government does not abuse its power simply to generate revenue. If that makes certain groups unhappy then that is too bad. They need to leave other people’s property alone. The only good thing is that this might generate another court challenge and this time the conservatives, who were in the minority on the Kelo decision (that is right the liberals voted to take your property) have the majority and will probably overturn the last ruling.

Source: NYT

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