Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What the Bad Guys Say About Eminent Domain

The day after the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Kelo v. New London, I received my copy of the Cato Policy Report in my postal mailbox. The back page of the January-February 2005 issue includes this nugget, attributed to Bond Buyer Online (October 4, 2004), a defense of indiscriminate use of eminent domain powers by the government:

"The way the opponents of eminent domain always want to portray it is, 'Oh, Old Mother Hubbard is getting kicked out of her cupboard by an evil government," said [District of Columbia mayor Anthony] Williams, a lawyer.

Much of the time, local governments try to expropriate the property of "some wealthy interest [who] doesn't want to get off their land for the benefit of the public," Williams said. Eminent domain authority constitutes "the exercise of the public realm for good productive purposes against selfish, private, parochial interests."...

"[Court restrictions on eminent domain] to me would be a veneration of propery rights at the expense of community interest, a federation of private interests at the expense of the public commonweal," he said. "The restrictions on when you can take property are becoming more and more severe."

If only Williams' last comment reflected reality! One can only hope that the Supreme Court makes his words true.

The kicker is Cato's headline on this little item: "Like small businesses getting expropriated for millionaire baseball owners?", a reference to Williams' steamrollering of a publicly-financed stadium in southeast Washington that will destroy dozens of small businesses and displace numerous homeowners. The taxpayer subsidy of the baseball teams' owners is bad enough; the destruction of a neighborhood is shameful.

Just more evidence of the inherent evil in those government officials who use eminent domain to transfer wealth from poor, politically powerless citizens to rich, politically powerful ones.

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