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A great blog covering eminent domain

Following on from my post below objecting to compulsory purchase laws – with the sole exception of where such laws are needed for things like defence or to save life – here is a great blog and resource for those interested in these issues. It is written mainly about the US but much of its insights carry weight over in the UK and other Common Law nations, or for that matter, other countries too. Recommended.

6 comments to A great blog covering eminent domain

  • H Forte

    Unless someone is or has been involved in an Eminent Domain (ED) issue, it’s hard to describe the pressures it puts on you.

    I currently own a business in a building at a location that has had the ED threat for sseveral years. While I own the business, the building is owned by my mother, and I am responsible for all expenses.

    The local goverment has has a no ED “policy” agreed to by the city council, but there has been resistance on passing an ordinance by several members. And although the Mayor is sympathetic, his influence is only gauranteed for his current term.

    Making any kind of long term plans as the the business is next to impossible, and equally so as to improvements and alterations to the physical property.

    Seeing the process in action however, makes you understand how powerless a single individual or small group actually is. By the time that the owner(s) are even aware that they are in a target zone, hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been spent on engineering and planning by both the city, and involved developers. Of course none of this is available to or even reported the the public.

    While unable to see the actual plans, I am aware that there have been drainage, traffic flow, architectural mockups, development plans by at least two large development companies, and other plans and reports presented to state, and other agencies.

    Bear in mind that none of the property taken will be used for utility, right of way, or other civil projects. It is simply the transferrence of property from one individual to another by the government.

    While the total development area covers from 6 – 12 blocks depending on which version of a plan you are reading, the scale suggests that mere ownership of the properties by individuals would be no obstacle to the greater good of the city. But taking those properties from those owners and giving them to others to reap profits from, is.

    And the greater good being? The destruction of existing homes and businesses, to build new multi-family residences (condos and/or townhouses), and a new centralized shopping area. All to increase the tax base.

    The term blighted no longer means falling down, decrepid, or abandoned. It simply means that a government entity is not collecting enough taxes as it could.

    Probobly the only reason things have stalled is because of the current economic situation with the associated drop in real esatate development, and the pressures on banks and wall street slowing any large scale projects from starting.

    More than anything else, the current incarnation of ED only shows exactly how any government willing to use it feels about it’s populace. Private property, isn’t. Property rights, aren’t. And individual rights, are merely guidelines.

  • Nuke Gray!

    If we could just outlaw all eminent domain powers by any level of government, libertarianism would have won half the battle to entrench freedom! This could be why no country has yet succeeded in becoming freer. Even the U.S. has these powers, at State and Local levels. The term ‘public good’ can be given whatever meaning suits the powers-that-bedazzle, as you can see in the Kelso case in America.
    Why give such power to any level of government? If they want some land for ‘the public good’, they should be prepared to buy it IF the owner wants to sell it! They should be forced to compete and outbid any other would-be buyer! If they don’t want to pay a good price for it, do they really want it?

  • Paul Marks

    You have my sympathy H. Forte – it will do you no good, but you have it.

    Nuke Gray – agreed.

    The best, mainstream, Common Law writer on Eminent Domain that I know of is Richard Epstein – “Takings”.

    Prof Epstein is not a libertarian (and is rather an innocent – for example he thinks of William Ayers the terrorist as a nice guy), but his book is a good one.

    The point of the Common Law is that it rests on precidents – that is fine where the precidents are good, but not fine where the precidents (the judgements of courts over the years) have “evolved” in an anti private property direction. Which they have.

    People from Common Law nations used to snear at how the “Civil Law” nations had led “Roman Law” in an anti private property direction.

    Specifically that a landowner could not remove a tenant without “just cause” (even at the end of a lease) which led to a class of small peasant plots that made farming in much of Latin America a mess (modern “land reform” made this even worse – by stealing the land from the landowers totally).

    And the Civil Law concept that the government had the power to do what it deemed right – a concept joyfully embraced by “enlightened” Kings in their struggle against “feudal” limitations on the power of the state.

    However, (as you will have guessed) modern “legislation” and court judgement have shrank the differences between Common Law and “Civil” Law to the point where they hardly exist anymore.

    The old law of England (called by J. Bentham “feudalism mixed with anarchy”) is long dead.

  • Paul Marks

    On the positive side (I am often accused of being too gloomy).

    Some States in the United States have real (as opposed to rigged – with the candidates being chosen by the Bar Association or other such) elections of judges – so it is possible that the domination of the left of the universities (where modern lawyers learn the law) will be partly reversed by the people themselves.

    I believe that Texas is one of these States – and that Texas has made recent legal reforms (such as restoring the concept of fault to tort law – rather than the modern American concept of “here is suffering, let us look for someone with deep pockets to pay”).

    Also many American States have made moves to at least restrict “Eminent Domain” to government projects – not schemes for stealing property from the politically unconnected and giving it the politically connected (normally big business – which promises more tax revenue).

    In fact I know of only one State where such a move (by the State Legislature) has been vetoed by a Governor – New Mexico.

    Bill Richardson (soon to be Commerce Secretary) thought it was O.K. to steal the property of the poor and give it to the rich.

    Still this sort of corruption has an old history in New Mexico.

    After all the Murphy family (and their friends) used the power of the state to eliminate (by killing) people who opened up stores in competition with them.

    Although one “Billy the Kid” did pose some problems for the Murphys and co, for a time.

    The murder, by the people with badges, of William Tunsdall and then Mr McSwane (both unarmed) did provoke quite a response.

  • Joseph A. Cleary

    I just settled with a group of people in Texas, it was either sell them part of my land or they’d take it.
    To be forced into selling what is yours by laws means isn’t all that the law stands for or at least it shouldn’t. As to foce some one into selling that which isn’t for sale is theift.

  • Joseph A. Cleary

    I just settled with a group of people in Texas, it was either sell them part of my land or they’d take it.
    To be forced into selling what is yours by laws means isn’t all that the law stands for or at least it shouldn’t. As to foce some one into selling that which isn’t for sale is theift.
    Joseph A. Cleary