Eminent Domain=Entitlement

August 2, 2008

Steven M. Warshawsky compares the taking of private property through eminent domain to entitlements. 

The legal issue in Kelo was whether the proposed taking was for a valid “public use” within the meaning of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the government from taking private property except “for public use” and upon payment of “just compensation.”  In its decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the condemned property in Kelo would not be open for use by the general public, in the manner of roads or parks or schools or public utilities.  Nevertheless, the Court held that the proposed redevelopment plan served a valid “public purpose” because it would bring “new jobs and increased tax revenues” to the local community.  The fact that the plan primarily would benefit private individuals and corporations, at the expense of the displaced homeowners, did not render it unconstitutional.  As the Court explained, “[p]romoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government.”

Which leaves us open to this…

“Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded — i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public — in the process.”  While the majority opinion in Kelo faithfully, if mechanically, applied existing Supreme Court precedents (which had upheld egregious uses of eminent domain in the past), Justice O’Connor’s dissent expressed a deeper concern about the abuse of governmental power.

He goes further to liken the takings clause to earmarks and social security and has this gem which distills our wonderful payroll taxes to a simple paragraph…

Hence, when workers pay social security taxes, they are not saving and investing for their own retirements, as free and responsible citizens should.  Rather, they are being forced — on pain of prosecution and jail if they refuse — to pay for the retirements of others.  The plain truth is that under the Social Security program, the private property of workers — the fruits of their labor — is being expropriated and redistributed by the federal government, ultimately at gunpoint.  This may not be “slavery” in the traditional sense; but as Walter Williams has argued, “one person is being forcibly used to serve the purposes of another person.”

As a young’n, I’m pissed that I pay into a system that may or may not be there when I’m ready to retire.  I’m pissed that my property could be taken shoud I decide not to sell, based on what someone else deems appropriate.  This needs to be fixed.  Now.

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