November 17, 2015

The Injustice of Eminent Domain

Adam Millsap

Assistant Director, L. Charles Hilton Jr. Center for the Study of Economic Prosperity and Individual Opportunity, Florida State University
Summary

The District of Columbia recently filed suit in D.C. Superior Court to use eminent domain to take control of a piece of land the city needs to placate D.C. United, the District's major league soccer team. Without the land, D.C. United may leave for Virginia. This is just another in a growing list of local governments using the policy of eminent domain to enrich other private citizens, rather than for essential public uses. It's a policy only big business or a government bureaucrat could love.

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The District of Columbia recently filed suit in D.C. Superior Court to use eminent domain to take control of a piece of land the city needs to placate D.C. United, the District's major league soccer team. Without the land, D.C. United may leave for Virginia. This is just another in a growing list of local governments using the policy of eminent domain to enrich other private citizens, rather than for essential public uses. It's a policy only big business or a government bureaucrat could love.

Eminent domain allows governments to acquire private property from unwilling sellers for public use. In many cases, however, "public use" has been ignored or twisted beyond recognition, as local governments use it to take people's homes and businesses for different private uses, as long as these provide more of a "public benefit." The subtle switch from use to benefit spells trouble for many.

Now a carpet store in Glendale, Colorado, can be seized and handed over to a developer so that an entertainment complex can be constructed, as this provides jobs and a bigger tax base for the city. As for the proprietor's livelihood, who cares?

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