Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Kelo v. City of New London

Or, eminent-domain, Property Rights and wither you actually own anything.

One of the more serious questions we face as citizens is where Individual Rights end for the sake of the Community. In the case of Kelo v. New London Connecticut, eminent-domain is being utilized not to clear the traditional eyesore, but rather to complete a development parcel for private industry.

The relevant justification for the definition for eminent-domain comes from the Fifth Amendment, the relevant portion being:

nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The key element of this statement is ‘public use’. So, what comprises public use? Normally the exercise of eminent-domain occurs when a developed parcel has degraded to the point that it is lowering the value of surrounding parcels, or if a public work requires the land that is occupies by said development. However, in the Kelo v. New London, neither of these is the case.

Apparently, the city of New London has decided it is acceptable to exercise eminent-domain on a piece of well maintained, developed property for undetermined private use. A business park of some sort. So this begs the question, does a potential economic benefit outweigh private property rights.

Now the justification for all of this comes from a 1954 case before the Supreme Court, Berman v. Parker, which ruled that governments can seize blighted property and transfer it to a developer who can build something clean and modern in its place.

But what if the property isn’t ‘blighted’? Or does a potential increase in sales tax revenue from a business development when compared to private dwelling constitute ‘blight’?

A market economy ONLY works when property is clearly defined in a non-volatile manner. If a municipality can override property rights for any reason whatsoever without limit, then property no longer is any such thing.

At the end of the day, we should all know how this turns out in the end of June.

In case anyone is still paying attention, 'blight' is now officially defined as 'whatever we want'.


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