Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Eminent Domain, Imminent Disaster

I last mentioned eminent domain when discussing Donald Trump a couple of weeks ago. Now it's popping up again in a town called New London in CT. The city council is looking to increase revenue by building a pharmacutical complex, right over Fort Trumbull neighborhood.
The precise issue before the high court is whether this kind of arrangement between a city and a private developer violates the Fifth Amendment mandate that private property may be taken by the government only for "public use."

As I mentioned last time, the problem is the broad power given by the non-term "public use". Which public, what kind of use? These are not self evident, and that is why the interpretation is getting broader and broader as more unscrupulous businesses use government favor to take advantage of less connected individuals, counting on their lack of money and political pull to make for easy prey.
Private Property is one of the most fundamental rights for an individual. To allow it to be confiscated by any whim of the government based on something as flimsy as the "public good" is nothing less than tyranny. The only reason this is continuously allowed to happen is because of the misguided idea that the "public" has some rights that the individual hasn't got. That an individual must sacrifice for the good of the collective. It's cases like this that show the true face of altruism. The benefit of the few, the powerful, the thugs, at the expense of the decent hardworking individuals.
The government has an unfair advantage obviously, the right to initiate force against the individual.
They say the city tried to frighten them away. When those threats did not work, the city waged what some call a psychological war. "They did everything they could to make us miserable," says Kelo. "Every day it was something else," adds William Von Winkle, a neighborhood resident and landlord for 21 years. "Anything to aggravate you."

The private developer uses this to his advantage, to get the land he wants without having to pay for it.

When the city first approached Dery, he was offered $208,000 for all four multistory houses on the family's property. When he turned down the offer, the property was seized through eminent domain.Dery says low-ball appraisals were part of a deliberate strategy. "Their whole plan hinged on us being the kind of people who didn't have the financial wherewithal to fight this," he says. "They had all the money, and they were going to stretch us out financially so we would crack."

Under the eminent domain process, the city can negotiate the voluntary sale of a targeted property. It can offer whatever it thinks a homeowner might accept. If an offer is refused, the city can continue to negotiate or file papers in court to have the property seized. Once the property is seized, the owner has a right to challenge in court the fairness of the price. But to launch such a challenge, the owner would have to go through the expense of hiring a lawyer and paying open-ended trial costs. These are expenses most working-class and elderly Fort Trumbull residents could not afford.

If we are to stop instances like this, we have to challenge the premise upon which it derives it's power. That premise is altruism. Respect for the rights of the individual would never allow this sort of injustice. It is only the belief that the collective is more important, that the interests of the many supercede the rights of the few, that allows such a monsterous outright theft by the government to be supported and propagated by the Supreme Court.

A report claims that 10,000 properties have been seized by cities for private developers.

• In Atlantic City, an entire black middle-class neighborhood was condemned and destroyed to make way for a tunnel to a new casino.
• Bremerton, Washington removed a woman in her 80s from her home of 55 years for the claimed purpose of expanding a sewer plant, but gave her former home to an auto dealership.
• West Palm Beach County in Florida condemned a family's home so that the manager of a planned new golf course could live in it.

Eminent Domain should be repealed entirely. The Supreme Court needs not just to define "public use" which cannot be done objectively, it needs to redraw the guidelines by which "public" property may be purchased and developed. Private owners should deal with private owners man to man. The more that public works could be privatised, that would help, but in the meantime the Supreme Court needs to draw clear guidelines to protect against at the very least these overt cases.
The practice of eminent domain has been abused throughout US history. When the railroads and many of the nation's highways were built, landowners were often told their properties were condemned, given a dollar and told to go to court if they wanted their "just compensation."
In Lakewood, Ohio, for instance, a whole neighborhood of colonial homes was recently deemed "blighted" because the backyards were too small and the homes didn't have two-car garages. The city is turning the property over to private developers to build upscale condominiums and retail space. more...

The court noted that "if one's ownership of private property is forever subject to the government's determination that another private party would put one's land to better use, then the ownership of real property is perpetually threatened by the expansion plans of any large discount retailer, 'megastore', or the like."Property rights are a bedrock of democracy and should not be curtailed simply because a community decides it won't raise its taxes or trim spending. Rights once taken are not easily returned, while sources of revenue are more fluid and temporary. A person's castle should be a bastion of individual rights, not a revenue center. more...

(Sub Immi for Emi if it helps you understand.)-Edit, Ok I did it myself to avoid confusion


Blogger M.T. Daffenberg said...

If any private enterprise profits, it ain't right. Hell, I find eminent domain laws to be wholly unfair even if it is for a good public use.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Sarah Beth said...

Haha, we agree :)
I only want to clarify, this particular instance, is an atrocity for any business to engage in. It does not however, speak for the unscrupulousness of business in general. If anything, this is a classic case of why the government should make no law regarding the free market. This ONLY occurs, because of government pull. It does not excuse the businesses that abuse it (as I outlined in my case against Trump), but it also does not incriminate business as such. If private enterprise benefits of it's own due diligence and hard work, more power to them, but this is second hander BS in it's most obscene. It's a blight on all honest businessmen.

11:38 PM  

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