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Land rights hits home.
Cameron Sinclair, 23 Jun 05

Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of eminent domain. This 5-4 decision began after New London, Conneticut tried to seized homes to allow Pfizer to build a $300 Million complex. The city argued that the project served 'the public good' under the 5th Amendment. The homeowners and the Institute for Justice thought otherwise.

In terms of precedent eminent domain was used in the 1890s' to seize native american lands away to build railways for 'the public good'. Naturally the Cherokee nation didn't see it that way. (more)

Sandra Day O'Conner who voted against this ruling noted "Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner". The outcome of this decision will "wash out any distinction between private and public use of property -- and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

All building is political and the loosening of this definition will lead to any instances of abuse and privitization of property under the guise of 'public good'. Globally the most extreme form of this has been in Zimbabwe where upwards of 200,000 have been driven from their homes and 30,000 arrested under Mugabe's Operation "drive out rubbish".

With an ever growing population we should be working toward a more democratic view of housing where buzz words are not used to create financial gain for the few but equal rights for all.

Dissent by Justices O'Conner and Thomas and opinions in favor by Juctices Kennedy and Stevens. (rulings via Cornell)


The great fear is that eminent domain will be used liberally by concerned local officials in areas where there is slow or no economic growth. Recently studies such as the Shrinking Cities Project has noted that big box building does not guarantee success, in reality by gutting the rich urban fabric true sustainable development is stifled and may actually cause a city to die. There are alternatives, the Goldwater Institute recently looked at Seattle's Pacific Place as an example of revitalization without the need for using eminent domain. (PDF Report).

Also by allowing incremental and property-rights-friendly approaches to redevelopment you can create true public/private partnerships. This would include upgrading infrastructure, implementing or reforming zoning codes to allow for gradual private sector development and/or enforcing codes that allow for housing areas that have been developed - Vancouver is a great example of this.

Some of these alternatives may not seem pretty at first but eventually work in everyone's favor. In 1988 Home Depot wanted to build a superstore in Pittsburgh, Pa. Unfortunately a number of small businesses stood in the way.

The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Agency (PURA) and Home Depot wanted to do the right thing and promised to find new buildings for the businesses. Everyone agreed except Vento’s Pizza, which had been a staple of the neighbor hood for 50 years and the owner refused to move to a less populated street.

Rather than enacting eminent domain Home Depot made a deal with Vento’s and agreed to build a new pizzeria within the new development. The old Vento’s closed in early '99 and less than a year later it reopened in the parking lot of the new Home Depot. This cooperative approach allowed the two businesses to actually share customers. Success for all without a building seized in the process.

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I'm going to start my own business, incorporate, then get the city to declare eminent domain around my neighborhood...

Posted by: Jeremy Dixon on 23 Jun 05

Yet another move by the elites to secure wealth: the privitization of profit (and the socialization of risk). The recent change in bankruptcy laws are another example. Can you tell I'm European? :)


Posted by: John Norris on 23 Jun 05

isn't it odd that the conservative judges were actually ruling in favor of the 'little guy' while the liberal judges sided with "big Business"? Probably because this time Big Business will lead to Bigger Government (in the form of more tax revenue.)

Posted by: Dwayne "the canoe guy" on 23 Jun 05

Yes, this decision supports the views of many Democratic city and county administrations that governments should favor politically connected private developers by seizing land and homes on their behalf. It's well documented that local developers have openly bribed many city administrations, mostly using backroom dealing and "pay to play" politics.

The Supremes now make it official: it's open season on private property rights. Thousands of homes in the US will be seized in the coming year and outirght given to third parties for their profit, all in the name of (ahem) progress... and political gain.

Posted by: MacyH on 23 Jun 05

It reminds me a lot of the "Land Reforms" favored by Stalin. They were for the same "public good", at the expense of individual liberties. The corporate ruling class in the United States is little different from the Soviet regime from 1910 to 1988.
Thugs and gangsters, the whole lot of them.

Posted by: Greg Rollins on 23 Jun 05


This is not just favoring democratic administrations, this crosses party lines. In areas like greater Cincinati/Hamilton County you will see clearances of homes in Over-the-Rhine for 'public good'.

the idea that local government, which is fraught with corruption and big-money influence is the decisionmaker in this is disturbing to say the least.

I do agree with you, it's open season. Rather than lending a helping hand to those less fortunate, we are slapping them across the face and telling them to move on.

Posted by: Cameron Sinclair on 23 Jun 05

I'm sorry, I just thought this was the United
States of America, the land of the free.Guess I
was wrong on that.

Posted by: doug on 23 Jun 05

It is interesting to note that the restrictive Fifth Amendment "takings clause" did not restrict the circumstances of eminent domain for cities, counties, or states, but only the federal government. However, the subsequent Fourteenth Amendment, as well as much case law on the issue (see Poletown II, for example), would appear to make such takings for other than explicitly public use illegal. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court has reaffirmed what should have been obvious since Abraham Lincoln's reign - that governments do not care about what is legal, what is moral, or what is right - they care only for what is productive of revenue. Whatever will maximize government revenue and / or the welfare of contributors will come to be construed as Constitutional, right and just by a government that cares not for truth, justice, rights, or the Constitution. This is what you reap when you allow any level of government power and authority. This is why government does not work.

Posted by: Vince Daliessio on 23 Jun 05

Sorry Doug, you've been wrong since November 1999. Republicans do NOT stand for individual rights (or any other kind of rights), for freedom, for the Christian religion, or for anything else that might be considered good, wholesome or decent. They PRETEND to stand for these things, and because 51% of the USA's population is more gullible than the average rainbow trout, this pretence gets swallowed.

Posted by: Ash on 23 Jun 05

Yeah Vince, we should all live in little anarchistic communes. No way will the strongest of us decide to force the weaker into working for him. That'd be just wrong, and strong people never do wrong, which is why the police are unnecessary. Nor do people disagree, which is why a system of resolving disputes without bloodshed (courts, for example) is unnecessary.

Nor will organized societies look upon your individualist trashpile with envious eyes. Your army is unnecessary too - four fat rednecks who believe that government doesn't work ought to be enough to defend any country.

Posted by: Ash on 23 Jun 05

How do you initiate an investigation into possible Supreme Court corruption? Is there a system for investigating such a thing at all? This decision, by liberal judges no less, is so blatantly at odds with the intention of private ownership and the Constitution that it makes me, a lifelong Democrat, extremely suspicious of what is going on in that Court. This is probably the worst decision I have seen in the last fifty years. Giving private property away to another private owner for public good means that anyone's house can be taken and given to the Gap because a new jeans outlet would provide for 27 additional jobs. Well, if the 2000 election decision was the beginning it, this is the next chapter. We've got a violent, abusive government - in all three branches.

Posted by: Alessandro Cima on 23 Jun 05

it looks like this decision may actually unite liberals, libertarians, conservatives, moderates, and everyone who is not a corrupt politician or greedy land developer. I think there needs to be some legislative corrective action taken.

Posted by: jim moore on 23 Jun 05

Ash, not only are you comically oversimplifying libertarianism, but you are missing the point. Giving power to the evil cretins that preponderate in government has ALREADY led to the strongest forcing the rest of us to work for them, via the tax code and the constant inflation of the Fed. We are already slaves. Game, set, match.

Posted by: Vince Daliessio on 23 Jun 05

Thanks to time I am approaching my later years, so I only have a little time left to watch the foundations of American Republicanizm crumble. Since the Supreme Court decision of 2000 concerning the presidential election the court no longer is viewed as being fair. Grab you gun and stand by!

Posted by: Jimmy Porter on 24 Jun 05

hmmm....looks like there might be a reason for citizens to own automatic guns afterall.

Posted by: aikanae on 24 Jun 05

isn't it odd that the conservative judges were actually ruling in favor of the 'little guy' while the liberal judges sided with "big Business"? Probably because this time Big Business will lead to Bigger Government (in the form of more tax revenue.)

Oh, boy - such silliness never dies, does it?

Go look at actual budget figures for the past 4 years and compare them with the prior 8 years. Then tell us all about "small government" Republicans.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 24 Jun 05


Perhaps you should actually read who on the Supreme Court was in favor of this and who dissented - you will find that the LEFT members of the court voted in favor of this case. And to all; this has nothing to do with eminent domain -- eminent domain is considered as a land purchase ONLY for public works projects (roads, rails, etc.) Read the case!

Posted by: billygoat on 24 Jun 05

Perhaps you should actually read who on the Supreme Court was in favor of this and who dissented - you will find that the LEFT members of the court voted in favor of this case.

Stevens - appointed by Ford
Kennedy - appointed by Reagan
Souter - appointed by Bush I

Try again.

Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 24 Jun 05

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Posted by: Chroferus on 28 Jun 05



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