Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Eminent Domain


"How Crony-Capitalism Is Supposed To Work"

People often mistake the system of Capitalism for that which is a system derivative of Feudalism or Mercantalism. Capitalism has become synonymous with those things, because people don't understand how insidious government intervention nutures the political favored and government-sanctioned or protected businesses.

Eminent Domain (henceforth to be shortened to E.D., despite its other puerile connotations) is a prime example of this principle of how the definition of Capitalism became con-fused. The premise on which the law of E.D. is based is that the government has the right to force landowners to sell their lawful property, in order to build critical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, etc.

Most people, libertarians and anarchists withstanding, would assent to this violation of basic property rights, because they can't fathom how society could survive without it (nevermind ask them why the survival of "society" is such an important and lofty goal.) It's only when E.D. moved from being a reluctant, last-resort tool of the government, to that which has been used tens of thousands of documented instances, for not-so-critical infrastructure, did people realize the inherent evil and destructiveness.

One prominent group fighting E.D. abuse, but not in principle, is the Castle Coalition. It's a cause that rallies the individuals across the political spectrum to demonstrate against the municipalities and state governments which have been collaborating with big businesses such as Wal*Mart and Pfizer, and prominent developers such as Bruce Ratner and Douglas Durst in helping them secure private property in order to build their stores, malls, and office or residential buildings and properties through the use of E.D.s' powers.

The motive for the government officials to wield this tool is to grow the tax base which in turn fills the treasury coffers, so that they can continue their reckless, criminal spending, by which they can pin their re-election hopes.

Organizations and individuals who oppose E.D., usually do so on the pretense that it's immoral for the state to turn over private property to another individual or corporation. They are certainly correct in this aspect that the law of E.D. is being abused, but they fail to realize that all use of E.D. is an abuse. As long as they don't acknowledge that principle, the public hearing will just be an occasion for government and corporate pencilnecks to recite the expected increase of jobs, traffic, tax money, etc. and how it's a better result than the status quo. To fight that fight, you will lose. You have to fight it on ideological grounds; that E.D. is inconsistent with individual property rights.

To think that one can compromise the principle of individual property rights for certain, and narrow scenarios, is doing nought but inviting further intrusion upon what land developers or government officials decide what is a better, higher use for your former property. Once you give sanction, it is expected that government will abuse it as far as their power-grubby hands can reach.

The problem with all this is that people lay the blame for E.D. abuse at the feet of the system of Capitalism. However they are greatly mistaken. The blame for E.D. abuse lies squarely with the people who consciously saction its use. Once that door is open, there is no good reason why businesses wouldn't use it to generate capital in an expedient and falsly justified fashion.

Here are some related links for those who are interested:
Eminent Domain or Legalized Robbery?
Public use, property rights and the courts
Castle Coalition
How Eminent Is A City's Domain?
High Court to Hear Property Seizure Case

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