Eminent Domain — Your Property Rights Subject To “The Common Good”
Every once in a while, the veil is lifted, and you see just what the “common good” crowd thinks of your rights. In several California newspapers (this from the Contra Costa Times), journalist Harrison Sheppard asks whether eminent domain is a “land grab or tool to rebuild”. He, as a journalist should, does highlight the concern of eminent domain critics– namely that the property belongs to its owners and that it’s a violation of their rights (usually those most unable to fight back) to take it. And then he fires back with both barrels:
However, what groups like the coalition call “abuse” are instead seen by government agencies and developers as necessary tools that provide for the economic rebirth of depressed areas. In such cases, they say, some individuals will have to sacrifice for the greater good.
For example, the loss of a pawnshop or a convenience store in favor of a mall or condo tower that increases the economic activity in a neighborhood — and boosts city tax revenue — is usually worth overriding the concerns about property rights, they say.
In Los Angeles, simply the threat of eminent domain has been used to acquire properties in the redevelopment of Hollywood, the building of the Staples Center and retail projects in South Los Angeles.
Those who owned the properties that were taken often felt abused by the city, and many fought in court to obtain better prices than the city offered — but in the end, many city officials would argue a greater public good was achieved.
Yes, I’m sure “many city officials” believe that a greater public good was achieved. However, as I pointed out here, city officials who I gladly interact with on a personal level are incentivized to be cutthroat and backstabbing once they get into the ranks of government. “City officials” who tell you they’re working for the common good, while their local developer friends get rich on fat construction contracts, have a conflict of interest here. How is it that you ask the government if the government is doing the right thing, and then report it as if these people are perfect philosopher-kings?
Those who want to take your rights will always rationalize a justification to do so.