Florida Pilot

A compendium of random thoughts from a former Washington Beltway insider who is now having a lot more fun flying small airplanes in Central Florida.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

ending private property rights

One would think that the language of the fifth amendment regarding the taking of property "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" would be relatively easy to interpret.

As Boortz observes:

"For hundreds of years the term 'public use' was interpreted to mean use for something like a school, library, police or fire station, power transmission lines, roads, bridges or some other facility owned and operated by government for the benefit of the general population. As politicians became more and more impressed with their own power they started to expand this definition of public use."

For some time, most jurisdictions have had the right to take property for redevelopment of "blighted area"; in other words, neighborhoods where poor people live. The redevelopment is typically done by private parties with the property ending up in private hands (different from the original owners). Thus, the novelty of the Suprement Court's recent decision is not that it permits use of goverment property seizure powers for private benefits but that it
erases the previous pretense of claiming that an area is "blighted" before it can be seized.

Apparently private property can now be seized without limit since a claim of increased tax revenue from the seizure is now the only "public use" the Court concludes is necessary. It takes little imagination to conclude that this "limitation" is no limit at all. Thus, the Supreme Court has simply erased a one-time important limitation on government authority.

In the instant case, the city of New London claims that it needs to seize (steal) private property in order to enhance the city's economic viability but why should some property owners in the city have to suffer so that a nonviable government entity should continue to exist. It would be better for the officals in New London to consider ways to surrender their charter and merge with another jurisdiction or back into the county in which it sits.

Unlike most recent laws and court decisions, the founding fathers were economical and careful with their words. It is hard to believe that the term "public use" in the fifth amendment was put there to have no real meaning.


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