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Eminent Domain-Give Me Back My Property, Dude!
By Tom Proebsting


June 15, 2006

The repercussions from last year's Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London, Conn. are still being felt across the nation. In a 5-4 landmark ruling, the court reaffirmed the use of eminent domain to promote economic development. It allowed a city to seize private property for private use. Prior to the June 2005 ruling the seizure had to be for public use, reasons such as building a bridge, highway, police station, prison, etc.

What paved the way for last year's decision was the 1954 Supreme Court ruling of Berman v. Parker where the court stated that the District of Columbia could seize private property to eliminate slums and blight. It is possible the high court reasoned the public would be well served by the elimination of an eyesore. But tell this to the tenants who were kicked out of their homes and forced to look for another place to live.

In the U.S. Constitution, the Amendments state, "No person shall bedeprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." The Declaration of Independence proudly declares, "[A]ll men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Home and business ownership are the American way of life because of the liberty we have and our right to pursue happiness. The Declaration goes on to say that if a government fails to procure these rights and becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it (the destructive government), and to institute a new government, one with new principles.

Does the government currently follow the Constitution's requirements? When a city, state, or federal government seizes private property, they must undergo a long process to condemn the land, serve eviction notices, and give the owners just compensation, among other things. So, yes, the due process of law and just compensation clauses of the constitution are seemingly fulfilled. The controversy in the Kelo decision centers on what the property is to be used for. Last year's landmark ruling allowed a real estate developer to build a hotel, offices, and homes in the place of existing homes. How does this help the public?

Concerned U.S. citizens, be they liberals, centrists, or conservatives, have responded negatively to the Kelo ruling. Many reason that no home or business is safe from the hands of government. The backbone of America's economy is the right of private property. Individual ownership of homes and businesses is a leading contribution to the continued greatness of America.

Two tenets of Communism are the abolition of private property and the seizing of the means of production by the government. How different in form is the Kelo decision from these Marxist dictates?

In response to the high court's ruling, over 30 states have introduced bills to limit the condemnation powers of the government and to forbid the taking of homes to make way for private development. The other side of the case argues that eminent domain for any reason raises taxes for the government and improves the area's looks. This seems like a big price for such a small reward. After Kelo, many states rushed to take advantage of the decision by starting the legal process to seize homes and businesses for non-public projects. Currently, over 20 states are initiating or threatening property seizures.

The U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo ruling deems it legal for a government entity to seize private property for private use. The decision, however, does not make it ethical or moral.

Tom Proebsting
Reply to:
Moberly, MO - USA

About: Tom Proebsting is a writer and a blogger.


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