Eminent Domain in the News

There’s an interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal (available for non-subscribers for a week) that details the growing (ab)use of eminent domain by local governments to make land available for big box retailers. My favorite part:

[Costco’s senior vice president for legal and administrative affairs] says the practice doesn’t violate laws or any rules of the free-market economy and rejects as “simplistic” libertarian arguments that condemnations should be confined, as some property-rights advocates argue, to roads, bridges and purely public uses. He says communities, balancing their fiscal needs against the rights of a few, often clamor for a Costco store. “We are viewed as a solution to a problem,” he says.

Apparently it’s “simplistic” to think that one of the major pillars of a free-market economy is the ability to hold private property without fear that bureaucrats will arbitrarily decide that your land would better serve the “public good” as a Costco parking lot. The Supreme Court must not find it such a simplistic issue, as they’ve decided to hear the pivotal Kelo vs. City of New London case. Their decision in this case will clarify how far governments can stretch the boundaries of the concept of “public use,” as it relates to the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. In case you missed it, Reason recently filed an amicus brief in the Kelo vs. City of New London case. Also see this recent post. And make sure to visit our new Eminent Domain Resource Center for more eminent domain research and news.