The Pacific Legal Foundation’s Timothy Sandefur has a long piece on the history and implications of eminent domain in March’s Liberty magazine. Here’s a taste:
“With the eminent domain power thus unmoored, the result was predictable to public choice theorists: the power to redistribute property fell into the hands, not of the most deserving, but of the most politically adept. As government became capable of transferring unlimited amounts of land between private parties, the business community began investing an ever-increasing amount in lobbying to persuade it to give the land to them. These companies portray the redistribution of land as a benefit to the community, in the form of job creation and increased funding for public services, as well as an eradication of “economic blight,” a vague term attached to any neighborhood that is less than affluent but not an actual slum. Meanwhile, government officials have come to see their roles, not as defenders of the public’s safety and welfare, but as sculptors of neighborhoods, for whom citizens and land are raw materials to be formed into the ideal community.
In fairness, a lot of urban planners are wary of eminent domain, but I think there’s a lot of validity to the point that planners generally (and unconsciously) tend to view most things, even private property and businesses, as being in the public sphere and thus malleable in pursuit of their aims.