`All of a sudden, what you thought was yours may not be yours.’ That’s what Martha Babson, 58, said in disbelief as the city of Riviera Beach, Florida decided it would take her property and that of at least 1,350 others to make way for a $1.4 billion beach resort and complex. The full story from the Miami Herald can be found here. It also shows why the fight over eminent domain and property rights is so important. The poor and disenfranchsed suffer the most. Babson, a former “Boston hippie”, bought property in the town well before it became a coveted piece of expensive real estate. In the past, secure property rights would have let her enjoy the benefits of her investment regardless of who else wanted it. The poor could enjoy some of the benefits of the rich. Now, her property–the propertry of the poor and less powerful–is up for grabs. Here’s what the Mayor of Riveira Beach had to say about it: ”I am using the tools available to me to try to get more jobs and build our tax base. I am trying to take our most valuable property and leverage it to benefit the entire city.” Note he refers to Babson’s property as “our” property–land has been de facto collectivized and individual civil liberties have been sacrificed as a result. This an another excellent example of what happens to civil liberties when property rights are not secure and held up to the highest bidder.
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.