Cloak And Dagger Eminent Domain Reform!


by Timothy Sandefur

This summer, a reporter from Time magazine interviewed me, and in the course of the interview, she explained that she believed that the "property rights movement" had seen Kelo as an opportunity to fool the voters into approving a broad-based reform package. This would include not only eminent domain reform, but also a requirement that government pay people compensation for lowering their property value through government regulations. And the mastermind behind this clever scheme was none other than…Leonard Gilroy, the young policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, whose article "Statewide Regulatory Takings Reform" had proposed just such a sneaky little scheme.

I laughed heartily at all this. First of all, none of it is even remotely conspiratorial: we in the "property rights movement" believe that government should compensate people for regulatory takings, just like we think government ought to compensate people for eminent domain. And we believe that both kinds of takings ought to be rare.

More amusingly, although the Gilroy article is quite good, it isn't very well known, and I doubt that most of those involved in the reform movement have read it. And it came out in April of 2006, after the major decisions in California's eminent domain reform campaign had been made—a campaign in which neither the Pacific Legal Foundation, nor the Institute for Justice, nor the Reason Foundation, had any say.

Yet the ridiculous conspiracy theory refuses to die, and now Ralph Nader—who was once an important eminent domain reformer, but is now just a leftist hack—is repeating it. Gilroy has a helpful reply at Reason's blog.