August 2, 2006

Dan Walters on the Protect Our Homes Initiative

By Dan Walters on the Protect Our Homes Initiative

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters has a column his morning about Proposition 90, the California eminent domain ballot initiative. The initiative addresses both eminent domain and regulatory takings, Walters, writes, and although government officials "see [this] as open-ended and potentially very costly," it's drawing a surprising level of political support.

"Modern political leaders have come to ignore the lessons the Founders taught," Sacramento property rights attorney Timothy Sandefur argues in a just-released book, Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America. He adds that, "Government at every level infringes on private property rights with regulations that take away (properties and) transfer them to people bureaucrats believe are better suited to use them."

Sandefur, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, thus makes the classic conservative case for enacting new protections for property rights. But as framed in Proposition 90, it's an issue that, the Field Poll has found, is drawing across-the-board political support. Overall, Field found 46 percent of likely voters backing the measure after it was briefly explained, while 31 percent were opposed.

The 51 percent support among Republicans is not surprising, but Democrats at 42 percent and independents at 43 percent are not far behind, and the "no" side trails among both of the latter groups. Only self-identified liberals oppose the measure, and then by just a scant margin.

What's happening here? Although they may come at it from different perspectives, and with differing definitions, members of both parties tend to value individual rights, and Proposition 90's cross-party support may reflect that common view. In fact, Sandefur and other property rights advocates contend that the most egregious cases of property seizure tend to affect property owners on the lower end of the economic scale, not the rich.

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