Progressivism And Eminent Domain—Again


by Timothy Sandefur

The Daily Plan, which is a blog run by the "Progressive States Network," complains about ballot initiatives (including California's) which would limit government's power to expropriate our property. And look how they put it: such initiatives, they say, would "upsetting one of the oldest democratic freedoms: the right of communities to steer their own future [sic]."

What's that again? Pardon me, Daily Plan, but there is no such thing. Communities have no right to "steer their future[s]" by running over individual rights. Call it "democratic" or "freedom" if you want, but allowing bureaucrats to violate our property rights so as to "steer the future" is not exactly why the Constitution was written. It was written to protect us from people who would use our property for their purposes.

Communities have no rights. Only individuals have rights. Communities have powers that are delegated to them by individuals. And since individuals have no right to steal, they cannot ask communities to steal for them (even for a supposedly good cause). To say that communities can violate individual rights to serve "progress" is to get the American system entirely backward, and to say that individuals exist for the sake of society. But they don't. Individuals exist for their own sake, and government exists to help protect them.

Daily Plan's backward view illustrates a point I make in my article "Mine And Thine Distinct": that Progressivism—the real source of eminent domain abuse—sees each of us as tools of the state. But nothing could be more antithetical the principles of the American Constitution.