Property Rights And The Powerless


by Timothy Sandefur

The Orange County Register's Steven Greenhut (whose Abuse of Power blew the whistle on eminent domain abuse before most people knew what it was), has a great column today on eminent domain, the Robbins case, and other property rights issues. As Greenhut explains, the people who suffer the most from the watering down of property rights are those who lack the political infuence and wealth to manipulate the government:

In the 1920s, black people had little political power and tenuous legal rights. If property rights had been protected for everyone, the Bruces would have been able to keep their dream alive. Today's mob uses different language and explanations for the takings they support – i.e., gentrifying neighborhoods, improving the tax base, fighting "blight," promoting New Urbanism – but the results are the same. The less powerful must give up their dreams to the more powerful.

…In response [to Kelo], the League of California Cities, one of the biggest advocates for the current eminent domain situation, is circulating its own initiative for the same ballot. Basically, the initiative does nothing. It protects only single-family homes from takings, and even those protections evaporate in the fine print. There are so many exceptions that the goal is clear: Give the public the sense that reform has passed without actually changing the way these cities do business. "It's Lent," says Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur. "During Lent, I always like to give up things I don't do anyway. Apparently, that's what the league is doing."

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