“Public” Use vs. Property Rights

by | Jun 24, 2005

In another heavy blow to property rights, the Supreme Court has ruled against the homeowners in the New London, Connecticut, eminent domain case, and further entrenched the legal principle that government can seize an individual’s property for “public use” whenever it deems appropriate. The justification the Court offered for violating the property rights of New […]

In another heavy blow to property rights, the Supreme Court has ruled against the homeowners in the New London, Connecticut, eminent domain case, and further entrenched the legal principle that government can seize an individual’s property for “public use” whenever it deems appropriate.

The justification the Court offered for violating the property rights of New London homeowners was that the taking of their property and its transfer to others would bring “benefits to the community,” including “new jobs and increased tax revenue.”

But it should not matter that the government’s seizure of legally owned property might increase tax revenue or supposedly benefit the local economy. If a person does not want to sell his property, he should not be forced to do so.


Cartoon by Cox and Forkum

Even though the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes it legal for the government to use eminent domain, there is, in fact, no moral justification for the violation of property rights. Individual rights should never be sacrificed, and certainly not to promote some alleged and indefinable “public” good.

As this case demonstrates, “public use” is a term so vague as to have given government virtually unlimited power in using eminent domain to take property away from its legitimate owners.

And as Ayn Rand has pointed out, the “public” as such does not exist. Only individuals exist. Whenever governments act to promote the “public” good, or to advance a “public” purpose, or to satisfy a “public” need–beware. For what invariably happens in such cases is that some individuals are forced by the state to sacrifice for other individuals.

It is no coincidence that appeals to the “public” good have been used by dictatorships throughout history to justify tyranny over the individual. Thanks to the deplorable decision by five justices of the Supreme Court, America is a big step closer to tyranny and away from the freedom America’s founders intended to establish.

Copyright

David Holcberg, a former civil engineer and businessman, is now a writer living in Southern California. He is a former writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Have a comment?

Post your response in our Capitalism Community on X.

Related articles

Are the Democrats betraying Israel?

Are the Democrats betraying Israel?

Both Biden and his predecessor, President Barack Obama, promised that they had Israel’s back, but it now appears that they are painting a target on its back at a time of its greatest vulnerability.

Memorial Day: What We Owe Our Soldiers

Memorial Day: What We Owe Our Soldiers

To send soldiers into war without a clear self-defense purpose, and without providing them every possible protection, is a betrayal of their valor and a violation of their rights.

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest