...It’s been 13 years since the U.S. Supreme Court took up the case of Kelo v. City of New London, which expanded the government’s limited power to acquire private lands in order to build a public structure like a school or highway for “public use” and allowed it to make seizures for a “public purpose,” which in the government’s eyes can mean anything as long as it amounts to higher tax revenue.
In Kelo, the City of New London, Conn., wanted to condemn private homes as “blighted” in order to tear them down and allow a developer to build higher-priced homes, a resort hotel, a conference center and retail complexes to complement a new Pfizer pharmaceutical plant in the area. Ironically, the developers in New London later backed out of the deal after the homes were seized and bulldozed, leaving the once quaint neighborhood a wasteland.
Nevertheless, a shortsighted Supreme Court gave city officials the go-ahead, ruling 5-4 that a city government—aligned with large corporate interests—could use the power of eminent domain to seize an entire neighborhood for development purposes, entire neighborhoods have been seized and bulldozed to make way for shopping malls, sports complexes and corporate offices.
“The specter of condemnation hangs over all property,” warned Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in a stinging dissent. “Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
Unfortunately, nothing has prevented the government from bulldozing its way through the Fifth Amendment in an effort to take from the middle and lower classes and fatten the coffers of the corporate elite.
In the wake of Kelo, at least 16 places of worship (which pay no taxes) were taken for private uses (which will generate tax dollars). Other attempted takings include the transfer of three family-owned seafood businesses to a larger private marina in Texas; the transfer of farmland to a shopping center anchored by a Lowe’s in Illinois; developing 233 low-income and elderly families’ properties into a senior community where townhouses cost more than $350,000 in New Jersey; and developing middle-income, single-family homes on the waterfront into more expensive condominiums in New Jersey.
Even Donald Trump has taken advantage of eminent domain, in one instance attempting to take an elderly woman’s house to make way for a limousine parking lot.
As an investigative report by the Institute for Justice notes, over the course of five years, local governments used eminent domain to lay claim to more than 10,000 homes, businesses, churches and private land for private business development, including condemning a family’s home so that the manager of a planned new golf course could live in it; evicting four elderly siblings from their home of 60 years for a private industrial park; and removing a woman in her 80s from her home of 55 years supposedly to expand a sewer plant, only to turn around and give her home to an auto dealership.
Fast forward to the present day, and you’ve got the government’s pipeline projects as a prime example of eminent domain being employed for corporate gain...
...For early Americans, the right to own property was fundamental to all other rights.
Mind you, the term “property” is much more fundamental and personal than just with land ownership. It refers to a kind of sovereignty over one’s life and possessions—especially one’s money.
Again, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Property is grouped in the same category as life and liberty in the Fifth Amendment because it is difficult to enjoy life and liberty without the stability, security and assurances that property provides...