Thursday, June 30, 2005
The 5th amendment's closing clause states: nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Over the past few days worth of reading every conceivable article on this topic I have learned (second hand) that over the past few decades various courts in this country have tended to interpret "public use" pretty broadly. However, I still think that the Kelo decision crosses a line and is extremely significant if for no other reason than it gives the official stamp of approval from the nation's highest court for local governments to take whatever land they want from anyone, anywhere, anytime. If you don't believe that, just wait.
Of course, all this can be avoided quite easily. How, you ask? Pass laws against the use of eminent domain to transfer property from one private party to another. You know, sort of like a Republic is freaking supposed to act (as opposed to our current system where law is made by unelected egotistical smucks in black robes).
So, to answer the question, I think that eminent domain should be used very infrequently and only after passing some sort of universal test that has been passed into law by a state's legislature. Among the requirements for invoking eminent domain to seize an individual's property should be:
1) The seized land must be used for the "public good" in the sense that either a) the public will have physical access to it (e.g., public school (if they're not done away with first =)), highway, police station, etc.) or b) will serve a pubic service that is not compatible with physical public access such as a jail.
2) The seized land must not be used such a way that any private entity gains any profit aside from actual construction.
3) Land can only be seized after some painfully onerous process of consensus is undertaken by the appropriate governing body (I'm thinking something analogous to a super majority in Congress).
4) "Just compensation" is defined as the highest value of the property over the past decade. Value would be defined as either tax assessment or actual selling price, whichever is higher. Additionally, a surcharge of 20% would be added to the "just compensation" to cover moving costs and emotional issues involved with losing one's property.
I'll leave it at 4 for now, but only because I'm tired and I don't feel like coming up with any more requirements.
Now, you might be thinking that it sounds like I'm trying to render impotent the very intention the closing clause of the 5th amendment. Maybe I am. Regardless, whom would you rather be impotent, the government...or you?
And I thought I was being tough. Check out this exercise in the open-source writing an amendment.
Here is another good site I said I would pass along.