Sunday, February 20, 2005

"Despotism by stealth"

The Economist reports on current eminent domain litigation in the U.S. under the heading "Despotism by stealth." Governments that enforce property rights can also take them away. Eminent domain is litigated because "public purpose" is a very slippery slope. In various times and places, schools, hospitals, roads, liquor stores and restaurants have been "private" and they have been "public".

How, then, to put the genie back in the bottle?

I have no idea how the lawyers and judges will approach this. Roads and highways could all be private. So could schools and all the rest. Bruce Benson adds that holdout problems are not typically large enough to justify eminent domain. The long list of abuses cited in The Economist make his point.

"Good government" is a chimera while limited government can be more easily defined and specified. That would be in a better world. In the interim, the only way is via judges on the bench who are sensitive to the strong links between property, liberty and prosperity.

The rhetoric used by many in Congress has it that these are the judges who would "turn back the clock." Yes, some clocks do need serious re-setting.