ACH Study Groups
Ben & Fran Gilmore – Cofounders
7659 Gingerblossom Drive
Citrus Heights, CA 95621
February 8, 2016
This is a letter to our friends –
Eminent Domain vs. Private Property
Eminent domain – the right of a government or its agent to expropriate (i.e seize) private property for public use, with payment of compensation.
Today there is a discussion about whether that “right” exists “for public needs” like roads and pipelines, or does it extend to use for private development. Like taking an old lady’s home for a casino parking lot. Granted: greater government income for sales and property taxes, but who determines the personal value of your home?
I believe the argument misses the fundamental point: In America, “We the people” created our government. Government has no “rights”, “We the people” did not give it.
“We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The Fifth Amendment of that Constitution states that, “private property cannot be taken without just compensation.” That would seem to grant taking power to government so long as “just compensation” is paid. Question – Who defines “just compensation”?
Human nature assures the misuse of eminent domain authority unless held in check by “We the people” and the character and principles of those “We the people” place in authority.
Further – Article I, Section 7 of that Constitution specifies that Congress may purchase land with the approval of the State, “for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful buildings.” It would appear that use of eminent domain by the feds is limited by the approval of the state involved. Question – Who defines “other needful buildings”?
Have “We the people” a God-given right to our property? If so – Does that right preempt government’s “right” of eminent domain?
Property – “The exclusive right of possessing, enjoying and disposing of a thing; ownership. In the beginning of the world, the Creator gave to man dominion over the earth, … . This is the foundation of man’s property in the earth and in all its productions.” [Noah Webster – 1828]
You may not rightly divest yourself of something God has given you.
What has God given you, “The exclusive right of possessing, enjoying and disposing of”? Your thoughts, your plans, your conscience, the work of your hands, are things in your list of God-given property. “In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” [James Madison, 1792]
Among the tasks “We the people” gave our government – “establish Justice”; “secure (i.e. protect) the Blessings of Liberty”. Without private property, I am not at liberty and justice is not established.”
Suppose a highway is scheduled to cross property that has belonged to my family for generations. Suppose I value that property for my great-grandchildren above any amount offered by the government. In my opinion the highway must be rerouted around my property. Individual property rights should be protected by the government “We the people” created to protect it.
If government forces the sale the “servant” has become a tyrant and liberty is lost. On the other hand, moral suasion if successful, protects liberty and respects private property. This seems to illustrate the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. If “the greater good” easily overrides personal property rights, soon there will be no private property rights!
These columns are archived since 12/10/09