February 8, 2010

When is eminent domain immoral? - Part 2

Can you imagine being stripped of your "freedom" to keep your property. Let's say you grew up on the family farm and worked tirelessly alongside your parents to maintain and keep that farm beautiful. Can you imagine having that farm taken from your parents and they would have no legal recourse to keep it? There are many attempts to seize property like this occuring throughout the United States. If you do a search for "use eminent domain" over the past year, you'll see over 40000 links to sites discussing it.

Many would say, "Well, the GOVERNMENT won't just take it, they will pay you a fair price for your property." That is, in fact, true. They are required by law to compensate you for your property, but that is not the issue here. Some folks find it more rewarding to own a homestead, or a business, or a wildlife area, than to receive a golden ticket from the GOVERNMENT. But again, if the GOVERNMENT wants it, they can proceed to condemn it, compensate you and take ownership.

I wish governments would first ask whether it's moral to use eminent domain on the grounds of building an economic whatchamacallit. I'd say its not when landowners want to keep their property and here's why. I'd bet 75% or more of us have been taught to “treat our neighbors as we’d like to be treated”. Therefore, how can we justify taking a person's freedom to own their land, if we are trying to follow this basic moral tenant? Wouldn’t we be saying to them, their property is more important to us than their happiness or freedom to keep that property. I don't want to be the country that says that. I'd love to hear your reasoning, if you can.

More in the next post.


  1. Actually, you are mistaken. Government routinely undercompensates those whose land it takes by eminent domain. First, the law of eminent domain deems a number of losses to be non-compensable, for example, business losses when the land on which a business operates is taken. Second, government often cheats by lowballing the owners -- offering them less than fair market value, sometimes less than its own appraisal figures.

  2. The value the government would place on a property versus what the property owner would place on it is a whole other "valuable" discussion. Thanks for bringing it up.