Maine Property Rights Alert Newsletter April 1, 2004
Comments on USA Today news item:
Pushing the limits of 'public use'

Eminent Domain, Property Taxes and
Cannibals for the “Public Good”

By Erich Veyhl

The USA Today article below reveals the latest ugly trend in statist abuse against private property owners: government seizure of private homes and businesses through eminent domain for the purpose of generating higher property taxes on subsequent “redevelopment” of the property.

The planned displacement of over 5,000 residents – to be removed by physical force if they refuse to leave under the government's threat – from a middle class community in coastal Florida is one in a rash of cases in recent years in which municipal officials collude with large-scale developers to seize private property: The officials use government eminent domain powers to take private property and turn it over to their cronies, who in turn use the land for large scale development of their own. The naked extortion is rationalized as legally justified with the rhetoric of the “public good”, nebulously claiming that the seizures will improve “the economy” and, more specifically, arguing that it meets the constitutional test of eminent domain for “public use” because it will raise more taxes.

USA Today reports that a viro, “Larry Morandi, the environmental program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, says cities are using eminent domain to address financial problems. 'They are taking property they don't believe is generating enough tax revenue and turning it over to a developer who will generate more taxes,' he says.”

And why not? Both the eminent domain seizures and the taxes are based on the same premise. Arbitrary, punitive asset taxes are imposed on property owners, forcing them to pay for government “costs”, mostly redistributionist subsidies that have nothing to do with their property. The underlying relation between the eminent domain seizures and the taxes is even clearer when you see people forced to sell their homes because they can't afford the ever escalating property taxes – or the other major asset tax: the death tax.

As always, the appeals to the “pubic good” to rationalize the seizures mean only that one faction of “the public” is supposedly justified in ganging up on a minority, cannibalizing the personal values and assets of the individuals in the less powerful minority while trashing the individual's right to his own property. This they do in the name of an allegedly superior idealistic morality of “social justice”. The viros do the same thing to seize “habitat” for the sake of their own brand of allegedly “superior idealism”. Neither has any regard for the rights of the (human) individual and neither are idealistic.

One of the owners targeted by the Florida forced-relocation project, Rene Corie, struggled to buy her property 8 years ago and obviously holds it proudly as a high personal value. USA Today reported that she said, “It's un-American to take my property and give it to a private developer. I couldn't afford a water view anywhere else.”

Un-American? That was true when the American concept of the public good was the protection of the rights of every individual and when the individual pursuit of happiness was acknowledged as morally proper, but it is evidently not true today. Michael Brown, the mayor who intends to take her property, says: “The people who live on the water are cheating the poorest members of our community.” How are they “cheating” people? “For their own selfish reasons,” he says, “some people want to live near the water and pay little or no taxes.” So he will seize their property and turn it over to somone who will “redevelop” it and pay him “more taxes”. How dare Rene Corie engage in the “selfish”, middle class pursuit of her own happiness and private values, “cheating” others by not sacrificing herself to give them what they don't have.

Copyright © 2004 Erich Veyhl, All Rights Reserved

USA Today

Posted 3/31/2004 11:17 PM    Updated 3/31/2004 11:39 PM

Pushing the limits of 'public use'
By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

Rene Corie installs drapes in Florida mansions. Her husband, David, builds the mansions' gates. Land in the Mojave Desert was declared “urbanized and blighted” so it could be seized.

By Reed Saxon, AP

Eight years ago, the working-class couple finally found some waterfront real estate they could afford: a two-bedroom house for $70,000 in Riviera Beach, a poor town near the wealthy enclaves of Palm Beach and Jupiter.

But Riviera Beach now wants to bulldoze the Cories' home and 2,200 others to make way for one of the nation's grandest redevelopment plans: a collection of high-rise condos, bigger homes and upscale shops. The city plans to use eminent domain – its power to confiscate private property for projects that benefit the public – to take the homes of 5,100 people if the residents do not agree to move.

“It's un-American to take my property and give it to a private developer,” says Rene Corie, 55. “I couldn't afford a water view anywhere else.” ...

Full article