‘Eminent Domain’: We’re All Indians Now
by William Norman Grigg
Prior to the closing of the frontier in 1890, “Manifest Destiny” was the incantation used by the government when it gave itself permission to steal property it coveted. Today, the preferred conjuration is “eminent domain.”
The phrase “eminent domain” reflects an assumption Karl Marx would find congenial: government is the default owner of everything, and that private ownership, however extensive, is merely a contingent arrangement.
Seizure of property through eminent domain is facilitated by one of several Hamiltonian-mercantilist Easter eggs covertly embedded in the Constitution – specifically, the Fifth Amendment provision specifying that private property can be taken for “public use” when the government offers what it considers “just compensation.”
The familiar civics class platitude describes this provision as necessary for the construction of bridges, hospitals, and other amenities that are supposedly “public goods” only government can provide. The inescapable reality is that eminent domain is a particularly vulgar form of plunder used to enrich the political class and their corporate cronies at the expense of the rest of us.
In his recent book Government Pirates (a good book despite its tautological title), former real estate developer Don Corace offers a concise description of eminent domain operated prior to the onset of the current depression:
“Arrogant and corrupt city and county official – with near limitless legal budgets … align themselves with well-heeled developers, political cronies, and major corporations to prey on the politically less powerful and disenfranchised, particularly minority communities.”