Scott Tibbs
blog post
February 3rd, 2005

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Interstate 69

As a defender of property rights, how can I support the use of eminent domain, especially for the Interstate 69 project? This is a legitimate question.

I am not a fan of government confiscation of private property. I do, however, recognize that it sometimes has to be done. Even America's founding fathers, who wrote a Constitution that focused on the limits of the federal government's power, understood that eminent domain must be used from time to time. The Fifth Amendment states that private property shall not "be taken for public use, without just compensation".

Public works projects (like I-69) are necessary for the common good, but not everyone is going to be willing to sell their property for an interstate highway, a railroad, or a city street. This is where eminent domain comes in, and property owners are to be fairly compensated for the loss of their property.

Contrast this with some environmental regulations that cost a property owner the use of his property while still leaving him as the "owner" of said property. The property owner, in this case, often does not get compensation for the loss of his property. Environmental regulations may be necessary to protect other people's property rights, health, or other things deemed important enough to limit the use of private property. However, property owners who lose use their land do not get the same compensation they would if I-69 were to run through their property.

The key here, of course, is making sure property owners are justly compensated for the loss of their property, whether they still "own" it or not. While environmental regulations that decimate the economic value of a piece of property do not meet a strict definition of "taking", those property owners should be compensated in keeping with the spirit of the Fifth Amendment.