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December 20th, 2010 — By — In News & Events

Property rights: Protection for the little guy (and gal) until taken by eminent domain

Friday’s New York Post includes an article by Glenn Harlan Reynolds about the Columbia University eminent domain case and the recent Supreme Court decision to deny cert. Mr. Reynolds discusses the importance of property rights and how the term “public use” has been redefined by the courts “to include pretty much anything the government wants to do with the property.” He argues that the power of eminent domain has been used less as a tool to affect public purpose and more a method “to promote the ‘vision’ of…the powerful and the connected.”

We often hear politicians and pundits denounce property rights. Property rights, we’re told, protect the fat cats against the needs of the public. They’re a tool for keeping the little guy down.

Like a lot of what we hear from politicians and pundits, this is exactly the opposite of the truth. The fat cats don’t need the protection of property rights, because they already control the political system. It’s the little guy (or gal), the one without political juice, who needs strong property rights for protection from the fat cats and the politicians they control.

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The courts are supposed to be there to protect the rest: The people without the connections, the ones who depend on the rule of law to keep the predators away.

That protection has never been perfect, of course, but in the area of eminent domain it’s become a sick joke. The message sent is that your property belongs to you — until somebody with more clout wants it for something else, be it a “vision,” or a moneymaking scheme.

Read more here.