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Eminent Domain: The continued assault

co-depot-man-looking-at-ordinance.JPGClarksville citizens are certainly up in arms over the proposed Clarksville Center Redevelopment plan, and with good reason. The plan designates large portions of the downtown area as “blighted” (whatever that means) and therefore subject to eminent domain takings. Sadly, unless the council is convinced to repeal or amend the ordinance authorizing the plan there is not much anyone can do to stop such takings.

The Tennessee Code, Constitution, and at least theoretically the United States Constitution provide that private property may only be taken for ‘public use’ and then only after ‘just compensation’ has been given. The Tennessee Code theoretically should prohibit the proposed action, except for the minor problem that theory is fine and well, but as written the title does absolutely nothing to affect the actual eminent domain power with its list of exceptions and lack of definitions of the key terms involved.

co-depot-older-couple.JPGThis leaves us with a fall back to the United States Constitution. However, the Supreme Court has held that it is legitimate for a government to seize property from one private holder and transfer it to another private holder for virtually any conceivable purpose. The city in this case can simply declare swathes of land blighted and assign it to some entity to correct its status. This is wrong and all Americans should be morally opposed to this action and on the socialist/collectivist philosophy on which it rests.

Let us start by accurately defining eminent domain. The ‘definition’ generally given is “the taking of private property for public use.” However, a better definition would be “extortion by the governmental authority.” Why is this? To begin with, there is no such entity as the public because it consists entirely of individuals. Therefore the idea that the ‘public interest’ supersedes private interests and rights can mean only one thing: the interests and rights of some individuals take precedence over the interests and rights of some others, or more specifically the desire of some individuals for property they did not earn and freely obtain is more important than the rights of the individuals who did earn their property and do not wish to liquidate it. Therefore that which you own will be taken by force (police power of the government) and given to someone else (which is the definition of extortion).

Why can’t anyone stop this? The truth is that eminent domain itself is not the underlying problem, but a symptom of the perverse ideology that grips America. Recall that in the capitalist model of politics the individual and his rights are sacred, including his property rights. Eminent domain exists in such a situation solely as the extension of the legitimate police power (IE: if you use your property for illegal acts you have forfeited your right to said property).

However, America does not exist under such a system. Instead, politicians readily accept the idea that it is permissible to take from one individual and give to another. Actually, they even call it moral. The American political system is currently operating under the delusion that people have some right to something they have not earned, ranging from Medicaid to Food Stamps, Housing and Urban Development, Sub-Prime Bail Out, and yes eminent domain — which are all based on the mistaken idea that some ‘public good’ (a term which suffers the same exact problem as public use) makes the violation of the rights of man acceptable and moral. So long as this perversely immoral philosophical viewpoint is allowed to exist eminent domain will not stop and the Clarksville Center Redevelopment Plan will likely be continued as planned. Of course, the left really shouldn’t be so shocked. After all, their philosophy of altruism enforced by government power made it possible.

James Butlerhttp://
James Butler is a student at Austin Peay State University pursuing a double major in both Chemistry and French. On campus he is particularly active with the Gay Straight Alliance and also somewhat less so with the AP Playhouse. Politically, he is often described as a libertarian, although he would personally affiliate himself with Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.


  1. Has anyone hired a lawyer, with experience in these kinds of matters? There are many prominant Supreme Court cases that the rights of citizens have been protected by the courts infact the courts are more likely to uphold the rights of the property owner. The key is to find a lawyer that could fight this battle with experience, California has many cases concerning the development of poor areas might be a good idea to check there first. Start a non-profit organization raise money and fight.

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