Ethics and Religion: Special issue of Philosophical Investigations
Individual versus Group Incentives

More eminent domain abuse (the sad legacy of Kelo)

Mark D. White

Ilya Shapiro at the CATO Institute brings yet more tragic news of eminent domain abuse in his latest CATO @ Liberty blog post - please read it, and make sure to read his earlier material on eminent domain linked in the piece.

Despite what the Supreme Court decided in Kelo, this cannot what eminent domain was intended to do. As Justice O'Connor said in her Kelo dissent:

Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. (p. 2677)

This is the danger of enshrining Kaldor-Hicks efficiency (raw cost-benefit analysis), with no consideration of rights or dignity, as the sole basis for public policy, as I discuss in chapter 4 of Kantian Ethics and Economics.

(For more on Kelo, I recommend the following papers: Ilya Somin, “Controlling the Grasping Hand: Economic Development Takings After Kelo,” Supreme Court Economic Review 15 (2007): 183–271, and Richard Epstein, “Public Use in a Post-Kelo World,” Supreme Court Economic Review 17 (2009), 151–71.)


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