When you buy something, it’s yours. Thanks to the 5th Amendment, the government, or anyone else, has no right to take that property away from you. The only way you can be relieved of your property is to have someone prove in a court of law that the property was either obtained illegally or that you committed unlawful actions for which you should lose that property.
That’s the way it is supposed to work. However, it is becoming more common for the government to decide to take your property if they want it. This practice is unconstitutional and needs to be stopped.
The official name for this practice is eminent domain. In short, the government can seize any property if it is for “public use” and the property owners are provided with “just” compensation. It’s the same power the government uses to relieve property owners of their land when they want to build a new highway or bridge.
While some of you may agree with this use of eminent domain, how many of you would agree with this scenario: A company wants to build a new shopping center, but they do not own all the land they need. They go to the property owners but those property owners decline. The company then goes to the city council. The council uses their eminent domain power to seize the property.
How can they do this, you ask? How can giving the property of a citizen to a privately owned company be for “public use” and “the greater good?”
Since the government will get more taxes from the shopping center than from private homes or small businesses, and since those extra taxes will pay for services for the citizens of the town, the city council is justified in seizing the property. Or so they claim.
Unfortunately, this situation is occurring across the country as we speak. The city council of Alabaster, Alabama is seizing private property to give to a private developer Colonial Properties Trust. Here, FAMU has appealed to the Florida Board of Governors to use eminent domain to uproot local residents for the expansion of the university.
I encourage you to look at http://www.castlecoalition.org, which is full of information about the abuses of eminent domain. Take ten minutes to search google.com to get an idea of how truly wide spread this problem is.
A free society cannot exist without property rights. Capitalism cannot work without property rights. Write your congressperson or call your representatives in the city council. Whatever you do, don’t allow the practice of eminent domain to continue unopposed.
Daniel Watkins, 20, is a junior computer information systems student from Hephzibah Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com