Some may miss the useful discussion on Eminent Domain (ED) found in the comments on “Your Legislature at Work” Thurs 8 Feb below.


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  1. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works

    Almost 3,000 years ago, the government wanted to take private property for economic development. (Apparently the government thought a “vegetable garden” would be a better use of the land than an existing “vineyard”.)
    The landowner refused to sell, so the government had him declared a criminal and executed. The government then took the property.
    Needless to say the Supreme Ruler Of The Universe who is the source of our individual inalienable rights to life and property was not too pleased with the government’s actions.
    So the Creator sent a blunt message to the government to the effect that since you murdered the landowner and stole his property, you will die a humiliating death in the same place you killed the landowner.
    It is a great story in 1 Kings 21 if you are interested.
    Clearly there is a long moral tradition upholding private property rights as superior to the whims of the governing class.
    As articulated brilliantly in the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson and the other founders held firmly that these were inalienable rights.
    The Supreme Court ignored these rights in deciding that the home owned by Susette Kelo could be taken by the government in order to be put to a different use.

  2. E M Risse Avatar

    No one says humans have learned nothing about functional governance in 3,000 + years.

    Some read the Kelo case differently.

    In the long term, the first commenter on the referenced thread is right, the real winner from the proposed legislation is land speculators.


  3. Maybe, but it is the land “speculators” that own the land and it is their money, and sometimes their home and livliehood that is at risk.

    If there is any real overarching social benefit that absolutlely must take someone’s land in order for it to happen, then surely there is enough value in the project that the owners can get a fair price.

    Frequently, when a large parcel is assembled for some project, the value of the assembled parcel is more than the value of the former pieces. Now, the previous owners are not a member of the group of speculators, movers, and shakers that made the assemblage possible. The previous owners have done nothing to create this new value, so it is hard to see how they should participate in it.

    On the other hand, this new value would not exist without eminent domain, unless the new owners paid full price. Therefore the new value they obain comes partly at the cost of the previous individual landowners.

    So, you have an organized and powerful new landowner beating up on a series of individual landowners, using divide and conquer tactics.

    It is the New Speculators that are the winners, with substantial help from the very government that is supposed to protect us all equally.

    A better scenario would be this. Under eminent domain the government woud take the land and turn it over to a corporation. The shareholdes of the corporation would be the previous owners of the land on a pro rata distribution based on the previous value. That corporation would then sell the assembled land on the open market (probably to the New Speculators), with the proeeds going to the shareholders.

    This would eliminate the divide and conquer aspect of takings which frequently result in the previous owner being grossly underpaid when compared to the new value created.

    Then, of course, there are also situations in which the new construction never lived up to its glowing sales literature, and the New Speculators got burned.

  4. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works

    To: E M Risse

    The “first commenter on the referenced thread” – “Anon 3:10“ – wrote, “Let’s call the eminent domain constitutional amendment and bill by their real name: ‘The Slumlord Relief Act.’
… All the horror stories told by the proponents pale in comparison with the magnitude of benefit that the proper use of eminent domain has heaped upon taxpayers and society overall. Yes, there have been some abuses, but that’s for the courts to decide.”

    Susette Kelo’s home was not blighted nor were her neighbors, so obviously the courts were facilitating the abuses. Neither the legislature nor the courts should be able to override fundamental human rights like private property. We have learned something about “functional governance” in 3,000+ years and that includes respect for individual property rights. Recognition of these rights is spreading globally to the betterment of the world.

    Far more beneficial economic development is lost to society because of overly restrictive zoning and land use control than is ever gained through eminent domain. Tysons Corner is dysfunctional because single use zoning codes mandated by the government made it so. Tens of thousands of apartments have been built in Loudoun County nowhere near any jobs, simply because Fairfax County insists on maintaining vast areas of low density residential zoning near Tysons Corner and other employment centers.

    The land speculators were doing society a favor when they voluntarily assembled the Poplar Terrace subdivision of one-half acre lots next to I-66 and within walking distance of the Vienna Metro. The Fairfax County government refused to consider their request for higher density and the assemblage has been lost.

    The government is the problem here, not land speculators, and certainly not the free market, which is trying to respond to the need for housing near existing jobs.

    You wrote in your post at 11:58 AM regarding the Eminent Domain bills that, “The only possible silver lining is that in a logical, results oriented democracy with a market economy, it might prompt some to start in earnest to work for a Henry George / Split Rate Tax.”

    My question is how can you get a higher and better land use at a place like Poplar Terrace with the restrictive zoning and an intransigent Board of Supervisors? To make a Henry George land tax work in terms of “improving human settlement patterns” wouldn’t you have to get the government and its outdated zoning regulations out of the way?

    ”George advocated shifting taxes from labor and capital onto the value of land and natural resources.” (

    George was concerned about the effect on the poor of concentrated land ownership in an era where 95% of the population was tied to agriculture. Today with less than 5% working on the land, we have the freedom to create intellectual wealth that surpasses anything physical.

    If only Henry George could have lived to see the fortunes made today on software and semiconductors. Land and natural resources are rapidly becoming only a minor component of global human wealth.

    We still need a place to live. Zoning reintroduces monopoly rents by preventing competition in the use of land for denser housing development. So the poor and lower middle class pay higher and higher rents. Apartment owners in Fairfax County love the monopoly rents generated from this supply constrained market.

    Meanwhile, Eminent Domain continues to be abused to clear out more of the poor, because nobody likes to look at poverty, and politicians like campaign contributions from monopoly rent seekers.

  5. To FW:

    Keep it up. Good stuff

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t know the truth with regard to Fairfax and denser housing.

    For that matter, I don’t know how Fairfax compares with Loudoun, or Alexandria or Prince William.

    So I would like to know – if Fairfax .. coparatively is worse or better than other similiar areas in terms of it’s approvals or non-approvals for denser housing.

    I do believe that FW has a point – with caveats.

    I’m not sure if FW’s ideas of WHERE such housing should go – fits with EMR’s vision of where it should go.

    Either way – Fairfax and the rest of the area ALL have Comprehensive Plans that designate intended land-use.

    Is it the plans that don’t designate denser housing opportunities or does the plan allow them but Fairfax won’t approve them.

    Second, Citizen Opposition.

    Each home will generate 10 auto trips per day. I’m not sure what apartments/condos generate but it’s right up there. It’s more like 7 or 8 than 3 or 4.

    The point is that these same Comp Plans have roads on them. They have existing roads and they have roads that will need to be improved if new development is approved and adds more cars.

    The problem is that many of these “plans” are simply paper. This is no CIP.

    What FW and others believe (I think) is that the road issue is separate from the need for the housing. They believe it should be addressed but not tied tandem to the approval of the housing.

    Citzens, on the other hand, believe that is is exactly these kinds of policies that lead to terrible traffic congestion and that it is essentially irresponsible to approve dense housing without making provisions at the same time for the infrastructure that will be needed to keep the level of service from getting even worse.

    ED is involved in this because the reason new roads are not built for increased development is the cost.

    No one seems to want to take responsibility for the cost and so ED becomes an essential tool for keeping the costs down – at the expense of private land owners who ARE, in fact, treated very unfairly as Ray has pointed out.

    (But I do distinquish between ED used to lower costs and the alleged “right” of a landowner to develop land.

    Landowner “rights” – the “right” to enjoy your property is not the same as development “rights” but advocates often try to portray them as the same and they are not.

  7. E M Risse Avatar

    Freedom Works:

    Much of what you say is correct. You would know we agree if you read our work. For instance see “The Role of Municipal Planning in Creating Dysfunctinal Human Settlement Patterns.”

    Jim Bacon and I are repeatedly critical of the current use of land use contorls.

    I was not directly involved in New London, Conn planning or redevelopment. I have been in the Vienna / Fairfax GMU METRO station as noted in the the last footnote “The Problem With Mass Transit.” What you describe is largely correct by not relevant to the Kelo case.

    What surprises me is that otherwise rational people go balastic over Kelo and ED.

    A clue may be in your statement:

    “If only Henry George could have lived to see the fortunes made today on software and semiconductors. Land and natural resources are rapidly becoming only a minor component of global human wealth.”

    Your next paragraph correctly states that everyone needs a place to live. But the cumulative impact of the actions of individuals means that urban areas must continue to evolve. Uniformed land speculation thwarts that organic process.

    Overcoming Geographic Illiteracy among citizens and speculators would have a dramatic impact on their understanding their enlightened self interst and what “freedom” really means in the 21st Centruy.

    Keep up the good work, abandon the superfucial symbols. Recall that Diamond says adherence to these leads to Collapse.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    To Freedom Works and others: I guess it is better for an entire neighborhood to remain blighted and drug-riddled than to tread on the property rights of one slumlord.

    It is better to tell Philip Morris to take its multi-million dollar research facility out of downtown Richmond and to the suburbs than to tread on the property rights on one property owner who could not be located.

    Because if you condemn any piece of land and do anything to improve it, then you have violated the provisions of the proposed constitutional amendment and bill.

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