The issue of eminent domain and the outrageous Kelo decision are what first drove me to start blogging. The idea that government goons could legally force people off their property for the benefit of private entities was enough to get my blood boiling – and still does. Thankfully, most states reacted to the troubled decision by enacting eminent domain protections, though not all were effective and many problems still remain.
Being debated before Congress today is the Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2012, a bill with bipartisan support which would prohibit a state “from exercising its power of eminent domain … over property to be used for economic development … if the state or political subdivision receives federal economic development funds during any fiscal year in which the property is so used or intended to be used.” Sounds wonderful, right? Well, not really.
I’ve written many times about both the benefits of federalism and the dangers of granting the federal government the right to use the disbursement of dollars to force states into specific policy choices. Such use of taxpayer money undermines the idea of separate jurisdictions of government authority, and the benefits we derive from it (the separation of powers between state and federal governments is equally as important as that between the executive, legislative and judicial branches), rendering the states as little more than regional magistrates of a central authority on which they are financially dependent. Ideally, the federal government should be sending no money to the states.
Without the jurisdictional competition of federalism, most people would see the majority of political decisions impacting their lives as being made in a far off Capitol completely out of touch with the challenges they face on a daily basis. The bill also “prohibits the federal government from exercising its power of eminent domain for economic development,” which I wholeheartedly support, but it is not the place of the federal government to force states to do the same. That is the responsibility of the citizens and elected bodies of the respective states.