Somin on Eminent Domain Reform Measures

"Far from promoting growth, economic development takings destroy more value than they create," says Professor Ilya Somin in an op-ed for The Daily Caller in which he concludes that more states should adopt referendum initiatives like Mississippi's Measure 31, adopted this week, to afford property owners real protection against eminent domain abuse. 

Since the Supreme Court's 2005 ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, public outcry has resulted in the passage of eminent domain laws in 44 of the 50 states, says Somin. However, he points out that many of the post-Kelo reforms have major loopholes that still allow abuses to occur.

"Referendum initiatives like Measure 31 tend to be stronger than reforms adopted by state legislatures because many of them are drafted by activists rather than by politicians," Somin explains, saying property rights activists do not need to appease powerful pro-condemnation interest groups in order to be elected.

Referendum initiatives prevent eminent domain abuse, The Daily Caller, November 9, 2011. By Ilya Somin.

The most recent state to react to Kelo is Mississippi. On Tuesday, Mississippi voters adopted Measure 31 by a decisive 73% to 27% margin. The new law will make taking property for economic development unprofitable by forbidding most transfers of condemned land to a private party for 10 years after condemnation. The measure is a major victory for both property owners and the state’s economy.

"Economic development condemnations are often used by powerful interest groups to acquire land for themselves at the expense of the poor and politically weak. Prior to Kelo the most famous economic development taking in American history was the 1981 Poletown case, in which some 4,000 people were forcibly expelled from their homes in order to transfer the land to General Motors to build a new factory. In Kelo itself, the taking was in large part the result of lobbying by the influential Pfizer Corporation. In Mississippi, recent condemnations have transferred land to big auto firms such as Nissan and Toyota."

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