I had the opportunity to speak with two attorneys for the City of San Jose last evening down at the Tied House brewpub. One is a relative, so I can’t be too harsh; and besides, he beat an ex-cop in court a few years back. She sued the city ’cause they "harassed" her, she claimed, on account of her sexual preferences.
Anyway, I jumped on them because San Jose’s newly-completed, multi-bazillion-dollar city hall building now occupies the spot formerly occupied by some local establishments I used to frequent when I previously lived downtown–Taco Bell being prominent among them. City Hall is now the largest, tallest, most prominent building in San Jose–although it should be pointed out that there’s a height restriction to the west–where most of the buildings are–due to final approach into the airport. Adobe, because they couldn’t go high, built three separate towers that I think look great.
So, a brief discussion of eminent domain ensued. And, during that discussion, I learned that the landowners "made out like bandits." The city didn’t "have to" undertake an eminent domain action. I didn’t think I’d get much mileage pointing out that it doesn’t matter what price the landowners received because it wasn’t a voluntary transaction. Even if no eminent domain action was undertaken, the threat of action was there.
The state never has moral authority behind anything they do, for the fundamental reason that they operate through the overt use of force; and where not, they operate through the implicit and explicit threat of force, between which, there is no meaningful distinction to make.
In the end, the fundamental justification I received for the use of eminent domain powers is that "we’ll be screwed if we don’t put it here." Now, consider that for a second; the raw audacity of it. We’re talking about people who supposedly own land, homes, commercial buildings, and businesses. The city dreams up some "plan" on how it will next use the money that’s taken from you in various forms of taxation. It’s then determined that they, the city, "will be screwed" if their planned development isn’t built on the spot they deem best suited. In order to keep from "being screwed" in undertaking their designs with your money, they’ll screw any landowner who won’t accept whatever terms they’re willing to offer.
Of course, I know I’m barking up the wrong tree just about everywhere. Eminent domain, after all, is contained within the sacred US Constitution. Public use, right? Yea, I do, in fact, see a huge difference between a Costco–that delivers high-quality merchandise at the lowest prices anywhere, saving its hundreds of thousands of customers (I’m talkin’ one location) hundreds and thousands of dollars per year, benefiting the local community in providing solid well-paying jobs for lots of employees–and a city hall, county office, or state house that taxes people to ruin, runs a bloated bureaucracy mostly composed of méchant do-nothings who do nothing but create problems for local businesses, which are the real benefactors of the community, and then takes their property from them by forced sale. Indeed, there’s quite a difference.
Just try to remember all that the next time you make meaningless distinctions between eminent domain for "public" and "private" uses. The distinction has no moreal standing because it’s taking property either way, and that’s normally wrong. Moreover, the distinction you usually make is quite untenable, as you should now be able to see quite clearly. The real distintion to make is between creators, benefactors, net producers of value for society and destroyers, parasites, net consumers of values often stolen from society by force.
If public benefit were not only the standard, but exercised in fully integrated, full-context honesty and not the typical state, media, commie, useful idiot (that’s most of you) deception standard, "eminent domain" would mean tearing up city, county, state, and federal property right and left to make way for auto factories, computer, software, and biotech R&D and manufacturing plants, and Costcos and Wal-Marts galore. And that’s just to get started.