The two-hundred year long debate over takings of private property [updated and reposted with corrected link]

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The History News Network has published my short article on the two hundred year-long debate over the purposes for which government may take private property. This debate was rekindled ten years ago by the massive controversy resulting from the Supreme Court's controversial decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which ruled that it is permissible for the government to take property from one private owner and give it to another in order to promote "economic development."

The HNN article is based on my new book The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain, the first book about Kelo and its aftermath by a legal scholar. Here is an excerpt from the HNN piece:

This June was the tenth anniversary of Kelo v. City of New London, one of the most controversial Supreme Court decisions in modern history. In a close 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut could use eminent domain to condemn fifteen residential properties and transfer them to a new private owner, in order to promote "economic development." Although the Fifth Amendment only allows the condemnation of property for "public use," the majority opinion held that virtually any potential public benefit qualifies as a public use, even if the government cannot prove that the supposed benefit will ever actually materialize….

For most Americans, the Kelo decision was probably the first time they focused their attention on eminent domain. Yet the ruling was just the latest phase in a two-hundred year long debate over takings and the meaning of "public use."

UPDATE: The original version of this post accidentally did not include a link to the HNN article. I have now fixed the problem and reposted this piece. I apologize for the error.

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