My brand of Idealism and the problems it faces are pretty easy to figure out. I believe that those of us who abide by the rules and who perform their civic duties should have sovereignty over their own lives. The problem with this fundamentally Democratic perspective is only that so many people resist the rules and their civic duties and fail to develop the required level of maturity even though the task is not all that hard. The fact that so many resist the minimum level of responsibility makes the need to constitutionally protect individual freedom more important, not less.
Let’s consider the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. It reads: “Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Nice try, Mr. Madison! But once again the lack of specificity in those well-intended words has gotten us into trouble recently.
The Takings Clause has been steadily eroded since the 1700’s by the increasing usage of the concept of Eminent Domain.
Eminent Domain was not originally intended to include the power to take and transfer ownership of private property from one property owner to another private property owner or to the government without a “valid public purpose”. But it is the government that decides what is and what isn’t “valid”.
The power of Eminent Domain, believe it or not, can be legislatively delegated by the state to municipalities, government subdivisions, or even to private persons or corporations just by saying those entities are exercising functions of a public character.
Property taken by Eminent Domain has been for roads, government buildings and public utilities. Many railroads were given the right of eminent domain to obtain land in order to build and connect rail networks.
In the mid-20th century Eminent Domain was expanded to allow the government to take property and transfer it to a private third party for redevelopment. It has been expanded yet again to allow the taking of any private property when the new third-party owner could develop the property in such a way as to bring in increased tax revenues to the government.
The Takings Clause is being ignored and pushed aside because of the lack of specificity introduced in the words “without just compensation,” since it is always the government that decides what is just.
Proposed new wording for the Takings Clause: “Nor shall private property be taken for public use except upon the complete agreement to the terms of compensation.”