Friday, September 28, 2007

eminent domain does more harm to the poor (surprise!)

From Jacob Sullum with Reason (citing research on the 2000 census, "Victimizing the Vulnerable: The Demographics of Eminent Domain Abuse," by Dick M. Carpenter II and John K. Ross, published by the Institute for Justice, 2007)...

Rich, white property owners are disproportionately hurt by eminent domain abuse.

Just kidding.

A new report from the Institute for Justice looked at 184 areas where the use of eminent domain was approved for private economic development projects. On average, the residents were poorer, less educated, less likely to own property, and more likely to be racial minorities.

Such differences are not only not surprising; they are pretty much inevitable if the criterion for condemning a property is whether it can be put to a "higher use"--i.e., one that generates more tax revenue or creates more jobs. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted in her dissent from the Supreme Court's endorsement of such takings in Kelo v. New London, "extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities."

Carpenter and Hall find that victims of eminent domain are 30% more likely to be minorities, 56% more likely to be under the poverty line, 42% to have less than a high school diploma, and 29% to be renters.

Eminent domain, then, is like so many other policies-- where government tries to help, but inadvertently causes harm to the poor. In redistributing wealth to farmers and protecting textile manufacturers from foreign competition, the government drives up the price of food and clothing. In helping various labor interest groups, the relatively unskilled are forcibly locked out of labor markets. And most important, in protecting the government schools from competition, the inner city poor are forced to attend school at the government-run monopoly in their neighborhood.

Too often, government causes damage to the most vulnerable in our society...


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