Maryland General Assembly kills plan to use eminent domain against “House of Cards”

April 3

The conference committee of the Maryland General Assembly has apparently killed a plan to use eminent domain against the hit TV show “House of Cards” in order to prevent it from moving filming to a different state. The proposal had previously passed the lower house of the state, legislature, the House of Delegates. It remains to be seen whether it might be resurrected in the future.

Although it may have been worthy of Frank Underwood, the TV show’s devious main character, the plan was also a badly flawed idea, for reasons I explained here and here.

“House of Cards” deserves blame for trying to extract corporate welfare from the state legislature. The eminent domain proposal was a reaction to the show’s producers’ efforts to use the threat of moving to extract additional targeted tax credits from the state, on top of the $26.6 million it had received in previous years. But the right way to deal with wasteful corporate welfare is not eminent domain, but refusing to hand it out in the first place. Targeted subsidies and tax breaks rarely increase net economic development for states and localities. The best way to promote economic growth is to have a generally strong business climate for enterprises of all types, not favoritism for the politically influential.

Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University. His research focuses on constitutional law, property law, and popular political participation. He is the author of "The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain" (forthcoming) and "Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter."
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