But even if the courts would uphold this taking, it is extremely foolish policy. State governments rarely condemn mobile property, for the very good reason that if they try to do so, the owners can simply take it out of the jurisdiction – a lesson Maryland should have learned when it tried to condemn the Baltimore Colts to keep them from leaving back in 1984. Moreover, other businesses are likely to avoid bringing similar property into the state in the first place.
The state legislature’s frustration about House of Cards threatening to leave unless they get additional targeted tax breaks is understandable. But the solution to that dilemma is simply to abjure special privileges for individual businesses in the first place. Targeted tax breaks and subsidies are rarely effective in promoting regional economic development. The better approach is to have a generally strong business climate for businesses of all types, not favoritism for those that happen to be politically influential or have Hollywood stars lobbying for them. Secure property rights are one important component of such a policy.
It is ironic that House of Cards is lobbying for the same kind of “crony capitalist” favoritism from the Maryland state legislature that is often skewered in the plot of the show itself. But instead of trying to stack the deck by threatening the use of eminent domain, Maryland should simply refuse to play the game in the first place.