The Takings Clause has also long been held to require that the taking be “for public use.” In other words, it must not take property from one person and give it to another for purely private gain. As a purely textual matter, the Clause is ambiguous about such a requirement. It is possible to read the Clause as simply describing the conditions under which property will be taken. Indeed, one might say that the enumerated powers doctrine independently requires all federal takings to be for a public use, and hence that any federal taking that is within the enumerated powers is necessarily one for public use. One could also read the Clause as limiting compensation to takings for public use, while providing no compensation if the taking is for private use.
The conventional wisdom, however, is to read the Takings Clause as containing an independent public use requirement. This avoids rendering the “public use” phrase redundant, and avoids the strange result of leaving takings for private interest without compensation. It is also the view taken by many state courts throughout the 19th Century, in the course of interpreting their own state constitutional law. As with the regulatory takings doctrine, it is possible that the original meaning of the 14th Amendment incorporates a public use requirement against the states even if the Fifth Amendment was not originally understood to apply it against the federal government.