This June is the tenth anniversary of Kelo v. City of New London. The controversial Supreme Court decision held that it is permissible for the government to use eminent domain to take private property and transfer it to other private interests in order to promote “economic development.” Not surprisingly, the ruling was opposed by libertarians and conservatives because it undermines property rights. But it has also met with strong criticism from many on the left, including Ralph Nader, the NAACP, and former president Bill Clinton.This unusual cross-ideological coalition arose because takings that transfer property to private interests often tend to victimize the poor, racial minorities, and the politically weak. As Hilary Shelton of the NAACP put it in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “allowing municipalities to pursue eminent domain for private economic development [has] … a disparate impact on African Americans and other minorities….”When advising the governments of underdeveloped nations, American foreign aid agencies emphasize that secure and stable property rights are critical for long-term economic development. We would do well to apply the same wisdom at home. In the long run, protecting property rights helps stimulate investment and the creation of social capital crucial for genuine development and poverty alleviation….[R]eal progress has been made since Kelo. Eminent domain abuse has come under fire from critics across the political spectrum. And there is growing recognition that we need not condemn economically troubled neighborhoods in order to save them.
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