December 14, 2010

COLUMBIA EMINENT-DOMAIN ABUSE CASE WILL NOT BE HEARD, and Megan McArdle is unimpressed:

So the Supreme Court will not hear the eminent domain case involving Columbia University, which finagled the state into seizing local land and transferring it to the school. That means that the landowners who don’t want to sell have no recourse. Worse, it reinforces the precedent of Kelo–that the government can take land and transfer it to private actors even when there’s only a trivial and dubious public gain involved.

In the case of Columbia, there’s a tangible public loss–they’re going to tear down one of the few gas stations in Manhattan in order to give Columbia’s privileged students more space. And what public benefit does the city get? We’re talking about taking taxpaying private properties and transferring them to a non-profit which will not pay taxes, and will turn a large swathe of Manhattan into a quasi-compound for some of the wealthiest and most privileged people in the city.

Eminent domain is often sold as “the people vs. the powerful.” But in fact it’s property rights that protect the people from the powerful.

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