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Friday, February 25, 2005

Property Rights

The Seattle Times:

The case involves a group of homeowners in New London, Conn., who are suing to prevent the city from condemning their homes in order to give the land to a real-estate developer. The developer intends to erect a private commercial spread, including luxury housing and private office space for such companies as drug giant Pfizer. New London justifies its action under eminent domain, a constitutional power that allows government to take private property for 'public use.' Historically, the power was intended to allow government to seize land it needed for things like roads or schools, as long as the owner was compensated. But in recent years, eminent domain has become the worst kind of corporate welfare, practiced at the expense of those who can least afford it. In Kelo, the city justifies the seizure on the grounds that the new complex will contribute to urban renewal while raising the tax revenues the city receives from the property. Similar tactics have been used to condemn church property to make way for Costco (California), blocks of local residences to make way for shiny new malls (Ohio) and family land in favor of Nissan (Mississippi). ... And though the city bears greatest legal responsibility, the drug company should be ashamed of itself. In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have fought valiant battles to protect their own intellectual-property rights, despite "public interest" arguments that the drugs they discovered should be stripped of their patents or given away for a song. Indeed, the Pfizer Journal, in an article on land reform, writes that "property rights are fundamental to human health and dignity. And protection of property — including the property of the mind — is fundamental to the industries that make jobs available to drive a healthy economy." We're sure the citizens of New London would agree.
Property rights are fundamental. Michael, of Of the Mind posted an Ayn Rand quote that sums up my feelings on this issue well:
"The idea that 'the public interest' supersedes private interests and rights can have but one meaning: that the interests and rights of some individuals take precedence over the interests and rights of others." - Ayn Rand


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