The federal government currently owns almost 30% of all land within the United States of America. That’s obscene.
Look at how bad the situation is in the western states:
The only sure way to fix it is via an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Here’s one that should do the trick:
SECTION 1: With the exception of unincorporated Territories, Indian lands, and the District of Columbia, the United States shall not own any more than ten percent of the total land area of the United States, nor shall it own more than twenty percent of the total land area within any State or Territory. The United States shall designate lands that it owns beyond these limits as Excess Federal Lands.
SECTION 2: The United States shall begin selling all Excess Federal Lands by public auction no later than one year after the ratification date of this Amendment, and the United States shall divest itself of all Excess Federal Lands no later than ten years after the ratification date of this Amendment. The United States shall make a good faith effort to auction all Excess Federal Lands, and all such auctions shall be open to all individual citizens of the United States exclusively. The laws and regulations of the States and the Territories shall govern the conduct of auctions of Excess Federal Lands within their borders. During this auction period the United States shall not divest itself of Excess Federal Lands by any method other than by public auction. All Excess Federal Lands that remain unsold ten years after the ratification date of this Amendment shall become the property of their respective States or Territories.
SECTION 3: Any acquisition by the United States of new lands that would otherwise violate Section 1 of this Amendment shall first be offset by divesting an equal or greater amount of lands in accordance with the auction procedures in Section 2. If such auctions fail to sell enough land to comply with Section 1, the United States shall divest the remaining excess lands by transferring ownership to their respective States or Territories.
Have I left anything out?
George Will highlights another clear example of eminent domain abuse in his latest Newsweek column. A few key paragraphs:
The Gambles say that when the city offered them money for their house, they were not interested. “We had everything we wanted, right there,” says Joy, who does not drive but could walk to see her mother in a Norwood nursing home. “We loved that house — that home.”
Past tense. Norwood’s government, in a remarkably incestuous deal, accepted the developer’s offer to pay the cost of the study that — surprise! — enabled the city to declare the neighborhood “blighted” and “deteriorating.” NEWSWEEK reader, stroll around your neighborhood. Do you see any broken sidewalk pavement? Any standing water in a road? Any weeds? Such factors — never mind that sidewalks and roads are government’s responsibility — were cited by the developer’s study to justify Norwood’s forcing the Gambles and their neighbors to sell to the developer so he could build condominiums, office buildings and stores.
Reeling from the life-shattering effects of an uncircumscribed power of eminent domain, the Gambles are hoping for rescue by their state Supreme Court, before which they are represented by the Institute for Justice, a merry band of libertarian litigators. The Gambles have the dignified stoicism of uncomplicated people put upon by sophisticated people nimble with complex sophistries. Carl says, “We’re paying a lot each month for storage” of their possessions that do not fit in his daughter’s basement near the town of Independence, Ky. Independence is what becomes tenuous when property rights become attenuated.
This could happen to you, folks. If you happen to live in Ohio, please read my post on the Ohio eminent domain task force that’s ignoring the major objection to eminent domain abuse: people don’t want the government taking their property and giving it to another private property owner. Ever.
As George Will wrote, “Kelo demonstrated that anyone who owns a modest home or small business owns it only at the sufferance of a local government that might, on a whim of rapacity, seize it to enrich a more attractive potential taxpayer.”
Hat tip: No Left Turns
I just e-mailed the gubernatorial campaigns of Ken Blackwell and Jim Petro and asked the following question:
Would [candiate name here] support Ohio legislation to permanently prohibit the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes (see Kelo v. New London)?
I realize that the Ohio legislature passed a temporary moratorium on this kind of government taking, which expires in December. I asked instead about a permanent ban.
I’ll let you know how the candidates reply, if at all. My guess is that at least one (and maybe both) will duck the issue and defer to the “Legislative Task Force to Study Eminent Domain and Its Use and Application in the State”, which will release its first report on April 1st.