Posts Tagged ‘initiative 31’
On November 8, Mississippians will head to the polls to decide three proposed ballot initiatives. One of these referendums, termed Initiative 31, aims to protect private property rights in Mississippi by restricting the government’s power of eminent domain. Governments have always used the power of eminent domain to acquire property on which to construct roads, schools, and other public developments.
Private property rights form the bedrock of a society of ordered liberty. For this reason, governments should prioritize the protection of private property second only to life and liberty itself. The justifications for a state’s eminent domain power lie in two considerations: 1) The state must provide adequate compensation for the acquired land, and 2) the land must be devoted to a public use. Using its power of eminent domain, both federal and state governments have purchased land from individuals to construct roads, schools, and public buildings.
In the controversial 2005 case of Kelo v. New London, the US Supreme Court vastly expanded the power of eminent domain. The case concerned a Connecticut resident whose property was acquired by the government using the power of eminent domain. Instead of using the land for a traditional public purpose, though, the government planned to transfer the property to a private pharmaceutical company. In a 5-4 decision that upended the world of eminent domain law, the court ruled that this was a constitutional use of the government’s taking power.
According to Kelo, eminent domain can be used to transfer private property to another private entity as long as the new owner will provide an “economic benefit” to the community. Using this logic, Peter the used car dealer could lobby the government to acquire your family farm. Though the farm belongs to you, Peter convinces the state that by opening a new car lot on your land, he could benefit the town economically.
Initiative 31 aims to prevent just this sort of crony capitalism. In response to this expansion of power, Mississippians have a chance to defend their private property against government that seeks to transfer it to another citizen. Initiative 31 would amend the state constitution to prohibit the state from transferring private property to another private individual for 10 years. This greatly reduces any incentive for the government to take private property for private uses.
Support property rights on November 8 by voting YES on Initiative 31.
James Robertson currently attends the University of Mississippi, where he plans to receive degrees in Political Science and English. He is the President of the Ole Miss Chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. He can be contacted at email@example.com.