Eminent domain decision was small potatoes
July 8th 2005
If a thief stole small potatoes from your cupboard and a big-screen
TV from your family room, would you be more upset about the loss of
the potatoes or the loss of the TV? Well, judging by the reaction
to the Supreme Court's eminent domain decision in the Kelo case,
most Americans would be more concerned about the small potatoes.
Pundits, politicians and the public are rightly saying that it is
theft for the government to take someone's home and sell it to
private developers for the stated purpose of economic development,
at a price determined by the government and the developers, not by
the owner. Strangely, they are quiet about a much more egregious
theft of property that has been going on for decades.
The government is stealing trillions of dollars from millions of
Americans each year and giving the loot to millions of other
Americans, including well-off retirees who get free prescriptions at
the expense of future generations, wealthy corporate farmers who get
crop subsidies at the expense of grocery shoppers, Ethanol producers
who get rich at the expense of car drivers, and irresponsible
parents who get free tutors and pre-school for their kids at the
expense of responsible parents. A complete inventory of all the
loot and the looters would run for hundreds of pages.
According to my
analysis, 62 percent of federal spending is theft - that is, money that is
taken from some people and groups and redistributed to other people and
groups instead of being spent on the true general welfare, which I define as
government services that benefit all people equally or as equally as
practical. The 62 percent comes to over $1.5 trillion per year, or about
$13,000 per household. One hundred years ago, only about two percent of
federal spending was theft.
The value of
homes taken through eminent domain is chump change compared to the
trillions taken from chumps by the government. For many people, the
amount of money stolen from them over their lifetime and given to
others is much greater than the value of their home.
At least a homeowner gets most of his money back when his house is
taken by a city and sold to a private developer. But a citizen gets
nothing back when his money is forcibly taken by the government and
given to private individuals and special-interest groups. Zilch,
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that the taking of a
home is less immoral than the taking of money. In either case, the
victim is having the fruits of his labor taken by people who have no
right to the fruits of his labor.
Both types of theft are not only immoral, but they are also
unconstitutional. The Takings Clause was not written by the Framers
to permit the taking of homes for private development. And the
General Welfare clause was not written to permit the taking of
trillions of dollars from private citizens for other private
Still, the taking of homes is small potatoes compared to the taking
of trillions of dollars. So why are politicians, pundits and the
public more upset about the former than the latter?
Craig J. Cantoni
Mr. Cantoni is an
author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (www.haalt.org).
His new book, Breaking from the Herd: Political Essays for
Independent Thinkers by a Maverick Columnist, can be purchased for
$18.95 at retail or $10 from him. He can be reached at