The pylon battle in the Waikato and the taking of Suzette Kelo's Connecticut home so a developer can build a shopping mall have between them raised the issue of what the Americans call eminent domain, or what we might call taking private property for 'public' use.
Anyone who has ever seen the film The Castle will know what I'm talking about: taking someone's property, or a portion of their property, on the basis that you have the legal force to do so, and that compensation 'on just terms' is provided for the 'taking' of the property.
In The Castle, of course, the issue was what exactly those 'just terms' would be. For Daryl Kerrigan, the owner of the house being taken for development of the neighbouring airport by a private company, no terms could be considered just. "You can't buy what I've got," he wails. No value anyone else could offer would replace what he's already got.
In the American context, of course, the Constitution actually protects the taking of private property for public use - "nor shall private property be tken for public use without just compensation" says the so-called 'takings clause' of the Fifth Amendment -- but in the submission of some people (which list includes me) inclusion in that Constitution doen't make it right; and given the experience of history (which as I explain in this post, shows that routes for rail and pipelines and the like can and have been put together voluntarily, without any need for public theft) it's not true that it's even necessary.
However there are people who think that eminent domain is marvellous. Many of these people are developers. Many of them are politicians. One of them recently agreed to debate Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute on this issue. Yaron is not in favour of eminent domain. Not in any way whatsoever. His opponent is. His opponent is a leading advocate of taking private property for public use, and he used to head the department that some have called The Federal Bulldozer, a department that spent years throwing people out of their homes against their will in the name of 'urban renewal' (the slums his department built are now know as 'The Projects,' and are more like urban sinks than examples of renewal). This prick still thinks he was justified in everything his department did.
You can listen to the debate between Yaron Brook and this advocate for public theft here, at the Principles in Practice blog. Yaron is a lot more polite than I would have been in the circumstances.
Listen here. And come back and let me know whom you found the most convincing.
LINKS: Eminent domain: To preserve or abolish - Principles in Practice
ACT protecting property rights? - Not PC
Pylon pressure ignorant and unnecessary - Not PC
Political plundering of property owners - James Bovard, Freedom Daily
RELATED: Property_Rights, Objectivism