Will: It’s Court’s Job To Halt Gov’t Taking Sprees

George Will:

What is to prevent legislators from taking revenue from Wal-Mart and giving it to local retailers? Or from chain drugstores to local pharmacies? Not the tattered remnant of the Constitution’s takings clause.

The Fifth Amendment says private property shall not “be taken for public use without just compensation” (emphasis added).

Fifty state constitutions also stipulate taking only for public uses. But the Illinois Supreme Court ignored the public use question. Instead, it said it is “well settled” that the takings clause applies only to government’s exercise of its eminent domain power regarding land, buildings and other tangible or intellectual property – but not money.

Conflicting rulings by state courts demonstrate that that question is chaotically unsettled. That is one reason the U.S. Supreme Court should take the Illinois case and reject the preposterous idea that money is not property within the scope of the takings clause – an idea that licenses legislative confiscations. Another and related reason why the court should take the case is to reconsider its 2005 ruling that rendered the “public purpose” requirement empty.

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