242. Don't Take My Property

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"Eminent domain" is the power of the government to take private property and use it for the public good. Government officials simply notify a property owner that they want his property and offer him a fair price. The owner can accept or reject that offer. If he thinks the offer is too low, he can go to court. In court, a jury will decide the fair price, which the government must pay.

Usually, the owner cannot prevent the government from taking his land for public use, which includes roads, schools, government buildings, and economic development. However, the US Supreme Court recently expanded the meaning of "economic development" to include the construction of shopping centers, amusement parks, and even car washes. Property owners nationwide are now at greater risk of losing their property for the "private" good instead of the "public" good. They will see their land converted to Burger Kings and Chevy dealerships instead of post offices and parks.

Just last week, the Ozark city council demanded that Johnny Miller sell all his land to the city.

"It isn't right," said Miller. "My family has owned this property for four generations. We grow crops and raise cattle. We're active in Ozark's social clubs and civic groups. Now the council wants to kick us out so that Walt Disney can build a new theme park here. I'm not selling. I'm going to fight this--since when is a mouse more important than an American family?"


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