ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Personal Property Rights Versus Eminent Domain: What's Fair and Equitable?

Updated on October 29, 2014

The controversy over personal property rights and eminent domain is one that has raged for decades. Basically one Segment believes that owners of private property should be allowed to use that property as they wish as long as they don’t adversely impact the environment while an opposing segment believes that the government has the right to condemn private property (through eminent domain) for any purpose that promotes “the greater good” including economic development by other private property owners. So the issue arises about one's right to their land and what constitutes a "the greater good."

Property Rights

In America, personal property rights are near the top of importance when it comes to rights afforded to us. One segment of society believes that individuals should be able to do whatever they want with they're property. On the surface this seems pretty fair but in realty it's not - unless limitations are put in place. Once person's right to use a piece of land should not stifle a neighbors right to use his/her land for the same purpose. This is one of the reasons for zoning laws. In addition to this, it's basically impossible to ensure that each land owner has the same rights on their land as others. This is because each piece of land is physically different from every other piece of land and is located differently with respect to existing infrastructure, etc. For example, it may cost $100,000 to build a house on flat piece of land in the suburbs while the same house may cost more than twice as much to construct if built in a hill slope area thick with trees in the middle of nowhere, all other things being equal.

One could also argue that if a land owner isn't "using" a piece of land than it isn't serving anyone any purpose. In this case some people believe that the property rights should also be tied to the type and amount of the use of the land. Therefore, as the argument goes, one would have no particular rights on a piece of vacant natural land unless they were using it for some purpose. This would support eminent domain because any use determine necessary by a government body would be more important than a property owner's non-use of the land.


Eminent Domain

When society wishes to expand its infrastructure to provide for a better future for its citizens, it requires more land to do so. This is where eminent domain comes in handy. If used properly, eminent domain can be a tool to serve a greater purpose for society. Land owners are compensated for their loss of land and in many cases are often given more money than the market (appraised) value. In the big picture of things I believe this is fair for society as a whole because everyone benefits from newer and better infrastructure. This includes the landowner who had to sell the land.

Proper use of eminent domain is equitable in the long run, but may not be in the short term. As I mentioned earlier, land owners whose land is taken by the government are compensated for it. In many cases the compensation far exceeds the market value of the land. I have personally seen someone get paid more than $1,000,000 for a piece of land that only appraised for $400,000. This is unfair to the neighboring land owners who didn't have the luxury of selling at such a high price. However in the long run, the land purchase still does serve a much needed public purpose that is worth more than the money paid to get the land in the first place. In the end, most everyone eventually benefits from the government's use of the land if used when carrying out its legal obligations.

If a land owner is willing to sell his/her property then eminent domain is not needed and all you have is a typical real estate transaction. Therefore, the use of eminent domain is forced upon the land owner to acquire the land necessary for a higher public purpose. Typically the land owner is taken to court and forced to sell the property to the government. This is a legal action and requires the use of attorney's and a judge who issues a judgment on the amount of compensation to be offered.


Eminent Domain: Legal and/or Ethical?

While eminent domain may be legal, it is not always ethical. Sometimes government officials decide to purchase land for a project that is controversial or perhaps it won't be built for a very long time. There may also be other alternatives than obtaining the land that may not be revealed to the seller or those involved. It's also been said that our political leadership often has a hidden agenda. For example, it would be unethical to use eminent domain for land that isn't needed, if the jurisdiction's leadership is trying to exercise their political muscle or if the goal is to benefit an individual rather than a community.

I believe that the use of eminent domain becomes unfair when this tool is used to support the wishes of another private entity. For example, if a car manufacturer needs more land to expand its operation it wouldn't be ethical or legal for the local government to step in to force adjacent land owners to give up their land to support the business. In the case of the auto manufacturer, I would argue that it is their responsibility as a business to negotiate directly with adjacent property owners to work out a deal.

Balance: The Only Truly Fair Solution

In my opinion, there has to be a balance between property rights and the allowed use of eminent domain for it to be considered fair, equitable, legal and ethical. Going too far in either direction is not, in the big picture of things, the best for society as a whole. The use of eminent domain should be used only when duly justified based upon the premise of law established by the dominant decision making authority for the area only when a true greater purpose has been determined.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)