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Eminent Domain

The principle of eminent domain gives governments and their agencies the right to take private property for public purposes, which can include economic development. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that land can only be taken for public use and then only with just compensation. Writing in the Western Law Journal in 1844, Timothy Walker, a respected legal thinker of the time, stated the arguments in favor of this principle:

These declarations and decisions assert two great principles. First, the private right of an individual must yield to the eminent domain of government, whenever the public good requires it. And this is well, for otherwise it would be in the power of one obstinate owner to prevent the execution of those great public improvement which contribute so much to the general convenience and happiness. Second, to equalize the burden and avoid all hardship, the owner of the property so taken is to receive a compensation, which shall be full and just. Any law, therefore, which should condemn private property for any other than a public use or which should not provide for such a compensation would be unconstitutional.