John Stossel

Blight is in the eye of the beholder. The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public-interest law firm, says that "the definition of 'blight' has become so broad and unprincipled that governments regularly target perfectly fine homes in ordinary neighborhoods for the wrecking ball."

The use of eminent domain for private profit is the tip of the iceberg of an unappreciated threat to individual freedom. States and municipalities routinely engage in economic planning that would make the old Soviet Union blush. State and local planning boards manipulate the tax laws and hand out cash subsidies to favored retailers and manufacturers, while those without political connections bear the full tax burden or are shut out altogether. The favoritism escalates when governments feverishly compete with one another to attract an auto-assembly plant or a big-box store. Private businesses play each government off against the others to get the most corporate welfare possible.

Who pays? The taxpayers and property owners who are forced to sacrifice for the "common good."

Why do we assume that politicians and bureaucrats know better what's good for the community than people themselves? Competition within free markets benefits everyone. Voluntary exchange is always win-win. Political schemes -- which always require force -- benefit some at the expense of others.

Many uninformed people think there can't be economic development without planning. That's another myth. Most of America's astounding economic growth occurred without government guidance.

The Arlington Heights story shows that big companies respond to public protests. There is a lesson in that. Governments will stop stealing private property from the powerless when businesses refuse to cooperate in this larceny. So the next time one of those giants signs on to a development project made possible by eminent domain, give them an earful.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate