Last week, President Bush responded to the US Supreme Court’s decision on eminent domain, known as Kelo, with a decision of his own: an executive order to limit the federal government’s ability to take private property in order to transfer it to another private owner.
However, the order contained significant exceptions leaving more to be done to protect individual property rights, especially for those who are least able to defend their rights themselves. Respect for property ownership was known by the Founders to be crucial to our freedoms as a nation. James Madison described the essential nature of property rights this way:
“Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”
Madison understood that it is just as vital to protect physical property as it is to protect ideas and beliefs, because both are part of a person’s life. In the year following the Kelo decision, thirty-one states have adopted limitations upon the use of eminent domain for economic development. The time has come for Oregon to follow suit, and for Congress to adopt measures that guard all Americans’ property rights.
What better time to do this than while we commemorate American independence?
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