To: The Kansas House/Senate Joint Committee on Economic Development.
Subject: Testimony Regarding Eminent Domain at the October 11, 2005 hearing.
My name is John Todd. I am a real estate broker and land developer from Wichita.
I support the proposition to amend article 15 of the constitution of the state of Kansas by adding a new section thereto, concerning eminent domain as follows:
“Private property shall not be taken except for public use, and private property shall not be taken without just compensation. The taking of private property with the intent to or in anticipation of selling, leasing or otherwise transferring any interest in the property to any private entity is not a valid public use and is prohibited.”
I also support the immediate passage of legislation that would codify into law the exact meaning of the above amendment language. This would replace existing statutes.
I do not support any additional language in the amendment or in any immediately passed legislation that would in any way mitigate the private property rights protection contained therein.
The keys to the economic freedoms we enjoy in this country are “individual liberty”, “private property rights” and the “free market system”. Examples of failed economic systems like the former Soviet Union emphasized the “collective good”, “state owned property” and “state controlled markets”. Allowing governments the power to take privately owned homes and businesses from individuals and turn them over to private developers for potentially more profitable, higher-tax uses, is a good example of eminent domain abuse done for the “collective” benefit of a community. Using eminent domain to seize property for private/public partnerships projects is the rage today, privatizing profits for the inside group, and reserving losses for public taxpayers. The governments participation in the process of taking private property from one private group for the benefit of another private group, and placing governments in a position to choose which business groups wins and which fails, flies in the face of private property rights, freedom, and free market economics.
A quote by Nobel Prize winning economists Milton Friedman, and Gary Becker as well as economics history Professor Douglass North in Tom Bethell’s book “The Noblest Triumph, Property and Prosperity Through The Ages” is appropriate here. “In an economically free society, the fundamental function of government is the protection of private property and the provision of a stable infrastructure for a voluntary exchange system. When a government fails to protect private property, takes property itself without full compensation, or establishes restrictions (and follows policies) that limit voluntary exchange, it violates the economic freedom of its citizens.”
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