Property rights ought to matter

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Is the Foxconn bet worth running roughshod over private ownership?

ABOUT A DOZEN property owners in southeast Wisconsin have gone to court to oppose eminent domain being used to take their land to accommodate the big Foxconn Technology Group project negotiated with Gov. Scott Walker and the legislature.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut, ruled 5-4 several years ago that government can take private property in order to allow other private developers to complete projects the government deems a better use. That was a major redefining of the takings clause in the Fifth Amendment governing eminent domain. Previously, private property could be taken to further public uses - think roads, schools or sewer and water projects. Kelo said government can take property from one private owner simply to hand it off to a more favored private owner.

FOXCONN MAY TURN OUT to be the best thing ever to happen to Wisconsin. Or it could be a bust. Or something in between.

That's not our point.

In our view, in a free country, private property rights should not be sacrificed because whoever is in charge of government on a given day would rather see the land in the hands of a developer.

Arguments can be made for using eminent domain to prevent a needed public project from being scuttled by a stubborn property owner.

But allowing government to decide one private property owner is favored over another throws the door to abuse open wide.

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