Now that the Supreme Court’s Kelo v. City of New London decision has focused the country’s attention on the use and abuse of eminent domain, the time is at hand to refocus on the longfestering problem of inadequacy of “just compensation” payable when private property is taken for public use. This is an effort that peaked in the 1970s in the wake of congressional hearings that demonstrated widespread prevalence of undercompensation of people whose land was being taken for public use. But in recent years the problem of undercompensation has not received the attention from commentators that it deserves. During the 1980s it was overshadowed by concerns over regulatory takings, and of late by abuse of eminent domain for so-called economic redevelopment—i.e., transfers of privately owned property to
other private persons or entities for the avowed purpose of
private financial gain in the frequently unrequited hope that
some of that gain will trickle down to the community.