Columbia Eminent Domain Case Will Not Be Heard

So the Supreme Court will not hear the eminent domain case involving Columbia University, which finagled the state into seizing local land and transferring it to the school.  That means that the landowners who don't want to sell have no recourse.  Worse, it reinforces the precedent of Kelo--that the government can take land and transfer it to private actors even when there's only a trivial and dubious public gain involved.


In the case of Columbia, there's a tangible public loss--they're going to tear down one of the few gas stations in Manhattan in order to give Columbia's privileged students more space.  And what public benefit does the city get?  We're talking about taking taxpaying private properties and transferring them to a non-profit which will not pay taxes, and will turn a large swathe of Manhattan into a quasi-compound for some of the wealthiest and most privileged people in the city.

Which is, of course, the most sick-making aspect.  I am not against eminent domain for public uses like hospitals or railroads.  But by no stretch of the imagination could Columbia University be called a public accommodation.  One's gut and one's social conscience rebel at the seizure of private property which is taken precisely because it serves, or is owned by, poorer people.  One's gut and one's social conscience positively riot at the thought of taking this seized land and handing it over to wealthy private institution that almost exclusively serves the affluent class.

I don't understand why this is an issue that only fires up libertarians.  Can't we all agree that it would be better to live in a world where Columbia cannot do this sort of thing?  I guess not, though.
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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