Is Eminent Domain Turnabout Fair Play?

The Pfizer Corporation played a key role instigating the New London, Connecticut condemnations that led to the Kelo case. Now, some of Pfizer's own property may be on the eminent domain chopping block. The New London Day reports that New York officials may try to condemn a Brooklyn factory owned by Pfizer in order to build "affordable housing" on the site.

The article notes that some New London residents who opposed the Kelo condemnations are happy about Pfizer's predicament. As one of them put it, "Turnabout is fair play."

Her attitude is understandable. But I take a different view. Property rights, like other fundamental rights, must not be limited to those who support them. We don't deny Communists the right of freedom of speech, even though they advocate taking away that very same right from others (and have actually done so whenever they had the chance). Similarly, Pfizer should not be denied the right to property even though they lobbied to take it away from others when it was in the corporation's interest to do so.

It's also worth noting that the proposed Brooklyn condemnation seems extremely dubious. Because the property is currently all owned by one entity, there is no collective action or holdout problem of the sort used to justify the use of eminent domain in other cases. If Pfizer's land really is more valuable to the City as a housing site than in its current use, the government should be able to purchase it through voluntary transactions. The benefits of the new use would be greater than the purchase price. If, on the other hand, city officials believe that buying the land isn't worth the price, that's a sign that society will be better off leaving it to its current use.