Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Eminent Domain Not The Same As Communism

Imagine my surprise, while reading an article about how cities try to shrink to match their shrinking populations, to learn that "eminent domain was all but unheard of in Germany". That notwithstanding, Leipzig, the city in question, had acted to solve the problem with a different form of legal contract.

But just think of it! In that brutal monolithic Communist state of East Germany, eminent domain hardly exists. In reality, of course, businesses and private property continued to exist under 'communism' and, in fact, flourish where conditions allowed- witness the Czech dominance in streetcar manufacture for several decades.

Seattle doesn't need to think about shrink, but Tacoma would be blessed if they could. Today Tacoma is a shell of a city, sitting on a great site for a city. It would be a great place to live- if it were a city.

Dave Thompson used to say that "where there's a will, there's a fucking way", and a will, the will not to experience another 'own goal' disaster, seems to drive the Europeans to plan and build for a prosperous society. Part of how they do this is by having institutions so deeply rooted that concepts like communism or eminent domain just bounce off, and part of it is in knowing when the institutions need to change to deal with changing times.

One thing, though, seems clear- describing eminent domain as 'communism' is just plain wrong.

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