But the seeds of this expanded use of eminent domain werernthere from the beginning. The construchon of roads and canalsrn(and, later, railroads and the Interstate Highva Sstem) wasrnnot an unadulterated public good, and not simply for the reasonsrnthat Bill Kauffman oudines in his book. With Good Intentions?rnReflections on the Myth of Progress in America. In fact,rnwhenever eminent domain was used to procure the land for arnroad or a canal, someone disproportionateh’ reaped the benefitsrnfrom it. For most projects that truly benefited the public atrnlarge, eminent domain was not used—for instance, to constructrnroads from rural areas into towns, so that farmers could bringrntheir crops and livestock in for sale. Instead, the farmers themselvesrnconstructed those roads, and they did not even chargerntolls.rnAi t the fime of the American founding, this use of eminentrnLdomain made perfect sense; the Framers of the Constitution,rnafter all, were mercantilists, concerned more with thernwealth of nations than with the wealth of pri’ate citizens. Anythingrnthat could (in President Clinton’s hackneyed phrase)rn”grow the economy” contributed to the wealth of the nation.rnStill, the Framers would never have countenanced the use ofrneminent domain to take property from one citizen in order torngive it to another. It took the development of capitalism —rnspecificallv, state capitalism—before government could comernto idenhfi’ a private good so completely with the public good.rnWhen Barbara Richardson expressed her fondness for eminentrndomain, she was speaking not as a socialist, but as a staterncapitalist. Miss Richardson truly believes in private enterprise;rnduring her tenure in Rockford, she deoted much of her effortsrnto encouraging the founding and growth of small businesses.rnBut for her, and for other state capitalists, propert)’ is nothingrnmore than a commodity. As long as we properly compensaternthe owner, why should government not take property’ by eminentrndomain and hand it over to someone else, who will use itrnwith greater economic efficiency?rnWh’ indeed? One of the reasons that property owners havernfound it so hard to get up the will to fight eminent-domain casesrnin recent years is that this idea of property as simpK a commodityrnhas become the prevailing view, even among—or perhaps,rnespecially among—the defenders of private property. I oncernheard James Bovard begin a speech by declaring that the mostrnimportant quality of property is the abilih’ to sell it. His point, ofrncourse, was that government regulation often infringes uponrnthis ability. As I glanced around the roomfid of libertarians, Irnnoticed them nodding their heads vigorously in agreement.rnBut while his statementrnmay be true in the limitedrnconfines of a marketrnsetting, another qualityisrnfar more important,rnbecause it relates to thernwhole of human existence,rnnot merely itsrnmarket aspects. ContrarnBoard, the most importantrnquality of propertyisrnthe ability to keep it.rnToday, this quality isrneven more endangeredrnthan the abilit}’ to sell it.rnThe economic securityrnthat comes from owning one’s land and home free andrnclear, the rootedness that comes from living in the same placernover a long period of time, the potential for personal and communityrnself-sufficiency that such rootedness provides-all ofrnthese have no value when propert)’ is viewed simply as a commodib,’,rnbecause they can be assigned no value by the marketplace.rnAnd ‘et these effects of property’ ownership provide therngreatest possible protection against economic and political centralizationrn—and the loss of freedom which accompanies it.rnThat is why those who love libert)- must first defend property.rnTO regard property as merelyrna commodity is a form ofrnconsumerism, a spiritual diseasernwhich is anti-materialist and,rntherefore, anti-Christian.rnFor Christians, propert)’ can never be mereh’ a commodit)’.rnIt is, rather, an extension of our personalifv’, as much a part of usrnas our wives and children. As Eastern Orthodox Bishop KallistosrnWare points out, we are the true materialists, because, by acknowledgingrnthe Incarnation of Christ, we recognize the importancernand dignity’ of the material world, and our integrationrnwithin it. “The earth is the LORD’s and the fidness thereof; thernworld, and they that dwell therein” (Ps. 24:1). To regard propert)-rnas merely a commodit)’ is a form of consumerism, a spiritualrndisease which is anti-materialist and, therefore, anti-Christian.rnBut consumerism is the religion of the day, and the apostiesrnof Homo economicus. both socialist and capitalist, vant us to bernashanied to view ourseh’es as anything other than consumers orrnto view our property as an thing more than a commodit’. BusinessrnC)’c]cs flatten out and marketplaces function more smoothlyrnwhen we all act like good automatons, in accordance withrnsupposed economic laws. WHien wc let ourselves be ashamedrnat having an’ loyalties that are deeper than our ties to democraticrncapitalism, wc become unable to defend our propert)’ asrnours —for keeps —and government and developers can put arnEllis Fine Arts Academy stands where Henry Hamherlin’s house once stood.rnAPRIL 2001/15rnrnrn