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Public Use, Public Choice and the Urban Growth Machine: Competing Political Economies of Takings Law


Daniel Lyons


Boston College - Law School

January 28, 2010

University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 265-322, Winter 2009
Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 186

Abstract:     
The Kelo decision has unleashed a tidal wave of legislative reforms ostensibly seeking to control eminent domain abuse. But as a policy matter, it is impossible to determine what limits should be placed upon local government without understanding how cities grow and develop, and how local governments make decisions to shape the communities over which they preside. This Article examines takings through two very different models of urban political economy: public choice theory and the quasi-Marxist Urban Growth Machine model. These models approach takings from diametrically opposite perspectives, and offer differing perspectives at the margin regarding proper and improper condemnations. But surprisingly, both models stand united in opposition to economic development takings and both view skeptically the current wave of eminent domain reform. By discussing why each model comes to this conclusion, this Article sheds additional light upon the substantive limits that legislatures should place upon eminent domain authority and procedural reforms that would help assure proper exercises of that power within this circumscribed scope. The Article also recommends greater cooperation between legislatures and judiciaries to develop these broad standards and to assure that condemnation authorities adhere to them in individual cases.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 59

Keywords: Kelo v. City of New London, Takings Clause, Eminent Domain, Public Use

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Date posted: January 29, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Lyons, Daniel, Public Use, Public Choice and the Urban Growth Machine: Competing Political Economies of Takings Law (January 28, 2010). University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 265-322, Winter 2009; Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 186. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1542248

Contact Information

Daniel Lyons (Contact Author)
Boston College - Law School ( email )
885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States
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