by A. Barton Hinkle, Reason
“Government,” as Barney Frank and other progressives are fond of saying, “is just another word for things we choose to do together.” Like rob people blind.
Sometimes the together-doing is highway robbery in the most literal sense — as when police departments seize cash from motorists who are never even charged with a crime. The euphemism for that is civil asset forfeiture, and it’s gotten so out of hand even hang-’em-high, law-and-order conservatives say it needs to stop.
Sometimes the robbery is committed not on the highways but for the sake of them — especially here in Virginia. Just ask James and Janet Ramsey, who live near Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach. Five years ago, the Virginia Department of Transportation took a chunk of their property to build a ramp for Interstate 264.
This is precisely the sort of public use that eminent domain is meant for, and is perfectly legitimate. What happened next, however, was not. VDOT took the property through a process called quick take, which allows it to assume control of the property immediately and compensate the owners later. It sent out an appraiser, who figured the Ramseys were owed just under a quarter-million dollars. Read the entire story.