The philosophy behind "quick take" condemnations, a particularly pernicious type of taking discussed in my last post, is well summarized in this classic dialogue from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Faith, an unscrupulous fellow slayer, tries to persuade Buffy to adopt her amoral philosophy of life:
BUFFY: Okay, we got ten, maybe twelve bad guys and one big demon in desperate need of a Stairmaster.
FAITH: I say we take 'em all, hard and fast and now.
BUFFY: We need a little more firepower than none. Maybe we should go back to the library [where the slayers' weapons are stored].
FAITH: ....(looks around) I just... wish we had . . .(sees Meyer's Sport and Tackle shop) Ah. That is too good.
They break in. Faith finds the Archery counter.
FAITH: Ah. Score.
BUFFY: Think they're insured?
FAITH: Strangely, not my priority. When are ya gonna get this, B? Life for a Slayer is very simple: want... take... have.
BUFFY: Want... take... have. I'm gettin' it.
Because of a seemingly pressing immediate need, Buffy and Faith take the property of others without going through the usual procedures and without getting the consent of the owner. The rationale for "quick take" condemnations is exactly the same. Yes, unlike Buffy and Faith, governments that use quick take pay compensation; but that compensation is generally well below the true value of the property to the owner, and the latter still ends up losing his land, and often loses the structures built on the land even if it turns out that the condemnation was illegal.
The two slayers eventually learned the error of their ways. Not so with most of the state and local governments that use quick take.
UPDATE: Later on in the same episode, Faith argues that vampire slayers have the right to take things they need without paying for them because of all the benefits they provide to society by protecting the world from vampires and demons. This argument is very similar to Justice Brandeis' dissenting opinion in the famous takings case of Pennsylvania Coal v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 393 (1922), where he claimed that the government had the constitutional right to engage in uncompensated regulatory takings in part because it provides property owners with "the advantage of living and doing business in a civilized society."
Perhaps we Property professors should teach takings law by having the class watch BTVS episodes:)!
UPDATE #2: Somewhat surprisingly, several commenters have argued that Buffy and Faith wre actually justified in trying to steal the weapons. Maybe they would have been in if they were in imminent danger of being attacked by the vampires. In fact, however, it was the slayers who were planning to attack the vampires (who didn't know that B and F were there), not vice versa. Private citizens - and even police - have no legal or moral right to steal weapons in order to catch criminals unless they really are in immediate danger from them. A bounty hunter or private detective can't steal your gun and then claim that he was justified because it helped him track down and neutralize a fugitive criminal. Even if there were an immediate danger, the "necessity" defense would only allow the slayers to use the weapons to defend themselves in that particular encounter, not keep them permanently.
Finally, I think it's pretty clear that Faith's "Want, Take, Have" philosophy is not limited to the facts of this particular case. It applies to any situation where the slayers need something quickly - or even just think they do. It was that general principle - which is remarkably reminiscent of the way quick take condemnations are used in Baltimore and elsewhere - that I meant to criticize.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Errors in the Baltimore Sun's Coverage of the Maryland "Quick Take" Case:
- "Want, Take, Have" - Buffy the Vampire Slayer and "Quick Take" Condemnations:
- Maryland Supreme Court limits "Quick Take" Condemnations: