Some good comments that deserve at least a brief reply. I am sorry I cannot do justice to all of them.
It is not satisfactory to define‚Äùpublic use‚Äù as some facility or activity available to everyone. For does that mean it is free? If so, that rules out government-owned toll roads. Government activities that charge a fee are not much different in this regard than private goods, such as privately owned stadiums, even when they receive government subsidies.
I do believe the right to own land is as fundamental as the right to own any other property, although the importance of land in an economy declines sharply with economic development. This is one of two major reasons why Henry George‚Äôs single tax is not attractive. The second reason is that such a tax discourages improvements in land since it is virtually impossible to get a ‚Äúpure‚Äù land tax. So a land tax affects incentives, just like taxes on other capital.
Some stressed the distinction between local government activities that net create jobs and other economic benefits from local governments that simply transfer jobs, etc from elsewhere. In a depressed community with heavy unemployment, some net benefit may be achievable. However, in the vast majority of cases, it is mainly a transfer either from other communities, or from other sectors in the same community. This is the source of the basic flaw in claims that government-financed stadiums, for example, will create jobs and other benefits. Virtually all the benefits are transfers from elsewhere in the community, although some are transfers from other communities, as when out of towners come to games or watch them on television.
I stressed that there may be ‚Äúhold up‚Äù problems where some property owners try to capture most of the surplus from a larger project. I also indicated that is mitigated, often crucially, by the fact that different potential sites can be used for a stadium, new road, power plant, etc. The many private projects that combine separately owned properties to build shopping centers, etc proves that hold outs can often be overcome without invoking eminent domain. The right to eminent domain simply eliminates the need to think creatively about how to do this.
Some of you questioned whether it is possible to determine the minimum price that people would accept for their properties. But the market does this all the time since that is what voluntary property transactions are all about. Hold out problems aside, no new problems are raised by assessing the values people attach to their properties. If the 87 year old woman who lived in her house since birth did not want to sell at the government‚Äôs price, why should the government have the right to force her to accept their offer, and perhaps make her miserable and destroy her happiness? They should have to do what private business must do all the time: either offer her a price that she accepts, or alter their plans to avoid the need to get her property.