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Eminent Domain Versus Government Purchase of Land Given Imperpect Information About Owners' Valuation

  • Steven Shavell

Governments employ two basic policies for acquiring land: taking it through exercise of their power of eminent domain; and purchasing it. The social desirability of these two policies is compared in a model in which the government's information about landowners' valuations is imperfect. Under this assumption, the policy of purchase possesses the market test advantage that the government obtains land only if an owner's valuation is low enough that he is willing to sell it. However, the policy suffers from a drawback when the land that the government needs is owned by many parties. In that case, the government's acquisition will fail if any of the owners refuses to sell. Hence, the policy of eminent domain becomes appealing if the number of owners of the land is large. This conclusion holds regardless of whether the land that the government seeks is a parcel at a fixed location or instead may be located anywhere in a region.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13564.

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Date of creation: Oct 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13564
Note: LE
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  1. Thomas Miceli & Kathleen Segerson, 2006. "A Bargaining Model of Holdouts and Takings," Working papers 2006-22, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2007.
  2. Munch, Patricia, 1976. "An Economic Analysis of Eminent Domain," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(3), pages 473-97, June.
  3. Hermalin, Benjamin E, 1995. "An Economic Analysis of Takings," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 64-86, April.
  4. Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1990. "Asymmetric Information Bargaining Problems with Many Agents," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 351-67, July.
  5. Flavio Menezes & Rohan Pitchford, 2004. "A model of seller holdout," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 231-253, August.
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