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Nationwide transit ridership continued its downward spiral with April 2018 falling 2.3 percent below the same month in 2017, according to data released yesterday by the Federal Transit Administration. Commuter-rail ridership grew by 3.5 percent, but light-rail, heavy-rail, hybrid rail, streetcar, and bus ridership all declined. The biggest decline was light rail at 5.5 percent.

April’s drop was smaller than the 5.9 percent year-over-year decline experienced in March because April 2018 had one more work day (21 vs. 20) than April 2017, while March 2018 had one less work day. As a result, 16 of the fifty largest urban areas saw transit ridership grow in April 2018, compared with just four in March. Considering that most transit ridership takes place on work days, anything less than a 5 percent growth is not something to be proud of. Only Pittsburgh, Providence, Nashville, and Raleigh saw ridership grow by more than 5 percent.

The most catastrophic losses were in Boston (24.4%), Cleveland (14.4%), and Milwaukee (10.8%). Ridership fell by more than 5 percent in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Atlanta, Tampa-St. Petersburg, St. Louis, Orlando, Charlotte, and Richmond. These losses follow steady declines since 2014 and, in some urban areas, as far back as 2009.

To help people understand the numbers, I’ve posted an enhanced data file that includes all the raw, month-to-month data in columns A through GW and rows 1 through 2116. The enhancements include summing the monthly data into annual data in columns GX through HN, then comparisons of percentage changes from 2017 to 2018 for January-April and April alone in columns HR and HS. The enhanced spreadsheet also has totals by major modes in rows 2118 through 2124; by transit agency in rows 2131-3129; and by the 200 largest urbanized areas in rows 3131 through 3330. All these summaries are done on both the transit ridership (UPT) worksheet and the vehicle revenue miles (VRM) worksheet.

In attempting to explain away recent declines, some transit advocates claimed it was just buses that were losing riders – the implication being that more cities should built rail transit, which requires both higher taxes and increasing debt. But the claim that only bus ridership was falling wasn’t true when they made that claim and it isn’t true today.

More recently, transit advocates have claimed that the reason ridership is falling is because transit agencies have been offering less service. A study from the urban planners at McGill University concluded that a reduction in bus miles “likely explains the reduction in ridership observed in recent years in many North American cities.” Again, the implication is that agencies need to spend more money.

In fact, I’ve been saying for years that reduced service is an important factor in declining ridership. But what the transit advocates haven’t admitted is that this is mainly a problem in cities with expensive rail transit: the cost of building and maintaining rail systems often forces agencies to cut back on bus service. Significantly, the McGill study only looked at 22 urban areas in the United States, all of which have rail transit. They left out, for example, San Antonio, which increased revenues miles of bus service by 2.7 percent in the first four months of 2018 yet saw a 3.1 percent decline in ridership.

The real problem with transit finances is not that agencies don’t have enough money but that they have too much money and spend it the wrong way, namely on fixed infrastructure improvements such as light rail or dedicated bus lanes that look good politically but do little or nothing for transit riders. For example, the CEO of Dallas Area Rapid Transit likes to brag that Dallas has “the longest light-rail system in North America.” But building a rail empire didn’t prevent – and probably accelerated – the decline in transit’s regional share of commuting from 2.8 percent (according to the 1990 Census) before they build light rail to 1.7 percent in 2016 (according to the American Community Survey).

At least some of the decline in transit ridership has different causes in different cities. Deteriorating service in regions with older rail systems – New York, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco-Oakland – has cost those systems ridership. Decisions to cut bus service in order to build rail in Los Angeles and many other urban areas has cost riders in those areas.

The one thing almost all urban areas have in common, however, is the growth of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft since 2012. If, as surveys suggest, a third of ride-hailing users would have otherwise used transit, then these services account for well over half the losses in transit ridership. Those ride-hailing services aren’t going to go away; in fact, their advantage over transit will be multiplied many times as they substitute driverless cars for human-driven cars.

The transit industry is dying because the alternatives to transit are increasingly superior. More money won’t save the industry, and the last thing a dying industry needs to do is go more heavily into debt to try to save itself. In the short run, agencies can experiment with low-cost improvements in bus service so that their systems better serve the needs of transit riders. In the long run, however, they need to back out of transit services that fewer and fewer people are using without leaving a legacy of debt and unfunded pension and health-care obligations; in short, to die with dignity.

As if central banks’ powers and balance sheets haven’t grown quite enough since the outbreak of the subprime crisis, we’ve been hearing more and more calls for them to expand their role in retail payments, by supplying digital money directly to the general public.

Some proposals would have central banks do this by letting ordinary citizens open central bank accounts, while others would have them design and market their own P2P “digital currency.” Either sort of central bank digital money would, the plans’ supporters claim, be just as convenient as today’s dollar-denominated private monies. But central bank digital money would also have the distinct advantage of being just as safe as paper money.

Earlier this week the FT’s Martin Sandbu jumped onto the central bank “ecash” bandwagon, in an article prompted by the recent disruption of Visa’s European payments network. That disruption, Sandbu wrote, supplied “one of the strongest considerations in favour of introducing official electronic money.”[1]

Sandbu’s argument is just one of many that have been offered for allowing central banks to supply ecash. But it’s representative of the rest in at least one crucial respect: like them, it may seem solid enough at first glance. But upon closer inspection, it turns out to be full of holes.

Central Banks and Computer Glitches

Absent a crisis of confidence, the most likely causes of a private payments system disruption are (1) hacking and (2) a software or hardware breakdown. It appears that a computer hardware failure was to blame for Visa’s European troubles, although hacking was suspected at first.

Payments systems operated by central banks are similarly dependent on computer hardware and software, and are for that reason also vulnerable to both hacking and equipment failures. That’s the first — and far from trivial — flaw in Sandbu’s argument. Within the last two years, for example, hackers have used malware to steal millions from the central banks of Russia and Bangladesh. In the latter case the money came straight out of the Bangladesh Bank’s account at the New York Fed. Had it not been for a stroke of good luck, the bank’s losses —  $101 billion, about a third of which was eventually clawed back — would have been far greater. During the same period hackers also managed to plant a digital “bomb” into the software of the Saudi Arabian Monetary System.  Back in 2014, a computer failure at the Bank of England held up thousands of payments, including many by persons trying to close on new homes. So much for the perfect safety of central bank digital money.

If all electronic payments systems are vulnerable to computer-related failures, is there any way to protect oneself against them? In fact there are at least two ways. One is to avoid putting all one’s payments eggs in one basket, by keeping multiple credit cards and bank accounts, and by subscribing to PayPal or other independent payment service providers. Of course, keeping funds at a central bank would be another way to diversify, were it allowed. But with so many private-market options out there, it’s absurd to suppose that people can’t protect themselves from payment system glitches unless central banks themselves enter the electronic cash business.

The other option is to keep some good old paper money on hand. Moreover, that’s the only option, apart from resort to barter, that would help in the case of a truly global electronic payment system breakdown, however that might happen. (A cosmic ray shower, perhaps.) But far from being an argument for having central banks enter the electronic payments fray, this far-fetched scenario is a good reason for having them to stick to supplying paper money.

A Flight to E-Cash?

Besides claiming that central bank ecash would protect its holders from the risk of a payments-system breakdown, Sandbu suggests that it would “force a move towards higher reserve requirements for banks,” and perhaps even toward full-reserve banking. Allowing central banks to supply digital money to the general public could, in other words, lead spontaneously to the same outcome proponents of the Vollgeld initiative are hoping to achieve in Switzerland by means of next week’s referendum. This would happen, Sandbu says, because the public’s ready access to such cash would result in “a massive flight from deposits to safer official money.” To allow for this contingency, without having to resort to massive last-resort lending, central bankers would have to see to it “that banks hold enough reserves for the purpose up front.”

Most people would consider a policy change that’s capable of triggering massive bank runs a bad idea. But so far as Sandbu is concerned, increasing the likelihood of such runs is just a convenient way to put paid to fractional-reserve banking, of which he evidently disapproves. Like most critics of fractional-reserve banking, he doesn’t say who will supply the credit commercial banks can no longer offer once they convert to a full-reserve basis. Also like them he appears to appreciate neither the synergies between deposit taking and lending that account for their coexistence since the beginnings of banking nor the fact that, if fractional reserve banking systems sometimes appear fragile and unstable even when not threatened by direct competition from central banks, we often have other misguided bank regulations (including under-priced government guarantees) to thank for it.

But would the mere appearance of central bank ecash really provoke “a massive flight from [private bank] deposits”? It’s true that, so long as they aren’t promising to peg their currencies to some other national currency, central banks can’t default: to break a promise, one has to make one in the first place. But given the widespread presence of deposit insurance, and the fact that certain banks are considered Too Big To Fail, most readily-transferable commercial bank deposits (the sort for which ecash is a close substitute) are either explicitly or implicitly insured. Of approximately $12 trillion in U.S. demand deposits, for example, just over $7 trillion are insured, while much of the remainder consists of deposits held at the very largest U.S. banks.

It follows that, if there’s to be a massive switch from from commercial bank deposits to central bank ecash, it will have to be inspired, not merely by that alternative’s safety, but by its other features, including its convenience and interest return.

Central Banks Make Poor Competitors

Might central bank ecash dominate privately-supplied alternatives along these other dimensions? It might, but only if central banks cheat.

Let’s start with interest. Commercial banks’ main business consists of attracting deposits and figuring out how to invest them profitably. Competition compels them to seek high risk-adjusted returns (or, if they’re Too Big to Fail, to seek high returns regardless of risk), and to share those returns, less their overhead and operating expenses, with their depositors. Central banks, in contrast, are not supposed to be looking out for high returns.  Instead, their assets typically consist of relatively safe and low-yielding securities, high-grade commercial paper, foreign exchange, and gold. To the extent that central banks extend credit, they extend it (with occasional, and often controversial, exceptions) to financial firms only, not to earn a profit, but to secure financial stability. It’s owing in part to this crucial difference between central and commercial banks that any public substitution of central bank money for commercial bank money is likely to result in a decline in total lending.

Most monetary policy experts would not want to change these limitations on central banks’ ability to profit by their investments. Nor do I suppose that Mr. Sandbu is an exception. After all, to the extent that central bank portfolios resemble those of ordinary commercial banks, they cease to be particularly safe institutions; and even if holders of their liabilities are not themselves directly exposed to the risks they take, taxpayers are. Allowing central banks to emulate commercial banks, not only by being able to supply digital money to the general public, but by taking on similar risks, would defeat the purpose of having them serve as suppliers of uniquely safe exchange media. In the limit, so far as transferable deposits are concerned, it would  mean having a single, TBTF commercial-qua-central bank instead of today’s mix of TBTF and not-TBTF commercial banks. If that sounds like an improvement to you, you’re not thinking hard enough.

If they’re to avoid excessive risk taking, on the other hand, central banks can only manage to pay competitive returns on their ecash in one of two ways. They can operate so much more efficiently than commercial banks that they are able to more than compensate for their lower-yielding assets, or they can take advantage of their monopoly rents to subsidize their ecash business. The first possibility is far-fetched. The second isn’t. But as it amounts to a form of predatory pricing, the effect of which would be to drive central banks’ more efficient private rivals out of business, permitting it would be entirely contrary to the public’s welfare.[2]

If neither the safety nor the return on central-bank supplied ecash is likely to convince droves of bank depositors to switch to it, central banks might still encourage them by making their ecash easier to transact with than private substitutes. But this, too, is a tall order. Central banks have no experience in retail payments or in otherwise dealing with the general public: even the paper currency they produce is supplied to bankers only, who see to its retail distribution. Central bankers would therefore have to build their retail experience and facilities, whether online or brick-and-mortar, from scratch. In the meantime, they’d be competing head-on with commercial banks and other firms long and aggressively engaged in the business. Here again, the prospects for success seem dim, unless central banks resort to cross-subsidies to fund product-quality improvements, thereby gaining market share at taxpayers’ expense.

A Conflict of Interest

In suggesting that central bankers will find it difficult to out-compete commercial bankers unless they cross-subsidize their retail products, I am of course assuming that commercial banks and other private payment service providers will themselves remain as capable as ever of making their own products attractive to the public, by offering relatively attractive returns or otherwise.

Regulations can, however, severely limit the attractiveness of private monies, thereby making potential central-bank supplied ecash appear relatively more attractive. Examples of such regulations include high reserve requirements, other bank portfolio requirements, and usury laws. By making such regulations onerous enough, regulators could slant the digital-money playing field in central banks’ favor, thereby overcoming central bankers’ inherent disadvantages to usher in Sandbu’s ideal of a world in which central bank ecash is king.

But far from making Sandbu’s proposed reform appear more promising, the possibility in question supplies another reason for viewing it as a very bad idea. That’s because central bankers are among the regulators of private digital money suppliers. For that reason, allowing them to compete with such suppliers creates a conflict of interest, posing the risk that central banks’ regulatory actions will be influenced by their desire to preserve or enhance their share of the market for digital money.

Hello, Central Bank E-Cash; Goodbye Payments Innovation

Finally, Sanbu, like many other boosters of central-bank ecash, blithely overlooks the chilling effect his proposed reform could have on future payments innovations. That we have private sector innovators to thank for the very existence of electronic money, starting with Western Union’s first telegraphic wire transfer in 1871, is (or ought to be) well known. We have them to thank as well for just about every other payments innovation, from checking accounts and lines of credit to ATMs, debit cards, PayPal, and cryptocurrency. For that matter, paper money itself appears to have been a private innovation, in China first of all, and much later in Europe, where London’s goldsmiths were issuing “running cash” notes more than a decade before the Bank of Sweden and Bank of England entered the market, which they later took over with the help of legislation that forced other banks to quit the business. How many of these private-market innovations would have happened had the innovators known that they were competing head-on with central bankers who might replicate their innovations whilst resorting to cross-subsidy financed predatory pricing to beat them at their own game?

There’s more than a little irony in proposals like Sandbu’s that would reward private sector payments innovators for their successful payments innovations by allowing central banks to employ those very innovations to assume a monopoly of retail payments. But irony is the least of it: the plan runs a very grave risk of putting the kibosh to future, desirable payments innovations. After all, once their monopolies of ecash are established, and assuming that they can resort to cross-subsidies to keep them, central banks will be under no competitive pressure to innovate. So while the prospect of their monopolizing retail payments today, using today’s leading-edge digital payments technology, may not seem all that unappealing, the prospect that they might go on employing roughly the same technology a century from now is considerably less so. Yet the possibility can’t be lightly set aside.

Paradoxically, appointing more innovation-inclined central bankers won’t necessarily help. Innovation is risky; indeed, it’s so risky that innovations fail more often than they succeed. When that happens in the private sector, the costs are born by the owners of the innovating firms. But when it happens in government (or quasi-government) agencies, taxpayers end up footing the bill.

All this is of course mere theory. But if you need empirical evidence, consider the U.S. Postal Service’s attempts at innovation, including its attempts to pioneer e-mail. Perhaps central banks will somehow avoid the challenges that ultimately scuttled the USPS’s efforts. But I wouldn’t bet money on it.


[1] Sandbu has since been joined at the FT by Martin Wolf, who first endorses Switzerland’s Vollgeld Initiative, and then suggests that allowing “every citizen to hold an account directly at the central banks” would work just as well. The Economist also endorsed the plan recently, prompting this rejoinder by Scott Sumner.

[2] The interest rate paid by the Fed on bank reserves has itself typically exceeded corresponding rates on short-term Treasury securities, thanks to its holdings of higher-yielding long-term securities, and hence to its having taken on considerable duration risk. Otherwise the Fed would presumably have had to subsidize those interest payments using seigniorage revenue from its currency monopoly.

[Cross-posted from]

Last week, Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote the following in a USA Today op-ed:

A poster child for the success of President Trump’s tax, trade and worker-training policies in lifting the spirits — and incomes! — of American workers will be a new aluminum mill. This new aluminum mill will be built in Ashland, Ky., in the midst and mists of Appalachia’s rugged mountains, in one of our nation’s most poverty-stricken areas. 

Ashland is located in Boyd County off Route 60, on the banks of the Ohio River, bordering West Virginia and Ohio. It was once a booming steel, oil and coal town — until the steel mills in the area started closing down, Ashland Oil moved its headquarters to the Cincinnati region, and the coal mines began to shutter. 

Today, Boyd County suffers from a declining population and a debilitating opioid epidemic. But help — not just false hope — is on the way.  

The new $1.5 billion aluminum rolling mill that will soon be built — with a groundbreaking on Friday — will cover 45 acres. This state-of-the art mill will create up to 1,800 construction jobs and about 500 permanent positions in a county where the unemployment rate is almost 40% higher than the national unemployment rate.

For the sake of the people in that region, I hope the mill does get built and is very successful. But just for fun, I took a closer look at this “poster child” aluminum mill. Its actual origins paint a very different picture. In May of 2017, a WSJ op-ed entitled “The Mill That Right-to-Work Built” explained how Craig Bouchard, the CEO of the company building the mill, chose Ashland, KY as the site:

[A past experience with owning a steel factory] soured him on organized labor, and it’s one reason he was determined to build his new aluminum plant in a right-to-work state, where workers can’t be compelled to join a union. Before choosing Ashland, he drew up a list of 24 potential sites. The logistics favored Ashland, and Kentucky offered $10 million in tax incentives as well as low-cost electricity. But Mr. Bouchard says he was prepared to build elsewhere had Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, not signed right-to-work legislation in January.

Mr. Bouchard says one of the plant’s advantages will be freedom from rigid union work rules and retiree legacy costs, which handicap many American steel and aluminum manufacturers. “There’s only one way to build a big business in these industries today, and it is greenfield,” he says. “You have to start from scratch. No unions, therefore no pension legacies.”

There are more details in an April 2017 article in Ashland’s Daily Independent:

Bouchard said his company’s interest in locating the massive plant in Kentucky piqued after the state passed its controversial right-to-work legislation.

Bouchard said he spoke with [Governor Matt] Bevin “right after” the state passed right to work, which happened in January, and Bevin remained persistent for weeks in promoting cities and regions across the state. The company narrowed its field of candidates down to 12 cities in Kentucky, and 12 cities in another state Bouchard refused to name.

Last winter, CSX Corporation cut 101 jobs at its facility in Russell. A year before, AK Steel Ashland Works sliced its payroll by 633 workers through a mass layoff still in effect. The steel mill now employs about 200. Some of the laid-off steelworkers have fled the Tri-State region in search of a new lifeblood, but a majority still cling to hope and remain with their families.

Bouchard said the AK Steel situation “did play a factor.” He said he knows the AK Steel executives well, and some of his companies have been a supplier or customer of the major American steel provider in the past.

“It’s a great company, and their employees are always well trained. I feel for those families, I think the AK Steel executives feel for those families, we’re going to put some of them back to work.”

There seem to be a lot of reasons – right to work, state tax breaks, available labor – for the company’s decision to build an aluminum mill at that time and in that place. Trump’s trade (and other) policies do not appear to have played much of a role.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has for years worked tirelessly to portray its duties as working to protect Americans from criminals. Yet from 2009 to February 2017, only about half of ICE’s removals were of people who had committed any crime at all. Even of those who committed a crime, the most serious offense for 60 percent of them was a victimless crime—most commonly an immigration offense, traffic infraction, or vice crimes like illicit drugs.

This post relies on ICE data published in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and now available online. The data breaks down all ICE removals from 2009 to February 2017 by the most serious criminal conviction committed by the immigrant. The criminal categories are broad, but the general trend is clear: ICE primarily removed criminals who committed crimes without a private victim (i.e. not the government or “society”). Just 12 percent committed violent crimes—and just 0.6 percent were convicted of murder or sexual assault. In addition, as Figure 1 shows, 47.7 percent of those ICE removed had no criminal conviction at all.

Figure 1: Immigrants Removed by ICE by Criminal Conviction, FY 2009-FY2017*

Immigrants and Type of Convictions

Source: Immigration and Customs Enforcement; *Through February 2017

In addition to immigrants that it arrests in the interior of the United States, ICE handles removals of some immigrants—primarily Central Americans—who were originally apprehended by Border Patrol. Roughly half of all removals during this time originated at the border. Most of the removals of noncriminals come from these referrals. But even after taking out these border apprehensions, nearly a quarter of all removals from the interior during that time still had no criminal conviction.

Figure 2 depicts the distribution of convicted immigrants within the four categories—violent crimes, property crimes, crimes with possible victims, and crimes without victims. As I have explained before, most violent crimes were assaults, which include simple assaults defined by the FBI to include assaults “where no weapon was used or no serious or aggravated injury resulted” and include “stalking, intimidation, coercion, and hazing” where no injuries occurred. The FBI excludes simple assault from its definition of violent crime, but ICE fails to break down this category, so we cannot.

Figure 2: Immigrants Removed by ICE by Criminal Conviction, FY 2009-FY2017*

Source: Immigration and Customs Enforcement; *Through February 2017

The plurality of property crimes were larcenies, which include “thefts of bicycles, motor vehicle parts and accessories, shoplifting, pocket-picking, or the stealing of any property or article that is not taken by force and violence or by fraud.”

DUIs made up the majority of the “possible victims” category. ICE data on removals fail to separate DUIs from other less significant traffic offenses. In order to do so, I used the share of traffic offenses that were DUIs among immigrants arrested by ICE in 2017. The “possible victims” category also includes some nebulous categories like “privacy,” “threats,” and disturbing the peace, which are undefined in the ICE report. Nonviolent sex crimes include statutory rape as well as lewd behaviors in public. Fraud and forgery could have victims or they could be crimes where immigrants allow their family members to use their identities to obtain work in the United States.

Family offenses include “nonviolent acts by a family member (or legal guardian) that threaten the physical, mental, or economic well-being or morals of another family member” that aren’t classified elsewhere (e.g. violating a restraining order). Kidnapping convictions generally arise from custody disputes between parents over children, so I included them in this category.

Victimless offenses were traffic infractions that were not DUIs, immigration offenses such as entering the country illegally, or “vice” crimes (drugs, sex work, or alcohol). Immigration “crimes” include illegally entering the country, reentering after a deportation, falsely claiming U.S. citizenship, and smuggling. Obstruction offenses mainly include parole and probation violations or failure to appear in court. They also include “general crimes” mainly comprising conspiracy offenses and money laundering related crimes.

ICE should deport criminals who threaten Americans, but when it strays into removing people who are contributing to America’s economy and society, it treads on our freedom of association and harms the country. ICE needs to have its priorities redirected toward keeping America safe from criminals whose offenses actually have victims and not those who are simply seeking a better life here.

Immigrants Removed By ICE by Most Serious Conviction, FY2009-17

Property rights shouldn’t be relegated to second-class status. Yet 30 years ago, in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank, the Supreme Court pronounced a new rule that a property owner must first sue in state court to ripen a federal takings claim. As illustrated by Knick v. Township of Scott, this radical departure from historic practice has effectively shut property owners out of federal courts without any firm doctrinal justification.

Rose Knick owns 90 acres in Scott Township in western Pennsylvania, a state known for its “backyard burials.” In 2012 a new ordinance required all “cemeteries” be open and accessible to the public during daylight hours. It also allowed government officials to enter private property to look for violations. In 2013, township officials entered Ms. Knick’s property without her permission and—after finding old stone markers on her property—cited her for violating the cemetery code. Fines are $300-600 per infraction per day.

Ms. Knick took the township to court; the state court dismissed her claims as improperly “postured” because the township had not yet pursued civil enforcement to collect the fines. When she then turned to federal court, the district court dismissed her constitutional claims, citing Williamson County’s state-litigation requirement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed this Kafkaesque process, but the Supreme Court agreed to further examine the case. Cato has now filed a brief supporting Ms. Knick, joined by Prof. Ilya Somin, the NFIB Small Business Legal Center, Southeastern Legal Foundation, Beacon Center, and Reason Foundation. (This follows an earlier brief that we filed in support of Supreme Court review.)

The failed attempt to gain meaningful judicial review of a facially unconstitutional ordinance showcases the unique challenges faced by property owners asserting takings claims. If filing in state court, the best they can hope for is review from a judge who may be friendly to the government defendants responsible for the taking. And when pursuing that state-court remedy, property owners face the possibility of “removal” by defendants to federal court—where that court then dismisses the claims precisely because the property owner failed to fully pursue state litigation! Adding insult to injury, if a property owner complies with Williamson County’s requirement by seeking redress in state court, but receives an unfavorable decision, a combination of procedural barriers prevents federal courts from revisiting the claims.

The Fourteenth Amendment, which explicitly protects life, liberty, and property, cannot tolerate this state of affairs. And there is no reason to believe that this anomalous treatment of takings claims is what the Reconstruction Congress had in mind when, in the face of pervasive state abuse, it enacted the federal statute (42 U.S. § 1983) that guarantees access to federal forums to vindicate federal constitutional rights.

As an unsound and impractical rule, Williamson County’s state-litigation requirement has earned a burial of its own in the graveyard of discarded precedent.