Forcings

Author: 
Lee Fennell

Eminent domain receives enormous amounts of scholarly and popular attention, and for good reason — it is a powerful form of government coercion that cuts to the heart of ownership. But a mirror-image form of government coercion has been almost entirely ignored: forced ownership, or “forcings.” While legal compulsion to begin or continue ownership is neither entirely unstudied as an academic matter nor entirely unprecedented as a doctrinal matter, the category lacks a unified treatment. Because coercively imposed ownership can substitute for other forms of government coercion, forcings deserve attention, even if they will rarely dominate other alternatives. Attending to forcings as a conceptual possibility reveals their kinship with existing features of law and highlights one of ownership’s most essential moves: delivering actual outcomes, and not just their expected value equivalents. Unpacking the considerations that might prompt law to impose ownership on unwilling parties points the way to alternatives short of full-strength compelled ownership. The analysis also suggests an additional domain of government action — “relievings” — for unburdening owners of unwanted property.