Thomas, J., dissenting
The public purpose interpretation of the Public Use Clause also unnecessarily duplicates a similar inquiry required by the Necessary and Proper Clause. The Takings Clause is a prohibition, not a grant of power: The Constitution does not expressly grant the Federal Government the power to take property for any public purpose whatsoever. Instead, the Government may take property only when necessary and proper to the exercise of an expressly enumerated power. See Kohl v. United States, 91 U. S. 367, 371–372 (1876) (noting Federal Government’s power under the Necessary and Proper Clause to take property “needed for forts, armories, and arsenals, for navy-yards and light-houses, for custom-houses, post-ofﬁces, and court-houses, and for other public uses”). For a law to be within the Necessary and Proper Clause, as I have elsewhere explained, it must bear an “obvious, simple, and direct relation” to an exercise of Congress’ enumerated powers, Sabri v. United States, 541 U. S. 600, 613 (2004) (Thomas, J., concurring in judgment), and it must not “subvert basic principles of” constitutional design, Gonzales v. Raich, ante, at 65 (Thomas, J., dissenting). In other words, a taking is permissible under the Necessary and Proper Clause only if it serves a valid public purpose. Interpreting the Public Use Clause likewise to limit the government to take property only for sufﬁciently public purposes replicates this inquiry. If this is all the Clause means, it is, once again, surplusage. See supra, at 507. The Clause is thus most naturally read to concern whether the property is used by the public or the government, not whether the purpose of the taking is legitimately public.
Early American eminent domain practice largely bears out this understanding of the Public Use Clause. This practice