This picture has been making the rounds - it's an apartment buiding in the city of Wenling, in Zhejiang province, China. The government wanted to demolish the building to make way for a road, but one elderly couple held out for more compensation. And so the government decided to call their bluff and wrap the highway around their building. No demolition, no compensation -- take that, Comrade!
I mention this because if many liberals had their way, the elderly couple would have no claim to compensation in the United States, either.
Debate has been raging for decades about whether the government can "take" your property within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause even if the state does not literally seize your property. The movement to recognize regulatory takings -- a cause championed by our own Richard Epstein -- has caused liberals to take an absurdly narrow reading of the Fifth Amendment. In one 1992 case, Justice Harry Blackmun argued that James Madison intended the takings clause to be limited to "direct, physical takings." Nothing short of bulldozers at the front door would cut it.
Although scholars have struggled to prove Blackmun correct, Professor Epstein (and others) have forcefully shown that the Constitution was written against the common law background of property rights -- rights that were, and are, much more complex than mere possession. If state action deprives you of use, enjoyment, or profit from your land, you've suffered a "taking." The contrary interpretation -- still held by many liberal scholars -- puts us straight on the road to, well, Wenling.