Your land is my land
In a shocking decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that the principle of "eminent domain" applies to the seizing of private property for commercial use if it will provide tax revenues to the municipality and thereby support the public good.
When the communists did it it was called nationalizing state property. And when people didn't want to give up their land for the good of the state they starved them to death or arrested them and sent them to the gulag -- or simply shot them.
We won't be so obvious in this country -- we'll do it all legally and nicely -- bit by bit -- and the frog will be cooked before it ever realizes what's happening. I never thought I'd live to see this day in this country -- when private property is siezed for private economic development -- "for the good of the community".
The frightening eventuality I see coming out of this horrific decision is that in the future this will lead inevitably to a totally corrupt collusion between wealthy developers and politicians -- a collusion which will create the same kind of oligarchies that Ukraine and Russia are currently facing. Eventually, the definition of "public good" can be extended ad infinitum -- to include anything that the powerful wish it to mean. Meanwhile, the bedrock of English law, which gave our country its foundation -- the concept of private property -- is in jeopardy as never before. Add to this, the increasing use of environmental laws which dictate to property owners what they can and cannot do on their own land, and you have almost a complete usurpation of private property -- for the good of the state. What does that sound like to you?
The Washington Post has the story:
A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights. The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.
As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.
Isn't this what Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe???
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers. Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.
"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word." Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result."
Funny, the Supremes didn't think that local officials knew best when they used the Interstate Commerce clause to overturn state laws allowing for private medical marijuana use. Even where there was absolutely no interstate commerce, the Supremes nevertheless found it when they wanted to, and found the federal power they needed to overturn a state law which was simply ruling on matters taking place within its own borders.
Increasingly, it looks like ALL basic Constitutional rights are simply whatever the justices feel they are at that moment, based on their own feelings. Simply put -- they aren't looking at the law, and interpreting the Constitution -- they are legislating based on what they think is right. They don't think it is right to smoke marijuana -- but they do like the idea of allowing the state to develop commercial property at the expense of private homeowners.
Liberals and conservatives alike should be worried about this trend -- because today you may like the make-up of the court -- and tomorrow you won't. A court untethered to the founding document of our nation is prey to whatever fad or ideology is currently in favor. We have only to look at the fads and ideologies that have warped the 20th century, ideologies which resulted in the deaths and suffering of countless millions -- to see the ultimate outcome of following the prevailing winds of political fad and fashion.
Along with the society at large the Supreme Court has now officially unmoored itself from the Constitution, and with it -- from the very foundations of Western Civilization. Herbert Meyer, where are you when we need you?
Writing for the court, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.
"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including _ but by no means limited to _ new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote in an opinion joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. "It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," he said. At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."
. . . "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."
She was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.