Everybody on the web today has been talking about the Supreme Court’s awful ruling in Kelo vs. New London. I feel a little bit like I did on 9/11, only instead of going to bed in the United States and waking up in a Tom Clancy novel I went to bed in the United States and woke up in a third world country where the rich and powerful can steal people’s homes with impunity. If a man’s home is his castle, it’s now officially a castle under siege.
I simply can’t describe how appalled and angry this decision makes me. Interestingly enough, from the discussion I’ve read, my anger seems to be shared by people all across the political spectrum for a change. Just about the only people who like this decision are large corporations and municipal governments. I think this is an illustration of the psychological power of narrative. The simple one-sentence description of this case is “the court ruled that the government can take your house and give it to a large corporation”. Conservatives hate the part about the government taking your house, and the left hates the part about giving it to a large corporation.
I just wonder how long it’s going to be before a development based on stolen houses gets destroyed by arson, or a construction worker gets shot by someone refusing to leave their home when it’s scheduled for demolition. Messing with people’s houses produces rage faster than anything except messing with people’s children.
I think I’ll make a contribution to the Institute for Justice, the public litigation firm that was defending the homeowners in this case. They do very good work, and I can’t remember a case they’ve been involved in where they weren’t on the side of the angels. (Which is more than I can say for the American Civil Liberties Union, but that’s another topic.) I’d encourage anyone else who is as angered by this travesty of justice as I am to do the same.
Update: Just had an entertaining thought. Local governments are now empowered to use eminent domain to steal property from A and give it to B as long as doing so will allegedly result in economic development. Howzabout a requirement that the type of economic improvement that is supposed to follow from the theft be precisely specified, and should it not materialize a subsequent requirement that the stolen property be returned to its rightful owners? The economic development reports that are used to justify these thefts often have zero relation to reality. Could we at least penalize these people for stealing property fraudulently? (Yes, I’m still pissed about this after a good night’s rest.)
I’ve been trying to think of something to say in response to the Kelo ruling, beyond describing my emotional reaction to it (incandescent rage alternating with fear). Finally, someone on Fark (darkhorse23) has said something that I think encapsulates my thoughts:
When I read the decision, I got the sickest feeling in my stomach because in one quantum thought, I could see where it could end up. . .
Government by fear.
Interpretation of Eminent Domain law has been creeping in this direction for years. It’s a very small step from “the government can take your house but they have to compensate you for it” to “the government can take your house”.