Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 1856, wrote these powerful words;
The house is a castle which the king cannot enter.
"Wealth," English Traits
Our country was, in part, founded on that principle. Your home is your castle. For 216 years it was the law of the land that proscribed government seizure of private property except in instances where that property was needed for public use. Roads. Bridges. Courthouses. Military installations.
That core principle became null and void by judicial decree yesterday.
Syndicated columnist George Will highlights one of the many problems with the Supreme Court's ruling in Kelo v New London.
The case came from New London, Conn., where the city government, like all governments, wants more revenues and has empowered a private entity, the New London Development Corporation, to exercise the awesome power of eminent domain. It has done so to condemn an unblighted working-class neighborhood in order to give the space to private developers whose condominiums, luxury hotel and private offices would pay more taxes than do the owners of the condemned homes and businesses.
The question answered Thursday was: Can government profit by seizing the property of people of modest means and giving it to wealthy people who can pay more taxes than can be extracted from the original owners? The court answered yes. [my emphasis].In a tart dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, noted that the consequences of this decision "will not be random." She says it is "likely" — a considerable understatement — that the beneficiaries of the decision will be people "with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.".Those on the receiving end of the life-shattering power that the court has validated will almost always be individuals of modest means. So this liberal decision — it augments government power to aggrandize itself by bulldozing individuals' interests — favors muscular economic battalions at the expense of society's little platoons, such as homeowners and the neighborhoods they comprise. (link)
To illustrate Will's point, I provide this map of the northeast side of the Louisville metropolitan area (click on image and enlarge it). More specifically, it is of a segment of the I-265 bypass that runs around the city itself. The dotted line that I added represents the section of highway that should connect I-265 on the Kentucky side of the border with I-265 on the Indiana side. You're wondering why the two don't meet? If there was ever a clearcut opportunity for local and state governments to exercise their eminent domain prerogative, this is it. Right?
But my dotted line is as close as the people of Louisville will ever get to realizing the completion of the bypass. Why? Because, in order to join the two halves, the road and a bridge spanning the Ohio River would have to be constructed in the most affluent part of Louisville, a suburb known as Crestwood. The powerful and influential citizens there have successfully blocked every attempt at condemning the needed properties for decades. It is safe to say that the I-265 bypass will never be completed.
The poor shmucks who happened to own homes in New London, CT that were coveted by a wealthy developer were powerless when that developer exercised his political influence and convinced local government officials to seize their homes through the awesome and devastating power of eminent domain. It is a certainty that, had those homeowners been wealthy, the city of New London - and the courts - would never have thrown them out on the street.
For those of you on the left who despise Wal-Mart, think about the door that has just been opened. It cannot be argued that the property tax revenue generated by a homeowner can match the revenue generated by a superstore. That is the Supreme Court's only citerion for your local officials to lawfully be able to seize your land.