Thursday, June 30, 2005

MORE ON KELO v. NEW LONDON

Betrayal at the Supreme Court

In the 1840s a debate raged about whether strikers may be punished as economic saboteurs because they disrupted commerce. Some argued that the police power of government authorized prohibiting strikes on the grounds that government is to keep commerce in motion and forbid work stoppages. This, indeed, is the theory of monarchical government in which the king or queen or tsar decided how people must live, what purposes they must pursue. At that early time of the American Republic, however, the courts ultimately affirmed the principle of freedom of association by invalidating the use of the police power whenever it involved the violation of individual rights. Strikers, the courts held, were exercising their right to withdraw from their employers—the right of free association—and this trumped any paternalistic police power that had been imported into American society from abroad where, of course, kings and other supreme rulers and not individuals were understood to possess sovereignty. This is one reason, still, why many people around the globe are considered, strictly speaking, to be subjects, not citizens—they lack sovereignty, or self rule. The U.S. Supreme Court has now reversed itself on the score of what counts for more in this country, individual rights or state power. In a 5-to-4 ruling issued on June 23rd, in Kelo v. City of New London, the Court held that the city of New London, Connecticut, had the legal authority to place its idea of economic development above the individual rights of citizens in New London, in this case their right to private property. They decided to expand the police power of government, in this case its eminent domain power, way beyond what the U.S. Constitution specified in the 5th Amendment....

Property Rights Died Yesterday

Freedom died yesterday. The freedom understood and fought for by the Founding Fathers collapsed in a heap, its throat slit by big-government liberals on the Supreme Court. It was the case of Kelo v. City of New London. It threw the notion of property ownership on the bonfire of history. And we and our children will live to mourn the day. It's a simple concept to explain: The government can take away your land and give it to someone else. Period. That's what it's about. The five liberal members of the Supreme Court have decided that you have no fundamental right to own property, you may only do so at the whim of the mayor. Or town board or village trustees or county executive. If at any time your local municipal leaders decide that they want your land to be used by someone else, you can kiss it good bye....

Confiscating property

The framers of our Constitution gave us the Fifth Amendment in order to protect us from government property confiscation. The Amendment reads in part: "[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Which one of those 12 words is difficult to understand? The framers recognized there might be a need for government to acquire private property to build a road, bridge, dam or fort. That is a clear public use that requires just compensation, but is taking one person's private property to make it available for another's private use a public purpose? Justice John Paul Stevens says yes, arguing, "Promoting economic development is a traditional and long-accepted function of government." Let's look at a few examples of how this might play out. You and your neighbor have two-acre lots. Your combined property tax is $10,000. A nursing home proprietor tells city officials that if they condemn your property and sell it to him to build a nursing home, the city would get $30,000 in property taxes. According to last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling, this plan would be construed as beneficial to the public, and you'd have no recourse. Similarly, an environmental group might descend on public officials to condemn your land and transfer it to the group for a wildlife preserve. Again, a contrived public benefit for which you'd have no recourse. The Court's decision helps explain the vicious attacks on any judicial nominees who might use framer-intent to interpret the U.S. Constitution. America's socialists want more control over our lives, property and our pocketbooks. They cannot always get their way in the legislature, and the courts represent their only chance. There is nothing complex about those 12 words the framers wrote to protect us from governmental property confiscation. You need a magician to reach the conclusion reached by the Court's majority....

Your house could be a parking lot

Think your house is your castle? Our country's Founders thought so. They put three provisions into the Bill of Rights to protect it. But last week, the Supreme Court said the government can take away your house just because it thinks someone else could make better use of your home or business than you can. The justification? The Constitution does recognize that there are public needs, such as building roads, so vital the government must be able to take your land. It says the government may take property, but only for a "public use" and with "just compensation." The phrase at the center of last week's case is "public use." It's an important phrase, because it's supposed to mean that the government can only use force to take your property in order to do its job. The government, which is supposed to stop criminals from driving you off your land, isn't supposed to get to force you off your land just because some official thinks someone else will put the land to "better" use....

Theft by government

As the nation was waiting to see where the Supreme Court would tolerate displaying the Ten Commandments, the court violated one. The Decalogue says, "You shall not steal." It is a timeless precept the Framers targeted at government's equally timeless propensity to covet what belongs to the citizens when they wrote in the Fifth Amendment, "... nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." In Kelo v. New London, the court shredded both commandment and amendment. The Ciavaglia family -- according to a brief filed by the Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners -- moved from Italy to New London's Fort Trumbull neighborhood in the 1880s. In 1901, they purchased the house, where, in 1918, Wilhelmina Ciavaglia was born. In 1945, Wilhelmina married Charles Dery, and for 60 years the couple has lived in that home. Their son Matthew lives next-door with his wife, Sue, and son, Andrew. Their home was given to Matthew as a wedding present by his grandmother. "Before they were married, the younger Dery couple gutted the building and rebuilt it, hand-routing and sanding every piece of woodwork themselves," The Hartford Courant reported in February. Could the government commit a deeper offense against the right of private property than to seize these homes for a developer? This is theft by government. But it is also something worse: It is a frontal assault on the primacy in our culture of the privately owned family home, the universally sought-after symbol and stronghold of American liberty. In authorizing this larceny, the five justices in the court's majority -- J.P. Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg and David Souter -- have revealed where true liberty ranks in the liberal judiciary's hierarchy of values....

High Court to homeowners: Stick 'em up!

It's like a bad dream, or a summer disaster movie. But this is real. We live under a regime that can and often does grab our homes and small businesses to create what politicians call "economic development." The process is simple: the government takes our property, pays us what it thinks the property's worth, and then hands our property — in finely crafted "sweetheart deals" — to developers and big corporations that will produce greater tax revenue. But what is the implication of the Kelo ruling? What message does it send to the financial wizards running local governments nationwide, slickers who have flocked to such schemes, sacrificing small businesses and the homes of poor and middle-class citizens for more tax revenue? Justice Sandra Day O'Connor makes it very clear in her dissent: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more." This is not an isolated case of politicians winning and the people losing in one small town in Connecticut. This is happening all across the nation. Local officials looking to boost their tax take through eminent domain like a vampire looks for fresh neck arteries....

===

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable!!

What are the recourses?

The Westerner said...

The primary recourse is for state legislatures to either amend their state constitution or pass a state law restricting the definition of "public use".

Legislation has also been introduced in the US Congress to deny federal funds to any local government that condemns property for "development" purposes.