The Electric Commentary

Thursday, June 23, 2005


Note: I've changed the time on this post to keep it at the top for a while.

This decision, by the US Supreme Court, is absolutely terrible. More later.


Start with Ed Brayton and go from there. I'll comment further after I've read it.

Update 2:

Check out Will Collier at Vodkapundit.

Update 3:

Christine Hurt compares the rationale in Kelo to an organ lottery.

Update 4: I'm still waiting to get my hands on concurring and dissenting opinions, but the majority opinion is quite short. The reason that government can seize your property for a non-public purpose is as follows:

(a) Though the city could not take petitioners’ land simply to confer a private benefit on a particular private party, see, e.g., Midkiff, 467 U.S., at 245, the takings at issue here would be executed pursuant to a carefully considered development plan, which was not adopted “to benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals,” ibid. Moreover, while the city is not planning to open the condemned land–at least not in its entirety–to use by the general public, this “Court long ago rejected any literal requirement that condemned property be put into use for the … public.” Id., at 244. Rather, it has embraced the broader and more natural interpretation of public use as “public purpose.” See, e.g., Fallbrook Irrigation Dist. v. Bradley, 164 U.S. 112, 158—164. Without exception, the Court has defined that concept broadly, reflecting its longstanding policy of deference to legislative judgments as to what public needs justify the use of the takings power. Berman, 348 U.S. 26; Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229; Ruckelshaus v. Monsanto Co., 467 U.S. 986. Pp. 6—13. (Emphasis added.)

So, as long as you have a plan you can get the government to steal someone's property for you. Nice.

Eugene Volokh has a very interesting take:

More here.

Update 5: The economists weigh in.

Don't miss Tyler Cowen, Arnold Kling, and especially Don Boudreaux:

I’m not talking here about belief in spiritual deities. Many libertarians (like myself) are atheists; many others (like my co-blogger Russ Roberts) are deeply religious. But almost by definition, all libertarians reject the notion that the state is something other than a human institution deserving more credence, respect, deference, and trust than is commonly given to other human institutions such as supermarkets and bowling leagues.

Libertarians understand in their guts that flags, anthems, marble domes and columns, fancy titles, embassies, and majoritarian-voting procedures do not transform human beings and human institutions into something higher than human beings and human institutions.

There’s nothing special about the policemen who protect my house from burglars, my son from kidnappers, and my wife from rapists. There’s nothing special about the troops who protect us from foreign armies and terrorists. These activities are important and valuable when done properly. But there’s nothing special about them. Nothing about these activities gives the people who carry them out any exceptional claims upon our affections or wallets.

Read the whole thing.

The Coyote Blog has more.

Here is Thomas's dissent. Here is O'Connor's. Here is Kennedy's concurrence.


  • I have a hard time wrapping my head around this issue. I'm about as liberal as they come and I think it's appalling that local governments want to take people's homes so the municipality can develop. And yet it's all the liberals I agree with on other issues who disagree with me, and all the conservatives I disagree with on other issues who agree with me. I just can't for the life of me figure out what's going on here. Why in the name of all things holy are good liberals like Ruth Ginsburg supporting a policy that will result in poor people being uprooted from their homes so rich businessmen can build nice pretty buildings that only rich people will have access to?

    By Blogger MDS, at 1:03 PM  

  • I am always amazed when we run out of space to build new stuff in this country. I've never been to New London, but if it's like any other post-industrial northeastern city, my guess is it has plenty of abandoned/condemned buildings and vacant lots. Developers who come into a depressed town and promise the moon, stars, etc. have a ton of leverage over the local officials and now they appear to have even more. Syracuse is in a similar predicament right now, a developer who wants to build a $2B research park is trying to use eminent domain force business owners out of the area where he wants to build. We could be entering a new era of 1950s/60s style urban renewal here, and I'm guessing that the results won't be any different than the last time.

    By Blogger dhodge, at 1:48 PM  

  • After Raich and now this I can't help but say that the Court badly needs more people like Clarance Thomas.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 3:29 PM  

  • How is this any differenet from when gov't takes away your land to build a road? I know of several people 30-45 minutes south of Nashville who were forced to sell their homes, some of which had been in the family for generations, so that the state could put in another interstate ring around the city. Isn't that similar to what everyone is complaining about today, and if it is not, why not?

    By Blogger Mike, at 9:23 PM  

  • For me the difference is how much more arbitrary this is. Essentially this gives the cities the right to say: "We can make more money if Developer X uses your property so we are hereby relieving you of it." Before the municipality itself had to have some sort of project planned that would benefit the community as a whole. Now the "benefit" to the community is more tax revenue which "rewards" the community most substantially with even bigger and more inefficient government.

    It is sad because developers aren't even talking to the people who live in the areas that they want to "revitalize," they are going directly to the city and the cities are redefining their standards for blight just to accomodate these projects. This has been going on in minority communities that weren't quite ghetto, but were old for a while. Now it's hit the mainstream.

    Fortunately, the ruling does not prevent the states from enacting their own legislation to counteract this. I wouldn't hold my breath though. Especially in Ga where the Republicans tried to ram through one of the most gratuitous bill of developer welfare and non-accountability ever.

    By Anonymous Rashid Muhammad, at 7:16 AM  

  • It is similar to that, yes, but with one big difference. For the kind of taking you mention the state keeps the property. It still sucks for the person losing their property, and this power has been abused, but at least the government has to be the entity using the taken land which, makes them accountable at election time. They can't just seize stuff all of the time, because it will cost them. (Also, there is less of a demand for government to seize land. Really they only do it for roads, and occasionally for Urban renewal. On the other hand...)

    THe ruling yesterday dealt with a situation in which the government seized private land (homes and small businesses in this case) in order to give it to another private entity. Imagine, for example, if some major employer, I'll use Boeing as an example because they recently relocated to Chicago, tells a state that they will relocate IF they can have a building on a certain site for some reason. I don't know why, access to water, nice view, freeway access, something like that. This used to be a no-no, because the Constitution says that the gov can only take property if it will be used for a "public purpose." As of yesterday, theoretically if a company claims that they will provide jobs and increase the tax base, that is good enough to qualify as serving a public purpose.

    Now any company can acquire land in two ways. They can purchase it, or they can lobby for it. That's why it's a terrible decision, because big businesses (and I'm usually friendly to big businesses) have a large incentive to acquire cheap land. This will increase takings in general, and increase dubious takings tenfold.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 7:25 AM  

  • Everything that Rashid says above is also absolutely true, and he was more concise than I was.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 7:30 AM  

  • I've wanted to chime in on this, but there's really not much more to say. I just feel like Jackie Chiles -- this is outrageus, egregious, preposterous...

    By Blogger Ace Cowboy, at 8:14 AM  

  • Wow. Now that I've looked a little deeper, I'm as angry as the rest of you. I didn't realize that private interests are going to take over the land, not public. This is truly an outrage. I keep thinking about how the current land-owners should react. I'm sure they're furious.

    By Blogger Mike, at 12:25 PM  

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