Friday, June 24, 2005

More thoughts on Kelo

In skimming through many of the blogs and blog round-ups posting on the Kelo v New London decision, too many initially carried a tone of finger-pointing and screeching at rich developers and businesses. Not unexpected considering the essence of the plaintiff's argument that it is unconstitutional for government to take land, via eminent domain, from one individual and give it to another individual, in this case a business entity. It is still wrongheaded, though, to paint the picture this way. Evil, rich business may be the apparent face of it, and is this is the preferred way to play it on the front pages of the papers, but that's not the real problem here.

I am fond of the Walter Williams line of reasoning that what you see up-front as the costs and benefits is often not the important part of the story. And so it is with intentions and actions. Complaining about evil, rich businesses, in a case such as this, is not the important part of the story here.

Local governments spend untold hours laboring on master plans for their localities. Zoning districts, special districts, arts districts, waterfront districts, "you name it" districts and everything those districts entail. To make a long story short, everything is envisioned for a better future. For you.

To not think that these folks already envision whether your home or business will exist, much less how it is ordered, is, at best, naive. And the more aggressive the local government, the more aggressive the changes envisioned. That is just the start of the process. The next step is shopping for the right developers or businesses to occupy spaces in the zones. Enticement packages are prepared. Helping hands are offered in just this type of "eminent domain" scenario, when necessary. If you think "eminent domain" is the only tool used and the only arrangement offered by your city or town officials, you haven't dug deep enough.

Fortunately, more of the later posting is identifying the real culprit in this case, a case which is much more representative of the real problem -- government. And the crux of the issue is government riding roughshod over individual pursuit of happiness so as to achieve the government's dream of a utopian city.

There are many situations where big businesses lord it over the weak and manipulable governments. "Evil Lee Rich's" (special thanks to John Astin for this pseudonym) of the world coming into town to rob the community of whatever they want or kick them off their land by wielding the strong arm of government via a gaggle of local government hand puppets can be a problem. Local ELR's have a leg up with the "city fathers" over the 'foreigners' in this regard but are usually less inclined to do so.

But this ain't a case of either one of these. This New London vision was government conceived and pushed. Those most affected were nothing more than tiny playing pieces on the planning game board of life to be moved wherever it suited the powers that be. The gold star for trampling the rights of individuals in this case, those individuals more rightly here called "your neighbors", deserves to be stuck squarely on the forehead of the local government officials who devised and pushed this plan.

That the majority of the Supreme Court justices thought some arbitrary mega-development plan envisioned by the City of New London was in any way an acceptable reason to strip individuals of their constitutional rights is comptemptible. This decision needs to be reversed, if not by politicians currently in office, then it will be time to go shopping for other politicians to elect. Ditto, for judges.

Lastly, I am becoming less averse to having a more "living" Constitution. Every day the goverment hands the people another reason for enumerating more of the unemunerated rights and provide more detail for all of them.


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