Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Why Kelo Is So Hard to Swallow

If you read any of our previous posts on the Kelo v. New London case, you've probably noticed we feel strongly about it. Truth be told, this one really sticks in our craw in a way the other recent decisions haven't, even though we disagree with some of those, too. So why is that?

From the facts of the case, we were hoping for a unanimous decision slapping down this egregious abuse of private property rights. In fact we thought it was virtually a "slam dunk" that Kelo would win easily. Conservatives should reject New London's overreaching based on the plain language of the Bill of Rights. Liberals should too, for that matter, but there's plenty of precedent for them to ignore the plain language of the Constitution when it suits them. We just didn't expect it to suit them in this case. Justice O'Connor laid out the reasons well: unchecked eminent domain obviously is terrible for the "little guys."

Before this, at least the property owner could hold out for a good price from the developer and the developer had to negotiate. Now everyone will know the owner has no leverage. If the developer doesn't get his offer accepted, he can just use the power of the government to force the deal down the throat of the property owner. Aren't liberals supposed to be all about protecting "the little guys" from "the rich?" At least that's the legend in their own minds.

Try as we might, we just can't understand how anyone can favor this outcome unless he/she is:
  1. A developer with political pull (redundant?)
  2. A politician looking to pull in some extra campaign contributions (definitely redundant)
  3. A communist (few Americans will rally to that banner)
So the conservative justices followed the script, the "moderates" were predictably unpredictable, and the liberals decided it was more important to further empower government than to restrain it. The result is a decision that makes you think you are permanently downwind from a feedlot. The liberal position seems so utterly incoherent (even for liberalism). In the distant past, liberals used to know that one of the main things "the little guy" needs protection from is government. Not any more. Now "the little guy" needs strong government to keep him dependent protect him from himself. Oh, Brave New Deal!

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