eminent domain

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There was a case argued in the Supreme Court the other day (Kelo v. New London) which seems to be significantly more important than the press coverage is giving it.

Basically, the concept of eminent domain allows the government to buy, or condemn, property for public use. This is fair. We need our roads, we need our institutions of public interest, we need to be able, at times, to put the general good of a society first. Plus, the concept is Constitutional, finding its way into the national soul by means of the 5th amendment.

This case hinges on what exactly is meant by “Public Use”. The town of New London feels that higher tax revenue is a public benefit, so tried to buy out residents of a coastal swath of land in order to build an office park and other high cost amenities. Those that refused to sell were told their land was condenmed. They rightly refused to leave.

In our “business is everything” conception of civic life it seems there are crucial aspects of freedom being lost. The right to hold onto private property is among the most important of these. Otherwise, we continue to drift into a new feudalism which is not based on hereditary title, but the even more insiduous Right of Revenue. Anyone with more money or potential will trump those who are small and weak. The right, and hope, of owning a piece of land is at the heart of the American enterprise. We can dream of investing in ourselves, whether through a simple home investment, a space in which our thoughts can wander freely, or in other creative use of something of our own.

The fear and danger of a potential land grab by the powerful diminishes this dream and hope. Why find a quiet piece of choice land for oneself if there is the potential it will be taken by someone who wants to rape the land for the profit of faceless investors?

Should the Supreme Court allow New London to take what it wants from whoever it wants for the sake of appeasing the principalities and powers of our present world we will all lose something precious. On that day, we will have lost the heart and soul of America and we will see the beginning of the real decline and fall into eventual dissolution.

For on the day armed representatives of the government come to force residents off their own land for the sake of the private wealth of another is the day America has ended.

I suspect that such a ruling will result in a sharp rise of membership in the NRA, and rightly so. I support my country, and am patriotic without excuse. But, should my government be bought out by the bidding of Pfizer, then I, and many, many others, will say “don’t tread on me.” The second amendment will be pitted against this new interpretation of the fifth amendment, and no one will benefit from that fight.

Right now, New London is treading on those residents in a way which even King George III may have been embarrassed to pursue. Fortunately, my guess is that the justices will see a line being crossed here and will rule against the uncivil authorities of New London, Connecticut.

And yes, I am not a lawyer, and don’t know the nuances of the constitutional claims. I am from pioneer stock, however, and know how popular interpretation will take such a move in the Law, despite the niceties of some lawyerly rhetoric.

It also seems that pushing this case to the public eye seems to be helpful. It was when such activities were limited to ill attended county board meetings that people suffered. Opinion articles seem to be realizing the dangers involved and throwing support to the property owners.

Property rights were written into the Constitution explicitly to defend against this very brand of wrecking-ball politics. Respect for private land is what separated this country from others with a penchant for seizing and nationalizing things at whim.

So here’s to property owners around the country who are standing up to the bulldozer’s advance. Let’s hope the Supreme Court gives them reason for a toast.

Amen to that. Let’s hope and pray. For who will suffer the most from this? Once again it will be the poor.

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