Thursday, June 23, 2005

Your land is their land

I've been quite busy lately, and I'm a little tired, so I'm afraid I can't muster much eloquence this evening. (Hell, maybe I never do.) But what I can summon is outrage--outrage that this is what passes for the rule of law, for sound constitutional reasoning, for justice.

The Supreme Court says that the government always knows better than you the best use for your private property, and that under the law, a Wal-Mart, or an office park, or an upscale housing development is a public use that allows the government to force you to sell your home, or farm, or office building. That government is the best arbiter of sound economic development. You think this decision isn't a farce? Try spending some time in the Hill District. Consider East Liberty's former pedestrian mall. Check out Allegheny Center. And that's just Pittsburgh.

But this case wasn't only about limiting the power of government. It was about protecting long-time residents and small business owners against the predations of big-box developers and retail conglomerates. Listen to the words of Sandra Day O'Connor:

"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," she wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private property, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "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," Justice O'Connor went on, "the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result."

I don't think there's anything more to add.


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