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Remember the days of government "by the people, for the people"? Well, now it's by the legislators and courts-cum-lobbyists, for big business. Don't get too attached to the old homestead, because the Supreme Court ruled today that local goverments can seize people's homes and businesses for private economic development:

It was a decision fraught with huge implications for a country with many areas, particularly the rapidly growing urban and suburban areas, facing countervailing pressures of development and property ownership rights.

The 5-4 ruling represented a defeat for some Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes to generate tax revenue.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Connecticut, filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a key swing vote on many cases before the court, issued a stinging dissent. She argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

Unfortunately, according to Volokh.com, there are rumors of her impending retirement.

Posted by aalkon at June 23, 2005 7:27 AM

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Comments

One of the Big Lies perpetrated by developers on the public is that growth pays for itself. It never has, and the argument, "If it weren't for this, you wouldn't have a ____ !" is specious at best.

Here's an example: An agrarian society is selected to receive a new BMW plant. A railhead is established. The company installs locals at many positions, and pays them more than farm jobs provide. The executives imported to run the plant build fancy houses nearby. Support facilities, like chain stores and restaurants, move in. Soon, the wage hikes brought about the plant's success accentuate the difference between the "haves" and the "have-nots"; so does the actual, interstate and international competition for those jobs. Local resources, land among them, is consumed, not created.

In short, development creates nothing but consumption opportunities.

Like tax hikes that run people off of their own land, and the misuse of emiment domain.

Posted by: Radwaste at June 23, 2005 2:44 PM

This is flatly, plainly, inexplicable. If there's a coarser, more arrogant repudiation of the American Dream, I can't imagine what it would be. I'd trade my HO deduction for a prompt repudiation of the ruling.

(Still supporting Bolton, though.)

Posted by: Cridland at June 23, 2005 2:57 PM

Furthermore, Raddy earns resentment for beating me to first coment while I considered the matter over lunch.

Posted by: Cridland at June 23, 2005 3:01 PM

Seriously, what is the NAME of that shit?

Village idiots and local profiteers are the FIRST ones government is supposed to protech us from

Posted by: Crid at June 23, 2005 4:06 PM

Does anyone know- do these governments have to pay people for their property? Or can they just take it? Either way, it is very disturbing.

Posted by: Kate at June 23, 2005 8:19 PM

They do have to pay, at "market value", which usually means a 2-3 year old tax assessment by, surprise, government employees, and that value is usually not subject to appeal.

Posted by: Alan at June 23, 2005 9:02 PM

Can we just note for the record who voted in dissent with O'Connor?

Thomas, Rehnquist, and Scalia!

Conservatism has its moments, doesn't it?

Posted by: Crid at June 24, 2005 12:21 AM

I must say, Crid, that I was extremely surprised at the way the votes went. Makes you wonder who is being paid off, eh? Got to be someone's pockets being lined.

There I go with my conspiracy theories again...

Posted by: Goddyss at June 24, 2005 9:15 AM

I wonder -- if a Supreme Court Justice had ever had property condemned against his or her will, if the case would be considered differently.

Of course, the justice would have to recuse him- or her-self, but this sort of thing always seems to happen to the little guy whom we are supposed to be protecting.

This has precedent, though, in the issue of "incorporation" of the Bill of Rights into all governmental action: if you'll note, it is never OK to abridge someone's right to free speech, but most of the other rights are mutable by local agencies.

Posted by: Radwaste at June 24, 2005 3:24 PM

> who is being paid off, eh?

It would be fun to think that the Majority in this decision were merely corrupt, but it's worse than that: They're wrong. As with so many liberals, they truly believe that that central 'authorities' can manage and exploit your hard-earned assets to better effect than you can for yourself.

See? You're not OLD ENOUGH to play with dangerous things like wealth and property... You're plenty old enough to be taxed, however.

Posted by: Crid at June 24, 2005 6:12 PM

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