James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Kelo Decision

Excerpts of an article I'm working on:

I confess that I am having trouble summoning the appropriate outrage at Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court decision that permits states and local governments to use eminent domain powers to transfer land from one private owner to another. This assault on the rights of poor and middle-class homeowners for the benefit of corporations and developers is indeed outrageous. We should all be angry. But the real villains are not senior citizens on a bench in Washington D.C, but the politicians, bureaucrats, and developers who conspire to steal land in our communities.
[T]his puts liberalism in a very bad light. In recent years the liberals on the Court upheld the individual right to practice sodomy. A victory for liberty, right? Yet they also upheld federal laws limiting free speech in the name of campaign finance reform, and upheld a federal law criminalizing medicinal use of marijuana. And now Kelo. Conservative accusations against leftist judges appear to have merit: the Court’s stands on sex, race, and religion that seem to limit government power are really intended to advance equality, not liberty, and otherwise government is entitled to absolute power. The tyranny of the majority can not act out of “hate,” but it can act out of greed. GOP operatives certainly can keep the judiciary alive as a hot-button issue to rally conservatives, and I can’t blame them.
It looked like a slam-dunk in favor of individual rights in the best, not the worst, tradition of the 14th Amendment. But directing our rage at the Court overlooks the deeper problem. After all, the Court should be consistent, but the Court’s critics should be consistent as well. To have ruled for individual rights and against the city of New London would itself be evidence of conservative “judicial activism.“ Is it really the business of the federal courts to micro-manage every local property dispute? I criticize Supreme Court intervention in local affairs even when I find the laws themselves repugnant. Am I then to turn around and claim that the Court ought to intervene when it comes to property? Because I interpret the 14th Amendment narrowly, and am ambivalent at best about judicial review, it is difficult for me to criticize the Court for Kelo.
Homeowners must instead take action themselves. Their motto should be, “Remember Kelo!” And from local boards and town councils, all the way up to U.S. Senate, their #1 issue should be eminent domain. Candidates for office must be grilled constantly on it. Homeowners must come together and respect the Golden Rule - if I want to protect my own home, I must also protect the home on the other side of town. The outrage in New London doesn’t have to happen again in the United States, if the people won’t stand for it.


  1. Anonymous4:57 PM PDT

    Here in Deep Blue, l'il Connecticut, there's a movement afoot to boycott New London to punish the City Council.
    Which, of course, will punish small businesses and entrepeneurs far more than it will hurt the politi-whores.

    The only reasonable response, as you suggest, is to hold the politicians accountable.

    Steve (absitinvidia.com)

  2. time to sign on to the declaration of independents and stop electing politicians to office. I am writing a book on chemecology - planning to fix the carbon sequestration program to useful before they implement it. Some of my derivative thinking is spilling over, so i am using The Zone to vent. accountability is a converse proposition - it must be a two way street.

  3. I was pretty ticked off at the Kelo and Raich decisions, but I can't say I was surprised in either case. It would have been a departure from precedent to rule otherwise.