Friday, June 24, 2005

Kelo Case Should Offend Conservatives and Liberals

Writing about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on the Kelo v. City of New London case, George Will notes that this is a big win for big government.

Those on the receiving end of the life-shattering power that the court has validated will almost always be individuals of modest means. So this liberal decision -- it augments government power to aggrandize itself by bulldozing individuals' interests -- favors muscular economic battalions at the expense of society's little platoons, such as homeowners and the neighborhoods they comprise…

Liberalism triumphed yesterday. Government became radically unlimited in seizing the very kinds of private property that should guarantee individuals a sphere of autonomy against government.

If by liberal Will means “big, unrestrained government,” then that’s correct. But I can’t imagine too many true liberals being excited about this decision. After all, it will specifically lead to the destruction of an entire New London, Connecticut working class neighborhood just so a private developer can put up condominiums, a luxury hotel and offices. Basically, the city felt that since the neighborhood wasn’t bringing in much tax revenue, it had to go. And the Court agreed.

Eminent domain has its useful purposes. Blighted neighborhoods have been revitalized because of it. But this neighborhood in New London wasn’t blighted. It was just on the wrong side of wealthy. And if working class people can now lose their homes simply because they aren’t convenient to the city’s revenue-generating plans, then we have a serious problem.

Yesterday, I said this decision made me queasy. Today, I’m feeling worse. My conservative side hates the massive expansion of government power. My liberal side hates what the implications will be for working class Americans.

Luxury hotels and condominiums for the rich might be pleasantly attractive and make for a great source of tax revenue, but they shouldn’t have a greater right to exist than does a working class neighborhood. That’s wrong. And I think that’s wrong no matter which side of the political spectrum you come from.


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