Supreme Court expands local eminent domain powers

Ok, deep breath... calm down... I am forced to admit that I have to side with wingnuts Scalia and Thomas (along with O'Connor and Rehnquist) on the Kelo v. City of New London decision on eminent domain. The fact that my reasons for opposing this ruling almost certainly differ from those of Scalia and Thomas offer little consolation.

Eminent domain is absolutely crucial for governments (at the local through national levels) to acquire enough contiguous property to construct projects for the public good. The key word here is "public". Electrical plants and conveyances, water improvements, roads, mass transit, public hospitals and schools - these are all "public" improvements, in the sense that any member of the public can make use of them, by virtue of being a member of the community exercising eminent domain in order to appropriate property.

But this is not what Kelo was about. Here, the Supreme Court ruled that municipal governments can act as a proxy for private interests, rather than the public interest (despite the difficulties of defining this, as Comrade Max points out), based on nothing more than the vague notion that private enterprise will ultimately benefit the public at large.

This decision opens the door to massive corruption, due to the fact that individual property owners now have very little legal recourse to fight against appropriation of their property and that eminent domain can be invoked on behalf of any large business interest that has enough clout (financial or otherwise) to persuade local governments that their "redevelopment" schemes will benefit the public-at-large.

I want to be clear: I do not share the common American veneration of private property. But this decision is simply a means of empowering large, private business interests against ordinary homeowners and other small property owners. In other words, it is yet another means of redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich.

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