Thursday, June 30, 2005


Quite a few of us in left blogistan have taken a lot of criticism for our support of the recent Kelo eminent domain decision or our tepid objection to it. One talk radio host who I'm a fan of expressed a desire to smack me in the face over it.

I don't want to go into a long discussion of this. I think probably the decision was correct - it certainly reflected established law and practice in any case - and was probably preferable to most alternative decisions.

However, I also quite welcome the Kelo backlash. It was probably Nathan Newman who took the lefty "contrarian" view of the case which got me thinking more about it (too lazy to hunt up the exact post). I'd spent some time in New London in the past few years and certainly see what's happening there as nothing more than a land grab. I'm familiar enough with some of the players to know that motives are almost certainly not pure. I would've liked the process there to be stopped. However, as with many things, the question wasn't "is this bad" - the question was "should the Supremos establish some precedent to keep this kind of thing from happening." The answer to the first question was of course yes. The answer to the second one was arguably, if not definitively, no.

I also don't think that in this case there should be any kind of federal remedy. Preening members of Congress who are pushing against this kind of use of eminent domain while simultaneously pushing for privately owned toll roads, which would certainly need the power of eminent domain to get built, are just, well, strutting for the cameras. A federal remedy seems rather silly.

But, by all means, let there be a backlash. Eminent domain has been used for years, sometimes for good and more often for ill, in the name of urban renewal or neighborhood improvement. Minority and poor neighborhoods were generally the targets. I'm quite happy for more middle class people to be a bit angry at the idea that the state can make you sell your house to them. When an issue goes from being something that can happen to other people to something that can happen to you, maybe you start to take notice.

So, please all you people who are concerned about this issue - make it a local one, make it a state one.