Supreme Court Kelo Decision An Economic Travesty And Injustice

Lynne Kiesling

I was disgusted to hear that cities may seize private property for private development. In February I posted this discussion of the Kelo arguments. As the AP article states:

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

Writing for the court’s majority in Thursday’s ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.

This is the most twisted application of the local knowledge principle that I’ve seen in a very, very long time. Yes, local officials have better local knowledge than federal judges. But that is a separate issue from giving the right to condemn private property for private purposes to a government. This is also an economic travesty as well as injustice, because clear, enforceable property rights are the bedrock of economic growth, and this type of expropriation possibility makes property rights much more murky. Sure, now you see it applied to what you think are crappy little houses, but what happens when it gets applied to something that you actually think is valuable?

Think of the potential dynamic unintended consequences of this — with this kind of government expropriation of property rights staring people in the face, what kind of things will get built? What city officials want.

In other words, Justice Stevens is also saying that not only do local officials know better than federal judges, they also know better than local, private, individual citizens. What a patronizing, condescending, elitist argument. I am repulsed.

For better informed commentary, see this SCOTUSblog quote, the actual text of the decision, and a slug of posts at Volokh. As Eugene said in this one,

But consider the lineup in Raich and Kelo. Then consider the legal gymnastics it takes to consider local medical pot part of “interstate commerce,” and to consider taking people’s home and giving them to Pfizer a “public use” in the face of two hundred years of precedent that A to B transfers are illegitimate; and the fact that “liberal ends” were certainly not involved in Raich, nor in Kelo (see Justice Thomas’s dissent); and consider that the liberal Justices are not exactly shy about invalidating laws when it strikes their fancy. I think a good argument can be made that the more liberal Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court do indeed support Big Government for its own sake.


7 thoughts on “Supreme Court Kelo Decision An Economic Travesty And Injustice

  1. I am OK with this one. It is in the category of a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    In my view the theory of incorporation of the bill of rights into the 14th Amendment is a crock. Therefor, in my view, the takings clause does not apply to the states and the judgment in Kelso is correct for the wrong reason.

    If the condemnor had been the Federal Government, I would have thought the judgment wrong. There the takings clause should be read in conjunction with Art. I Sec. 8. The only provisons of that section which allow the Federal government to acquire properties are:

    “To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

    “to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings;”

    Which define the public uses referred to in Amend V.

    “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”

  2. What’s the Dif? Part 2

    I read the news today oh, boy! Even prepared, though, I expect to become nauseous this weekend when I read Kale. It is another case that Micha can use in his paper equating the mafia and government. Lynn Kiesling quotes this from the AP:As a result, ci…

  3. As a landowner with 82 acres in an extremely desirable retirement area, I am sickened. My family has donated our property (with no financial gain, since we do not have heirs) to the land conservancy so that the future will have land with no development on a major river to enjoy forever. Now I understand that this can now be reversed so that any developer may come in and profit from what my family has tried to protect? Please give us a break, we are not wealthy, but very committed to protecting the next generation, so God help us!! The government won’t!! K. Killian

  4. As a landowner with 82 acres in an extremely desirable retirement area, I am sickened. My family has donated our property (with no financial gain, since we do not have heirs) to the land conservancy so that the future will have land with no development on a major river to enjoy forever. Now I understand that this can now be reversed so that any developer may come in and profit from what my family has tried to protect? Please give us a break, we are not wealthy, but very committed to protecting the next generation, so God help us!! The government won’t!! K. Killian

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