Paul seems to be pretty much a lone voice in the media in New Mexico so far. Here is an interesting update from New Hampshire:
America, Where What’s Yours Is Ours (IJ)
Weare, N.H., citizens voted yesterday on two candidates for Board of Selectmen who ran on the platform of seizing Supreme Court Justice David Souter’s home to build The Lost Liberty Hotel in retaliation for his vote in the Court’s decision on Kelo v. New London. While this proposed initiation of force is no more right than the one legalized by the court last summer, it redraws attention to an issue of national importance.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in the public’s interest of local economic improvement, it is legal for the government of New London to seize privately owned homes and deliver them to private developers. The property owners, represented by the libertarian firm, the Institute for Justice, argued that the city violated the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which allows government to take property for a “public use” as long as it provides just compensation.
The Court’s ruling embraced a broad concept of what constitutes a public use and infringed on the property rights of these unfortunate citizens. New London’s action is simply theft. The initiation of force, even for a perceived good, will always lead us down harmful paths. This ruling has caused many to pause to consider whether they truly own what they have earned or whether everything belongs to the state and those able to garner government’s favors. This has been a concern of libertarian-minded people since our country’s inception.
Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointees of former President Bill Clinton, joined Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter in the majority decision. They affirmed, “the disposition of this case therefore turns on the question of whether the city’s development plan serves a ‘public purpose’ … promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government. There is, moreover, no principled way of distinguishing economic development from the other public purposes that we have recognized.”
Please check the Constitution. Promoting economic development is not a function of our government, and there is a principled way of distinguishing economic development from “public purposes.” Private enterprise in no way falls into what critically needs to be a narrow and firm definition of a “public good,” such as clean air and water. If we choose not to stick with a strict definition of true public goods, then what you have earned for your family belongs to who ever can gain government favor, whether it is the wealthy contributors or the agenda of a powerful voting block whose votes politicians are eager to secure.
A definition of public good should not be what the voting majority decides. This is why the framers, who abhorred democracy, created a constitutional republic that would protect the individual from the “tyranny of the majority.” To them, democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to eat for dinner. The recent oppression of New London’s citizens is another example.
People are free to interact with one another through voluntary trade, negotiation, and cooperation, not by infringing on property rights, lives or liberty. In the absence of an incontestable public good, we should not support companies stripping people of their property through government force any more than we should support companies using thugs with axe-handles. The Supreme Court has made such theft legal, but it cannot make it moral.
Libertarian-minded people agree with the dissenting opinion of Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, and William Rehnquist, that, “the Court abandons this long-held basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, as long as it might be upgraded … but the fallout from the decision will not be random. Beneficiaries are likely to be citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with few resources to those with more.”
Justice Thomas said seizing homes for private development, even with “just compensation,” is unconstitutional. “The consequences of today’s decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful,” Thomas wrote. “So-called ‘urban renewal’ programs provide some compensation for the properties they take, but no compensation is possible for the subjective value of these lands to the individuals displaced and the indignity inflicted.”
Since the Kelo decision, we have seen two patterns nationwide. While several communities are drafting legislation to strengthen local property rights, many communities emboldened by the ruling are moving to acquire land from private citizens to redistribute to corporations, developers,and to preserve as open space.
So that people will not have “disproportionate influence” over others, it is necessary to reclaim the extended, unconstitutional powers government has stolen from the individual over the last several decades. George Washington rightly explained that government is force. This force must be contained and not wielded by the highest bidders. Our government was to protect us from force and fraud, not initiate it.
Marc Guttman lives in Niantic.
HT: Mickey Barnett