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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Public Use Is Not A Developer's Project

Just read Justice Thomas's opening in his dissent (as suggested by Jude Wanniski):

Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that the law of the land . . . postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property. The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for public necessity, but instead for public use. Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a [P]ublic [P]urpose Clause, (or perhaps the Diverse and Always Evolving Needs of Society Clause), a restriction that is satisfied, the Court instructs, so long as the purpose is legitimate and the means not irrational. This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a public use. I cannot agree. If such economic development takings are for a public use, any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution, as Justice O’Connor powerfully argues in dissent.

Wanniski properly deems this a communist decision:

Except that the government must still provide monetary compensation that another court would ultimately decide, there is nothing different from a communist expropriation of private property with the good intentions of making things better for the “community” at the expense of the landowners. The New York Times, which predictably hailed the decision under a headline, “The Limits of Property Rights,” sounded more like Pravda in its conclusion: “New London’s development plan may hurt a few small property owners, who will, in any case, be fully compensated. But many more residents are likely to benefit if the city can shore up its tax base and attract badly needed jobs.”

Churches pay no taxes. They are ripe for the bulldozer. Low-income level homes provide little in tax revenues to the Cities. They are ripe for the bulldozer. The 5th Amendment, as with all of the liberties contained in the Bill of Rights, is a rein on government action. To quote Thomas Sowell:

"What are these rights supposed to protect the citizens from, if not the government?"

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