Thursday, November 12, 2009

New London Confidential

I think we're all familiar with the Supreme Court's infamous Kelo v. City of New London decision, in which the Supreme Court held that as long as a taking of private property bore an (arguably) rational relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose, eminent domain could be used to kick people out in the street in the name of government making nice to their corporate masters.

A subject of a book (The Little Pink House, written by Jeff Benedict) is the story of one of the litigants, a paramedic named Susette Kelo, and her efforts to save her home-which ultimately proved unsuccessful. The images are of the Pfizer research center-shore looks nice, don't it?-the vacant lot where Susette Kelo's home once stood, an aerial view of where the Fort Trumbull neighborhood used to be, and Susette Kelo in front of the home taken from her.

The stated reason for the condemnation was that surely pharmaceutical giant Pfizer would make better use of the land than the owners of the homes had, why, they'd even build a wonderful research center and there'd be a high toned hotel, rich folks' condos, and no more of these rundown homes and their pesky landowners clogging up that delicious waterfront property.

Parenthetically, the dissents of Justices O'Connor and Thomas are worth sober consideration.

It's something that today's generation of anti Obama conspiracy theorists, Birthers, Tenthers, gun toting cranks, Palinidiots and tea baggers seem to have forgotten all about-yet the decision remains as a vivid reminder of how onerous the abuse of governmental power can be. It's to these folk's discredit-here's a real story of economic imperialism and government trampling property rights, and they wouldn't even have had to make anything up about Evil Negro Barack.

Justice Thomas:

The consequences of today’s decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful. 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 by uprooting them from their homes. Allowing the government to take property solely for public purposes is bad enough, but extending the concept of public purpose to encompass any economically beneficial goal guarantees that these losses will fall disproportionately on poor communities. Those communities are not only systematically less likely to put their lands to the highest and best social use, but are also the least politically powerful. If ever there were justification for intrusive judicial review of constitutional provisions that protect “discrete and insular minorities,” surely that principle would apply with great force to the powerless groups and individuals the Public Use Clause protects. The deferential standard this Court has adopted for the Public Use Clause is therefore deeply perverse. It encourages “those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms” to victimize the weak.

"But Sparky!" you say, "W-w-what's all this have to do with this 12th of November, 2009?"

Quite simple, little feller. It was announced a couple of days ago that those wonderful folks at Pfizer, having gobbled up Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, will close the New London research facility and plans to shed nearly 20,000 of those high paying jobs for which Kelo and others were turfed out of their houses.

Thanks, Pfizer.


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