In what has to be the Dred Scott or Roe v. Wade decision of the 21st century (yes, the Supreme Court does make terrible mistakes at times with far-reaching consequences) last week the Supreme Court ruled that cities may seize property from one private owner in order to transfer it to another private owner, completely mangling the historic and traditional definition of public use of private land. Michelle Malkin has the blogosphere’s reaction here and here.
This colossal error in judgment turns the clock all the way back to the year 1215, when private property rights first took a step out from under absolute rule of a monarch. Homeowners can’t take much comfort from the United States Conference of Mayors, who immediately issued a statement (Broken link, active June 27, 2005) praising the Supreme Court’s decision. In an effort to curb the effects of this judicial fiat, the Virginia Legislature is seeking to provide constitutional protections (Broken link, active June 27, 2005) for private homeowners. (And you thought the U.S. Constitution already did that.) Let’s petition all of our state legislatures to follow suit. But are homes the only private property at risk? A case in California a few years back suggests not (Broken link, active June 27, 2005).
Now would be a good time to educate our rhetoric stage students why private property ownership is such a cornerstone of free Western society. God established the principle of private property by commanding, Thou shalt not steal, nor covet anything that is thy neighbor’s. (In a rare piece of irony, the Supreme Court has also just ruled that the Ten Commandments may not be displayed (Broken link, active June 27, 2005) in courthouses.) Frederick Bastiat’s The Primacy of Property is a good place to start, followed by the Foundation for Economic Education’s The Property Rights Origins of Privacy Rights. Another excellent research topic would center on the Constitution’s checks and balances on the judicial branch – is that branch the only branch without any? Although it seems that the judiciary is the new absolute tyrant, Mark R. Levin argues in Men in Black that this condition is a far cry from the founders’ intent.
Update: On the lighter side (if there is one) Scrappleface reports Court allows Ten Commandments on seized land. Well, we have to laugh about something.
Update again: see Our rights proceed from Leninists (Broken link, active June 27, 2005) on the similarity between Justice Steven’s majority opinion and Lenin’s 1917 argument for government confiscation of the landed estates.