Land of the Free, Home of… well, forget about the home

I react to the recent Supreme Court judgement that gives the right to local governments to seize land for private use under the rationale that the private use of wealthy corporations is really for the public good.

One step further towards the peonization of the American citizen. The Supreme Court has decided that local governments should be free to seize land for private development. Local governments could already do this for public development which I suppose means roads, water treatment units, public schools, etc. However, the notion of “public development” has just been expanded by the court (from this article):

In his majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said New London could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use. He said the project the city has in mind promises to bring more jobs and revenue.

“Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government,” Stevens wrote. He added that local officials are better positioned than federal judges to decide what’s best for a community.

Whatever Mr. Paul Stevens may be thinking, what he has actually done with his ill-conceived judgement is mostly for the benefit of private wealthy companies (and the wealthy citizens behind those wealthy companies) rather than for the public good. The argument that a development company can create jobs can be made just about anywhere and since jobs bring in more tax money which can be used for providing for public services, it works for the public good, right? So just about any private property can be seized in this way. But I know what is going to really happen: private citizens of moderate means are those who are going to bear the brunt of this. The rich ones will always have whatever political connections they need to fend off the developers.

I know that the owners losing their properties to development are supposed to be adequately compensated but this judgement has also given the upper hand to the development company in any negotiations. The power to say “no” is an important negotiation tool but now property owners won’t be able to use it: if they say “no”, the company will just be able to petition the local government and have the land seized with compensation decided by a judge, presumably, who won’t be negotiating for the original property owner but will be trying to promote the… ahem… public good, whatever that really means.

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