Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Kelo and the fallout

Walter Williams takes on some nonsense on stilts about the Kelo decision. My favorite quote from the so-called liberal group:
"Elliot Mincberg, the group's legal director, said the case [Kelo v. New London] had been brought by the Institute for Justice as part of an effort by conservatives to elevate property rights to the same level of civil rights such as freedom of speech and religion, in effect taking the nation back to the pre-New Deal days when the courts ruled child labor laws unconstitutional."

Not only is this stupid, it seeks to diminish the importance of the right to own property with civil rights like freedom of speech and religion. The point that the People for the American Way apparently want to make is that they care more about what they consider "civil rights" or "human rights" than about property rights, because they fear that too much private property operates to the detriment of society at large. What [failed political and social order] does that sound like to you? What right is more important: to be able to kick the racist off your property for spewing hate-filled nonsense, or his right to come on your property and say it?

So what is the logical outcome of their position, and the position of the Supreme Court in Kelo? The government is permitted by the federal constitution to take your property for public uses--including the outright transfer of property to a private developer because his plan for development will increase the tax base. That is all the justification necessary. If you think about that for even 10 seconds, your realize that the highest and best use, or the most productive use, of virtually every piece of property is something other than its present use. My house would be much more valuable, in terms of tax revenue, if it were a Starbucks. Real estate taxes would be higher, the local government would capture sales tax, meals tax, and all the other taxes and license fees necessary. Best of all, Because the government would be initiating the taking, it could rezone the property to permit the "better" use without my having any recourse. Given that, whose property is most at risk in states that permit this? I promise it ain't the mayor's.

Why does this bother me? Because I care a lot more about people being able to live their lives unmolested by government than I do about developers and governments making money. I have been amused by the reaction of the leftier-side of things in this debate, because they seem to think that conservatives should like the Kelo decision because it favors "big business." This shows a profound misunderstanding of what we evil conservative (libertarian?) types actually believe.

I ask you, is this fair? How about this? Don't believe me? Here's the city council's agenda. Does the Mach's store look "blighted" to you?
Hollywood's downtown redevelopment agency lasts for another 20 years and has spurred a boom, with tall condo projects in the works and trendy restaurants and clubs lining the streets. The area is designated as blighted, but at an Italian restaurant catty-cornered to the Mach property, entrees go for $30 and customers valet BMWs. Some blight.

[snip]

David Mach said Charles "Chip" Abele made a $600,000 offer in early 2003. George Mach considered it a lowball bid and asked for $1 million.

"We diligently tried to make a deal, but we didn't get one," said Abele. "They feel the property is more valuable than what we've offered. … There is tremendous motivation … to make them happy, but some people just don't want to be happy."

Read the whole thing.

I remain dumbfounded by this whole thing. Why is the New York Times okay with this?