Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Spectre of Ownership

I had thought to leave well enough alone and not say more than has already been said about the rash of borderline-insane Supreme Court decisions that ended the last Court term. But this Julian Sanchez column was motivation enough:

http://www.reason.com/hod/js063005.shtml

and especially the NYT article to which he links:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/24/opinion/24fri1.html?ex=1121313600&en=c8887de78041569e&ei=5070

Typically great Sanchez - and typically lousy Times. There isn't an absurd defense of the decision this op-ed, fatuously titled "The Limits of Property Rights", forgoes - it is so fawning, you would think Castro wrote the opinion. From the first sentence it reads like a high-schooler's work, praising the Court for relieving the enfeebled federal government of the responsibility of defining any objective criterion for claiming eminent domain over the objections of greedy homeowners and their insidious cohorts in the " 'property rights' movement". Not to be confused with the property rights movement, of course (I'm here reminded of Sanchez's resolution to dub the Washington Times a "newspaper", with "journalists", in light of its incessant use of scare quotes to refer to "gay marriage".) Together, the Court and the Times admonish us, this unholy alliance of people who live in homes they paid for and people who think people ought to be able to live in homes they paid for pose a mortal threat to the public interest, the raison d'etre of which is "reasonable zoning and environmental regulations." The journalistic CYA comes in the acknowledgement that, per the O'Connor and Thomas dissents, "eminent domain must not be used for purely private gain." Using it against purely private gain, though, is not only alright but both inherently noble and, now, the implicit moral imperative of the state. Thus, the editorial celebrates, "The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, sided with the city." And against the people who live in it.

I don't think it's too glib to wonder if anyone on the Times editorial board would find themselves consoled by such a riveting defense of the public good if they were to be standing in the shadow of a Coast Guard museum that used to be their home.

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