Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Eminent domain

I brought up eminent domain yesterday mostly because I finally received a book that I had requested from the library eight months ago. Strangely enough, the NY Times has an article today about that very topic. The article describes how pretty much every state in the union has responded to last year's Kelo decision by the Supreme Court by introducing legislation or constitutional amendments to prevent governments from using eminent domain to take private property for private use. The opposition to the taking of private property for private use runs across the political spectrum--not just the "fringes" of libertarians on the right and Naderites on the left; it includes "mainstream" corporate Repugs and Democrats. Even communists who see private property as theft and congresscritters fully in the pocket of the corporations seem to cringe at the thought of city hall kicking old folks out of their homes.

Now I happen to see corporate control of this country as a very serious problem. Corporations own most of the land, most of the resources, pretty much all of the government. But most people don't seem to see it that way--they think weapon systems are purchased and wars fought to protect them, not to enrich the corporations. They see corporations as job creators and engines of progress. They think politicians vote their consciences (!!) and that we live in a democracy. No real improvement in this country seems possible as long as this nonsense prevails as widely accepted belief.

This is where these eminent domain cases can be extremely useful. Nowhere else is the collusion between corporations and government against the people so blatantly obvious and personal. And almost everyone recoils at the spectacle of government power being used to destroy neighborhoods to serve corporations.

Strangely enough, while acceptance of corporate hegemony seems to have increased in the past 25 years, in the area of eminent domain it seems to have gone the other way. In the Poletown case, residents of Detroit, and of Michigan in general, were so convinced of the need to appease GM that there was almost no opposition from the public, public officials, the press, the Catholic church, or anyone besides the residents themselves and Ralph Nader. But the Kelo decision in Connecticut is hugely unpopular--even the Supreme Court Justice who wrote the opinion, John Paul Stevens, indicated in the decision and afterwards that he didn't like it. The developers themselves are apparently reluctant to proceed with the project, even though they won the court case. And politicians across the country and across the political spectrum are taking steps to prevent it from happening again.

This is a "wedge issue" that we should jump all over. As I said before, these eminent domain cases show clearly the collusion between corporations and government officials doing something immensely unpopular. If more people were aware of how often this goes on, they might start to realize that the collusion extends far beyond eminent domain.

One case everyone should be familiar with is how the Texas Rangers, with George W. Bush as one of the owners, used eminent domain to take land from private property owners and then got the city of Arlington to build them a stadium on it. They should also know that aWol, first as drunken son of a pResident and later as governor of Texas, made millions from the deal steal. They should also note that current Texas governor Rick Perry, while supposedly supporting restricting the use of eminent domain for private use, wants an exception for the Dallas Cowboys.