The Bitter Taste of Vindication

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Kevin Drum notes an especially ridiculous case of eminent domain abuse, and concludes: "Libertarians should feel free to feel vindicated."

NEXT: Murdering Murrow

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  1. Ahhhh, I feel vindicated.

    And there’s no doubt about the “fairly sleazy political corruption.” OF COURSE they want Union County people to do the deal; dey’re da ones who’s gonna do us a favah.

  2. I could barely make it halfway down the list of commenters on that article. Drum showed a little bit of sense; the commenters lead off with crap like this:

    Sleazy, maybe, but this is not an individual rights issue. The guy loses his land and gets paid either way. So why exactly should the Constitution prevent it?

  3. Actually I don’t feel quite vindicated in this case. After all this isn’t really the same thing as Kelo because no home-owners are being dispossessed.

    For vindication I prefer point to the way Riveria Beach Florida is using eminent domain to disposess 6000 poor people so they put in a billion-dollar yachting and housing complex.

  4. I feel vindicated. Whoopee.

  5. How ’bout them Drum commenters? Egad. That whole bit about Kelo and preceding takings law being ‘broad, but not infinitely so’ rings a bit hollow unless someone can tell me a takings action that would fail constitutional muster under the Kelo reading. Oh, there has to be a Plan. I’ll concede that.

  6. Vindication, schmindication, etc.

    When and who and where do we donate, money,and/or guns and/or ammo and/or assist in training for ambushing?

    Write, print and scream all you want, but its time to spill blood.

  7. Here’s a different story — property owners who are suing to block a private-for-private taking saying that it still violates Kelo anyway.

  8. Gee thanks. I don’t need that guy to feel that the libertarian position is vindicated; heck, every moment I spend reading or watching news I feel vindicated.

  9. Any time the feds pass a law or endorse another encroachment on the constitution, they shouldn’t put it to some litmus test of social utility.

    No.

    They should ask themselves “What Would Jersey Do?”

  10. liberals who defend eminent domain :: conservatives who defend torture

  11. “liberals who defend eminent domain :: conservatives who defend torture”

    i always thought it was

    Conservatives who defend making terrorists feel uncomfortable :: the left who defend terrorists

    I don’t call poeple who defend eminent domain liberals…i fail to see how government control of porperty over individual ownership is a liberal idea.
    That would mean all tyrant kings are liberal.

    🙂

    Yeah i don’t feel vindicated at all. I would if say Kelo went the other way….mybe i don’t understand what “vindicated” means.

  12. Rich libertarians (conveniently enough, not me) should pool their resources to create a development company whose sole purpose is to propose eminent domain land grabs against govt officials who propose to do the same to others. I know this was proposed against David Souter, though as far as I know noting became of it. Tie up the courts with endless cases. For every attempted land theft, a counter-theft against each individual voting for it. Make them defend their actions in public every day. Make them explain why it’s not ok to do it to THEM, but it is ok to do it to you. Have them say the words, and then run the hell out of them in every subsequent election they face.

  13. In order for us to be “vindicated”, wouldn’t there have had to be some significant doubt that we were ever wrong? The Kelo decision was one of those rare occurances where the overwhelming majority of the public actually agreed with libertarians.

  14. I thought the most, um, striking sentence in the piece was this:

    Kelo apologists will simply assert that a ‘carefully formulated economic development plan’ is a sufficient condition to uphold the condemnation, but not a necessary condition.

    Am I just being pedantic in thinking that a thing must first rise to necessity before it can meet a test for sufficiency? Is this a construction only an apologist could love?

  15. About the Union Township thing. You guys don’t know what you’re talk’n bout. There’s nuth’n goin on. Don’t worry ’bout it.

  16. Yeah, it’s not like this Segal mook is goin’ to end up in a landfill or anything. And, if so, we wouldn’t know noth’n ’bout it.

  17. Chrissy. Shut. the fuck. up.

  18. Rich libertarians (conveniently enough, not me) should pool their resources to create a development company whose sole purpose is to propose eminent domain land grabs against govt officials who propose to do the same to others. I know this was proposed against David Souter, though as far as I know noting became of it. Tie up the courts with endless cases.

    Guess again.

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/Rule11.htm

  19. Jason,

    IMHO, this plan fails the Kelo test. Steering work to a local company is not a valid public purpose. Several towns in Massachusetts had to scrap their “local preference in contracting” regulations after a court ruling a few years based on exactly that finding.

  20. dhex, “liberals who defend eminent domain :: conservatives who defend torture”

    Eminent domain is explicity authorized in the Bill of Rights. Torture is explicitly barred in that same bill of rights. You’re going to have to narrow your statement to make it valid.

    Friendly Fire, the statement you quote just says that economic development is not the only purpose that qualifies. You don’t have to show that the taking would advance economic development – you could show that it would advance another public purpose, like transportation, housing, prevention of flooding…

  21. “Eminent domain is explicity authorized in the Bill of Rights. Torture is explicitly barred in that same bill of rights. You’re going to have to narrow your statement to make it valid.”

    hardly. morally speaking, it’s two camps defending things which morally indefensible. fwiw, i don’t think torturing, murdering or otherwise blowing the living shit out of foreigners is actually listed as a no-no in the constitution. it is, however, depraved.

    like eminent domain. i was very taken with this quote from the drum comments:

    ?Those who try to dilineate between property rights and other civil rights are either thugs or fools.?

    one sad truth we can all agree upon is that if one day the wrong house is seized and someone goes nuts and (justifiably) murders a bunch of politicians and developers who made said theft possible, the only result will be more legislation and bloviation against “property rights extremists.” (one of the more vile terms of the 21st century thus far)

    it puts me in mind of those cowardly pieces of shit fuckfaces who offer – nay, volunteer! – to have their bags searched on the subway. fucking slaves. it amazes me how many “fuck bushitler planned 9/11” liberal “progressive” types in this town are totally ok with being searched cause they don’t want to be late to dinner or because they’re fucking pussies or whatever the hell their problem actually is. fucking assholes.

    anyway i think the crossover between these tw groups explains something: that’s why they’re into eminent domain – instead of thrusting (no pun intended) their sub tendencies into a respectable avenue, like the eulenspeigel society, they insist that everyone else go first because they’re nervous or something.

    fuck them. may the superstate rape them worst of all.

  22. Joe,

    this plan fails the Kelo test. Steering work to a local company is not a valid public purpose.

    Hmm, a shifting line, that is. How is taking homes and giving them to private companies in order to help the local economy a “valid public purpose”, but steering jobs to a local company to help the local economy NOT a “valid public purpose”? I guss I just don’t see the grand distinction that you allude to.

  23. “I don’t call poeple who defend eminent domain liberals…”

    well, politics are self-identifying. they call themselves liberals. i don’t know why. it’s a really stupid term, though i guess “walking bootlicking vagina-beings” takes too long to say.

  24. hehe…I can almost see the vain throbbing in dhex’s forehead…

  25. Joe,

    Housing is a “public purpose”? Shit, where’s my government-issued split-level-ranch? I must’ve missed the boat on that one…

  26. dhex, I don’t often see libertarians denounce the ideas of James Madison as “morally indefensible,” but whatever floats your boat. Nor as a “thug or fool.”

    Nice carpet chewing, though.

    Evan, a taking whose only contribution to the local economy was the profit of the developer would fail the Kelo test as well. The reason NLDC won was because the showed the court* that their development plan would benefit the local economy in other ways, such as promoting more private investment. This differs from the local contracting argument, in which there is no difference in how the disposition of the land will effect the town, and the only “benefit” is that this corporation gets the money, instead of that one.

    *Now, my problem with the Kelo majority is that they pretty much just took the NLDC’s word for it on this. I would have liked to see, at a minimum, the case sent back to the trial judge to judge this assertion on its merits.

  27. “IMHO, this plan fails the Kelo test. Steering work to a local company is not a valid public purpose.”

    I’m baffled on this one. You can take the land and give it to anyone you want so long as it is part of a plan. You can’t specify the contractor in the plan?

  28. Ah, Union Twp.

    What’s the underlying similarity between this and the Palm Beach County case?

    I’ll tell you: Morris-Bergen-Somerset Counties NJ, and Palm Beach County FL are all among the RICHEST areas in this nation.

    There are still a few poorer suburbs in Palm Beach, and neighboring Union County has a somewhat lower percentage of multi-millionaires than Morris and Bergen. To wit: Median home price in Palm Beach County rose to $81,000. The people in the town that’s about to be swallowed up made under $19,000 a year according to that story, right? Meanwhile, Morris and Somerset Counties have median household incomes of $84,000 (numbers 2 and 3 on the rich list, according to CNN.)

    This is the obvious result of Kelo. The already rich get to land-grab their poorer neighbors so more of their rich friends can move in at cheaper prices. God, now I sound like a class warrior.

  29. Evan, “Housing is a “public purpose”?” Making sure adequate housing supply exists for the various populations in town could be a public purpose.

    No, I don’t want to have a discussion about the best way to achieve this goal.

  30. “You can take the land and give it to anyone you want so long as it is part of a plan.” As long as it’s part of a plan that advances a public purpose.

    “You can’t specify the contractor in the plan?” I suppose you could. You just can’t claim that getting the contractor work is the public purpose.

  31. If this is vindication then I’d rather be wrong.

  32. Evan, a taking whose only contribution to the local economy was the profit of the developer would fail the Kelo test as well. The reason NLDC won was because the showed the court* that their development plan would benefit the local economy in other ways, such as promoting more private investment. This differs from the local contracting argument, in which there is no difference in how the disposition of the land will effect the town, and the only “benefit” is that this corporation gets the money, instead of that one.

    But if it goes to a local contractor, then, that would benefit the local economy. He employs local workers, and pays their wages. They spend those wages in various ways that help the local economy. But if it had gone to a distant contractor, then the money would have been funnelled out of the local economy. So, isn’t “keeping the money in the local economy” to be considered “beneficial to the local economy”?

    Just playing devil’s advocate here.

  33. Evan-

    You won’t need to play Devil’s Avocate for that stance. Protectionists everywhere will gladly go to the mat for it.

  34. Damn, Evan beat me to the punch. I agree with him–if you accept the Kelo assumption that it’s okay to confiscate private property to ‘help the local economy,’ I don’t see how this New Jersey thing is any different–the local contractor hires local people who pay local taxes on their local wages. Sounds like an economy-helper to me.

  35. Joe:

    Since resources & goods are, by nature, scarce, it stands to reason that, in a case like Kelo, any gain that comes from getting Phizer to relocate to your town, comes at the expense of another town. So, which town’s “public benefit” trumps the other’s?

    This “locality competition at the expense of the taxpayers” nonsense is precisely how the National’s new land-grabbing/taxpayer-funded stadium came to be in DC. It seems like, whichever town is the most willing to use eminent domain and taxpayer-subsidized bribes, are the ones that “win”. Seems like pretty gross incentives.

    Which is a pretty damned good argument to draw a big thick fucking line before “economic benefit” when you’re talking about “public use”. It simply creates too many gross incentives to abuse the power of government and abuse the once-narrow definition of “public use”. The SCOTUS ruling on Kelo almost invites municipalities to “see how much they can get away with” in order to “win”.

  36. “Nice carpet chewing, though.”

    thanks. my wife seems to enjoy it.

    besides, i’m not much of a libertarian. but eminent domain is wrong.

  37. Evan,

    Past cases have considered that argument, and rejected in. There is a doctrine of “direct benefits” and “indirect benefits.”

    In theory, the New London plan will make New London a better place to live, play and do business. The local economy itself is being improved, and private corporations make more profits as a result of this change to the city.

    In the New Jersey case, it is exactly the opposite.

  38. I think I answered Jennifer’s question, too.

    Evan, Kelo had nothing to do with getting Pfizer. Pfizer’s campus is located outside of the area targetted for takings, and they had committed to relocating there before the redevelopment plan was ever created. The plan was drawn up to take advantage of Pfizer’s decision to locate nearby. Just an FYI.

    But for the meat of your question, you’re getting into local parochialism. While this is actually one of my pet peeves – stupid downs with their tax break arms races to get tenants for their idustrial parks, while the companies chortle and shout “C’mon, dance! Who loves daddy more?” – it’s never played a role in eminent domain constitutional law. If a town takes land to build a bridge, so that the land across the river become attractive for development, the purpose is to cause a company to locate there rather than somewhere else. Hey, towns and states are allowed to define their public purposes for themselves – it might not be smart overall, but from the pov of each individual locality, they’re pursuing their own interests.

    As and aside, might this have some implications for libertarianism? Or am I being a horrible, paternalistic statist for suggesting that this arms race is a bad dynamic?

  39. I’m baffled on this one. You can take the land and give it to anyone you want so long as it is part of a plan. You can’t specify the contractor in the plan?

    I think what is said is not that you can’t specify the contractor, but rather that the contractor can’t be chosen to be local. Rather, the contractor chosen is supposed to be the one that will help the city, as a whole, the most — specifically the contractor that can most efficiently get tax revenue poor properties turned into tax revenue rich properties (for the types of takings we are discussing here). These tax revenue benefits are the diffuse benefit that justifies the taking. The benefit for the contractor is incidental and does not help to support the taking. Governments may exist to collect and redistribute tax monies to the public at large, but they are not supposed to funnel money to specific people or businesses, except to the extent that such government contracts are neccessary to support the thing gov’t is supposed to be doing.

    Now one way around this contractor “problem” is for the local government to do the building in ed areas themselves, hiring no contractors, just employees of the local government. I think we also know why it is not done that way.

    Another way to handle the contractor “problem” is to have the contractors compete. The contractor with the best terms (eg, projected revenue, better yet, promised revenue, bonds)gets the land & associated work. Under this system, the lucky contractor who wins, wins a lot less. They are not getting the windfall of a no bid contract (I think RCD would characterize that kind of thisng as noxious rent seeking.) Rather, the contractor merely gives an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, just like with other clients in the private sector. All good, at least in theory.

    Once you understand that the relevant benefits of ed are supposed to be diffuse accross a large portion of the tax base, you begin to see why it is incompatible to allow the taking to be justified on the basis of a crony contractor getting the windfall of a no bid (or fewer bids) gov’t contract. Of course, contractors are smart and know how to manipulate us: its okay to use gov’t largesse to help my business because I am local or I am a vet or I am black or whatever else migt be deemed to tug the heartstrings of the relevant audience.

    The law Joe cites to nips all this in the bud. No justifying takings by the need to help contractors. Although they do benefit from the takings, these benefits are not supposed to drive the process. And that is probably wise. It is easy to see how a steering requirement can be manipulated into a windfall for a contractor crony. As libertarians, we should be encouraged when courts use sophisticated strategies to prevent these outcomes, and that is exactly what’s going on here.

  40. However, simply relocating economic activity, while it can be valid goal in and of itself (for example, who wouldn’t want to see some of the company’s on a mall’s “waiting list” open up a shop in an urban neighborhood that could really use the goods, services, jobs, and revenues?), it isn’t the highest one. Lousy built environments lower overall economic growth. They stifle it. Making a depressed area attractive for investment is not just a zero-sum game.

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