Hit & Run

"It's a mistake for urban liberals to stand against the little guy."


As Jacob Sullum noted earlier this week, the Pfizer Corporation announced that it is pulling out of New London, Connecticut, just four years after the Supreme Court notoriously upheld that municipality's misuse of eminent domain on the corporation's behalf in Kelo v. City of New London. In today's New York Times Room For Debate blog, a number of leading commentators on eminent domain and urban renewal weigh in on the whole debacle, including superb analyses from Dana Berliner of the Institute for Justice (which litigated Kelo) and libertarian law professor Ilya Somin. But I'd like to draw particular attention to the words of Paul Bass, editor of the online New Haven Independent. Here's his take, aptly titled "Clarence Thomas Was Right":

The lesson learned in the City of New London's Fort Trumbull neighborhood — or what was once the Fort Trumbull neighborhood — is that urban liberals make mistakes, big mistakes when they stand against the little guy through the misuse of eminent domain….

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was living in New Haven when that lesson became apparent. He wrote the most insightful opinion, a dissenting opinion, in the case of Kelo v. New London. He noted that eminent domain-fueled urban renewal became a synonym for "negro removal." He saw that in New Haven. In New London, that observation could be broadened to include the removal of working-class families of different backgrounds, the kind of urban liberal constituency critical to the New Deal coalition that enabled Democrats convincingly to claim the populist mantle in this country's political debate for four decades.

Yet, in Kelo, it was the conservative justices who sided with Justice Thomas and with families whose neighborhood was destroyed by government-aided powerful private interests. The liberal wing unanimously sided with those interests and with the abusers of eminent domain.

And Democrats wonder why this former constituency now watches Fox News.

Read the whole forum here. Reason on the Kelo outrage here.