Border wall

Why Cards Against Humanity Won't Stop the Border Wall

Eminent domain.


What did you bring back from Mexico? There are no wrong answers, but "a zesty breakfast burrito," "an endless stream of diarrhea" or "a cooler full of organs" might help you win a round of Cards Against Humanity. It's a game where each player puts down a black card with a question—and the other players toss in a white card with the funniest or crudest answer. It's best played while downing tequila shooters.

It's not my cup of tea (or shot of reposado), but the makers of the game also are known for making edgy political points. Last year, a super PAC formed by the company's creators rented a billboard near Chicago that asks this question: "If Trump is so rich, how come he didn't buy this billboard?"

More recently, the company announced that it bought some land on the U.S.-Mexican frontier to help stop the border wall by making "it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built." The goal is to tie up land acquisitions in legal proceedings. It's a clever idea but couldn't possibly work for several reasons.

For starters, the federal government has nearly endless taxpayer-provided resources that will surely crush any effort funded by a company that sells games. A U.S.-Mexican border wall—no matter how wasteful and offensive—clearly is a legitimate use of the power of eminent domain. Eminent domain is the process by which the government takes property for a "public use" even if the property owner has no interest in selling it.

The U.S. Constitution is clear. Under the Fifth Amendment, no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." In other words, the government can take private property provided it's for a "public use" and the owner has due process and is paid "just compensation."

Governments will always push the envelope to expand their power. Over the years, agencies have argued that eminent domain can be used not just for an obvious public project (i.e., a government-owned highway, courthouse or flood channel), but for a "public benefit."

In the 2005 Kelo v. City of New London decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the idea that government can take private property and give it to private developers as long as the new development boosts tax revenues or provides some other benefit to the general public. As someone who covered eminent-domain takings, I saw firsthand the dangers this interpretation has created.

Cities tried to bulldoze houses and businesses to make way for shopping centers as they sought to maximize their tax base. An auto mall or big-box store will always pay more taxes than a private homeowner or small business, so Kelo means that your property rights always are in danger of the next government planning scheme.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in a stinging dissent to the 5-4 decision. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

Fortunately, the high court encouraged states to reform the eminent-domain process. Unfortunately, California's reform did little to pare back the abuses. Note that the political Left has been most zealous in protecting the power of government to take what it wants.

The first time Donald Trump made it onto my radar was in the 1990s, when he tried to acquire a modest house near his Atlantic City, N.J., casino. The old lady who resisted, Vera Coking, has become a property rights folk hero in the ensuing battle.

Bob Guccione offered Coking $1 million for the property in the 1980s to build a casino, but when she said no he started building the project around her, according to news reports. It went bust and Trump took over the project. He, too, tried to woo her to sell out so he could build a limousine parking lot. No problem. Everyone is free to make an offer.

But in 1994 "the casino authority made her an offer she couldn't refuse: They would give her $251,250 for her house," explained Matt Labash in the Weekly Standard. "And if she didn't accept within 30 days, they'd take her to court to snatch her land through eminent domain." Trump backed the authority's efforts, publicly supported Kelo and disparaged Coking in recent years.

Why won't "Cards" stop the wall? Here's the white card: Because the courts will say the wall is a public use. And the company is going up against a man who loves eminent domain. The company's gambit is a noble idea, even if the answers are far less entertaining than the ones about burritos and diarrhea.

NEXT: Political Journalists Have Themselves to Blame for Sinking Credibility

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  1. Cards Against Humanity is already just Apples for Apples for people too meek to make off colour jokes on their own.

    1. We had a house rule for Apples to Apples that the “Helen Keller” card would automatically win whenever it was played. So whoever got it would always hold on to it and try to throw it onto the most inappropriate adjective possible.

    2. “if you don’t like what I like you’re a pussy who is far less cool than me and that makes me cooler than you”. makes sense to me

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      1. makes sense to me! this is tue kind of commentary that keeps me coming back.

  2. I think the reason “Reason Magazine” harps so much on open borders is because it’s really one of the few opinions they have left which will earn them the approval of the cool kids in California, DC, and NYC.

    I mean what else is left? Can’t really harp on gay marriage anymore and weed is almost over. Soon the only thing reason will have in common with our left of center elites is a desire for more poor immigrants.

    Thankfully for Reason there will always be some immigrants who can’t come into the country. So this should be a safe issue to beat on until the magazine is shut down for spreading hatred. You will be the most favored journalists in the Gulag.

    1. I know right; less restrictive immigration policy couldn’t possibly align with their principles or anything. They must be selling out like they did with the gay agenda and the devil’s weed.

      1. No, can’t be. Everyone with an opinion on immigration is either racist, a traitor or just wants to get cocktail party invites.

        1. as a racist who wants to get cocktail party invites, where does that leave me? oh…

    2. You’ve never read anything about classical liberalism then. We don’t want your nation worshipping, authoritarian, cronyism, brown people hating, non-Christian religion hating, breitbart reading, southern conservative leanings around here. thanks.

  3. “The company’s gambit is a noble idea”

    No, it’s not. It’s a bunch of self righteous pricks wasting people’s time and money for press coverage and commercial gain.

    Oh, and take it from someone whose family was stuck behind a border wall for almost half a century: walls do work.

    1. Your last comment sparked my interest. I’d like to hear more of your story.

      1. I would presume Mark would say ‘eich ein Berliner.’

    2. Worse, it is abusive of the eminant domain reform movement efforts and will only serve to put those reforms in a bad light to the courts.

      1. Long Dong Silver’s remark that “citizens are safe from the government in their homes,” in Kelo v. City of New Looters, is especially hilarious. The Gee Oh Pee judge ought to accompany a no-knock raid over a suspected hemp plant and observe that safety up close and personal.

        1. I am trying to make out what that had to do with my post…

          …nope, i am just not seeing it.

    3. Only if you are willing to murder people whose big “crime” is going over, under, through, or around said walls.

      Of course we can’t say that America wouldn’t tolerate the wanton cold blooded murder of the unarmed, so maybe walls will work.

      1. You’re right. Let’s abolish property rights!

        It’s just a line. It’s just a wall. Who are you to judge someone for crossing / entering.

    4. Press coverage and commercial gain are hardly a waste, but otherwise you are spot on.

      It’s free grace, unless they get stuck holding some worthless land.

    5. it’s their money, not yours or mine. They can do whatever the fuck they want with their money.

  4. Last year, a super PAC formed by the company’s creators rented a billboard near Chicago that asks this question: “If Trump is so rich, how come he didn’t buy this billboard?”

    does not illustrate

    but the makers of the game also are known for making edgy political points.

    1. Author failed to mention that it had the website “” I think that is the “edgy” part. Of course, it still strikes me not as edgy but virtue signaling, but what do I know.


      1. Still not edgy, and decidedly less funny.

        1. Didn’t the founder run afoul of a rape claim a few years back by some SJW snowflake?

          At least he learns lessons.

    2. If Trump is so rich, could he cover a rock with so much gold that he couldn’t even buy it?

      1. *so rich and powerful

    3. Edgy for sufficiently vague loose definitions of edgy.

      Edgy would be using your trump card “smegma” in a game of C.A.H. Non-edgy would be putting up a billboard saying Trump did not buy the billboard. Sheesh.

  5. I know Reason hates Trump but eminent domain did not start with him nor will it end with him. It is the government that loves eminent domain

    1. And, as it just so happens, Trump is a big fan of eminent domain, the person pushing for the wall, and the current President. Seems like a situation where making references to Trump is very appropriate.

    2. You really slayed that strawman.

  6. They should talk to the butterfly museum people about how hard it is to clear and take over land that somebody else owns.

    1. I’m sort of not imagining the C.A.H. guys being rich enough to actually do what they say they are going to do. I suspect they bought a really small parcel of crappy desert and will cave when their first legal bill comes in.

      1. Sure, lawyers are expensive. But you can’t really put a price on having hipsters think of purchasing your next expansion deck as a moral choice.

        1. It works both ways. We decided to not expand our CAH collection after they went all political.

          1. I lost all respect for them when they decided that printing offensive cards was no longer acceptable if they offended the wrong people.

            1. Freedom is just another word for nothing to lose.

            2. Try their competitor, Crabs Against Humidity.

          2. I know I haven’t bought an expansion in years because they’ve become rather lame.

        2. There are worse hills for CAH to make a stand on, but this was still a terrible mistake IMO.

          Their target market is the “gamer” and like it or not, a ton of them still have a bad taste in their mouths over how they were treated by progressives during GamerGate. Open Borders is openly viewed as a progressive policy at the moment. Some won’t care, but for those that do this will not encourage them to buy your products. Best to just stay the hell out of all this.

  7. I must’ve missed something in this article. How does eminent domain stop CAH from getting publicity and scoring points with their hipster fans?

  8. The wall idea is somewhat dumb, but not for any of the reasons outlined here. It will be expensive as hell, and a continuing cost out into the future, for a thing that is only likely to temporarily slow movement across the border.

    Reason keeps hoping that most of America will be dumb enough not to realize that American labor protections necessarily must go for their end goal of unlimited immigration. I only say ‘dumb enough’ because Americans love their labor protections way more than they love immigrants, and this has been true for…well…100 years? 150 years?

    Go and have a conversation with the average person about how the minimum wage needs to be abolished, and you’ll get an idea for how likely unlimited immigration really is.

    1. That’s why we specifically need illegal immigration.

      1. Pretty much. Most people are functionally arguing for an underclass of laborer’s who don’t have American labor protections, and it’s mostly because they don’t want to pay the actual and literal price of those labor protections.

        I can’t decide if most of the authors here at Reason are just stupid, or if they actually know what they’re advocating for. I try to take the stance that foreseeable consequences aren’t unintended, but honestly I’m pretty sure authors like Dalmia just can’t see past their noses and have never really thought through what they’re asking of Americans.

        1. Dalmia with all her defects must have an IQ of at least 110. This is 30 points higher than the combined scores of the six most loudmouthed Republican sockpuppets combined. These creeps make Tony seem like a best-selling author.

          1. If all six of them are sock puppets, combining their IQ would be a waste of time since they would all be the same person.

            If Dalmia has an IQ above room temperature, I have seen no evidence of it.

            1. Room temperature, in degrees Celsius

        2. Half the point of making them legal is so they DO have the same labor protections as other American workers, retard.
          If they are not illegal they aren’t unprotected.

          1. Half the point of making them legal is so they DO have the same labor protections as other American workers, retard.

            Oh, my bad. I didn’t realize you intended to make anyone who can mosey across the border a citizen with full labor protections. I’m sure the taxes required to fund the welfare state will be only a little larger when essentially all of Latin America is eligible for American welfare and doesn’t have the education to be competitive in our job market.

            Actually, don’t even bother Hazel. I already know that you’re incapable of seeing past your feelings on the issue. Open borders and protectionism can’t coexist.

        3. It’s an observation that Milton Friedman really seemed to like making. Immigration is great for the country economically. But with a welfare state, it needs to be illegal immigration for it to work that way.

          1. Yup, which is exactly why the can gets kicked down the road.

    2. There are stated preferences and then there are revealed preferences.

      Stated preferences: Red county farmers saying they don’t want illegal immigration.

      Revealed preferences: Red county farmers hiring illegal immigrants to harvest their crops.

      1. Fair enough. Honest question, though, do you think those farmers would still hire those same individuals if they were eligible for the same labor protections as an American?

        The answer, of course, is no. I wonder why Reason doesn’t ever dig into that? Or maybe they have, and I just missed it. I don’t read every article, after all.

  9. Now I’m all confused. What is the difference between eminent domain, taxation, asset-forfeiture, libel confiscation and robbery?

    1. All of those are legal except for robbery. that’s a pretty big difference unless you’re an anarchist who likes jail time.

  10. Cards against who?

    Like so many modern companies the folks behind Cards against Humanity don’t really know who their audience is.

    The think it’s cool, young hipster millennials, all enmeshed in social justice, hookup culture, activism, and masturbatory nostalgia for themselves.

    It’s not. Those people don’t BUY Cards Against Humanity–they complain about it, lobby against it, and seek to make it less triggering.

    The people who BUY their game are the kind who competed to see who could get the ‘The Biggest Blackest Dick” card first so they could use it as an answer for questions about Michelle Obama.

    This problem plagues a lot of companies. They find out as missteps kill them. Ask Cracked.

    1. This problem plagues a lot of companies. They find out as missteps kill them. Ask Cracked.

      Isn’t still going strong?

      1. Cracked just had to lay off a bunch of people due to financial woes. Which, predictably happened once they switched from being a comedy site to being a progressive cheer-leading website.

        1. Huh…well I will admit that I’ve stayed away from anything remotely political on that site since it has nothing to do with movies and that is the only reason I go there. Ever.

        2. I weep for Cracked. It used t be such a good site. Now, not so much. Hopefully someone with the business acumen to not alienate at least half their audience will buy it once it goes under.

    2. As a general rule, I think it’s safe to bet against companies that start espousing progressivism over trying to do their work and service their clients.

    3. There is a significant population of social justice hipsters who want to believe they are the cool, edgy kids. I believe the folks behind CAH are in that population, along with all of their close friends. This is why they believe their audience, or at least the audience they want, is composed of the same kind of people.

      1. I think the mistake in their reasoning is: Their audience =/= the audience they want. Maybe they realize that and are hoping to change it.

  11. Even without the insane Kelo ruling, this would have fallen under legitimate Eminent Domain use. We can argue a border wall is dumb, or that it is a waste of money, or that we should let all the retarded barbarians in so we can all sing Kumbaya but CAH has nothing to stand on here.

    If the FedGov wants their land, they will have it. And if they want to speed up the process of taking it, they can probably do that too. If anything, the courts are not likely to smile on someone who bought land just to refuse the government and prevent it from exercising its legitimate authority.

  12. The most complimentary thing I can say about CAH in this context is that perhaps they really know it can’t ever work, but are just doing it to make a “statement”.

    That they don’t seem to ever make that clear to their customers is, however, not complimentary at all; it’s deceptive, even if not remotely illegal.

  13. Because the courts will say the wall is a public use.

    You could hardly get anything that’s more of a public use than a border wall.

    1. Except it’s not, it’s not effective and it’s just a handout to construction companies by the government. The only thing that would be effective is stricter enforcement of employment laws and a national ID card that is very hard to duplicate and making it a felony to hire an illegal. That’s the only way you can stop border crossing significantly.

  14. I don’t believe this article is strictly correct as this strategy has been used successfully before by environmentalist campaigners to stop the M40 in the UK being built through a wetland area – see‘s_Meadow for more details.

  15. Cards Against Humanity have stated that their goal isn’t to defeat the government in court, only to delay the building of the wall for as long as possible, hopefully until there’s a new president or the political will to build the wall is lost.

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