Eminent domain is seizing private property wrongly

The takings clause of the Fifth Amendment states ” ….nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation,” and it applies to the federal government. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment reaffirms the 5th Amendment and applies to state and local officials.

Around 2000, the city of New London, Connecticut, seized private property by eminent domain and transferred it to a private developer. The owners sued in state court arguing that the seizure violated the takings clause. The case eventually ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 and in a split decision, referred to as Kelo vs. City of New London, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the plaintiffs. The concurring justices included four reliable liberals and Justice Kennedy (“the vacillator”).

As a fitting testament to another reprehensible decision of the court — on par with Dred Scott, Brown, Korematsu and Roe — the property sits vacant to this day.

In a nauseating repeat of history, the Fulton County Board of Supervisors, the city of Johnstown and the Fulton County IDA have conspired to seize the private property of an individual, one Robert Bowe — an old, weary and sick veteran no less — and hand over a sizable chunk of his property to a private developer who would construct additional residences in an area where home prices are already depressed. (I guess these folks just don’t understand the laws of supply and demand and just because you build something does not necessarily mean that they will come.)

“Albert O. Hirschman famously argued that citizens of democracies have only three possible responses to injustice or wrongdoing by their governments: we may leave, complain, or comply.” (Credit goes to an unnamed Amazon book reviewer). Jason Brennan counters in his book “When All Else Fails, the Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice” that there is fourth option: when governments violate our rights, we may resist with acts of uncivil disobedience. We may even have a moral duty to do so and we may even use force in self-defense or to defend others.

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it” — Edmund Burke.

CHARLES HEIMERDINGER

Edinburg