Outgrowing the Past

Eminent Domain Down South

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, a chill wind blew across the rural South.  The Court upheld the decision of the city fathers of New London, Connecticut, to grant a private development corporation the right to condemn a middle-income residential neighborhood, evict the property owners, and construct a marina, high-rise office buildings, and upscale residential housing.

Thoughtful Southerners found Kelo particularly disturbing because, in their region, the developer is king—more admired and accommodated than football players or country-music singers.  To pig-eyed mayors and councilmen, he is Moses, sent by the gods of getting-and-spending to lead the region out of Egypt.  No candidate for local office has ever been elected by saying, “I don’t want this place to grow.  And if the bigwigs at General Motors try to move their headquarters and production plants down here, they’ll do it over my dead body.”  Big is better.  Small is embarrassing.

Mega-cities such as Atlanta and Memphis and Dallas are not the only places where this ideology prevails.  You can find it in the most insignificant rural town.  Take, for example, Blackville, South Carolina.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the year 2000, Blackville had a population of 2,973.  The Census Bureau estimated the 2004...

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