The Royal Prerogative

The Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London has disclosed one of America’s dirtiest secrets: In this country founded, so we are told repeatedly, on the liberal trinity of rights to life, liberty, and property, our claims to property are as tenuous as the liberty of Christian parents with children in public school or an unborn baby’s “right” to be born.

The reaction to Kelo has been swift.  While some “conservatives” and libertarians have pretended (they cannot expect anyone to take them seriously) to regard it as a states’-rights decision, most have risen up to denounce Kelo, and, in more than a few state legislatures, bills have been introduced to limit the scope of eminent domain.  But the response is not as encouraging as it might appear.  State and local governments have grown used to receiving money from developers—a far less troublesome source of new revenue than tax increases—and much of the conservative outrage, right-thinking as it seems, is nothing better than the rhetoric of professional fundraisers.  Where were these conservative defenders of property when the federal government was confiscating vehicles in drug cases, when state troopers set up barricades to check drivers’ licenses, when thousands of Americans were being dispossessed of their property for such good causes as welfare slums, baseball games,...

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