Think Locally, Act Locally

Good Stewardship

The reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June in Kelo v. City of New London has largely been edifying.  Most commentators, and even many politicians, have greeted with horror the news that local and state governments are free to take property from one private owner to give it to another, as long as the transfer serves the “public good”—defined, of course, not by the person whose property is being seized but by the government doing the seizing.  A majority of states have introduced legislation to counteract the effect of this decision (though, as of this writing, few if any have actually passed such legislation), and several bills are being considered in Congress that would penalize states that did not voluntarily restrain themselves.

Oddly, though, some praise for the decision—however guarded—has emerged from unexpected quarters.  While we might expect some libertarians to cheer any ruling that, in practice, will increase the power of developers and of the nationwide businesses that fund libertarian think tanks, conservative support for the opinion is somewhat more surprising.  Some conservative commentators, however, have seen Kelo as the first major attack on the Incorporation Doctrine, by which the restrictions of the Bill of Rights (originally applied only to the federal government) have been extended to the states.


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