Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Scary Supreme Court Decision

With all the talk about the future ideological balance of the U.S. Supreme Court these days, most people seem to focus on issues like public religious displays, abortion rights, gay rights, etc. But another recent decision that truly scares me is the recent Kelo vs. New London (Connecticut) judgment that states and municipalities can take people's homes through eminent domain and then give them to private developers. For once, I find myself in agreement with the ultra-conservatives on the Court, who dissented from the ruling. Behind all the cultural issues that occupy so much attention, the Supreme Court is really a bastion for elite interests behind the scenes. The supposed "liberals" on the Court really aren't that liberal, in my view, and it is a shame there are no truly progressive voices there...it is a shame that we have to depend on a few wacko right-wing, defend-private-property-at-all-costs justices like Scalia and Thomas to offer any resistance at all to wealthy, business interests at the Court (at least in this case...there's plenty of other issues where they are promoting corporate power).

But it is reassuring to know that there are some voices from the left out there condeming the Kelo decision, such as Ralph Nader, who also recently co-authored a Villanova Law Review article outlining an alternative proposal. "The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v City of New London mocks common sense, tarnishes constitutional law and is an affront to fundamental fairness," writes Nader in a press release. Mokhiber and Weismann, two of the leading journalists fighting corporate power, have also given a succinct analysis critical of the decision.

Some liberals do seem to support the decision, arguing that the Court made the right ruling on the legal merits and/or that it is important to preserve the legal right of governments to take or regulate private property for public ends. (For an example, see this rather lengthy post on the DailyKos blog...but also note the rather antagonistic reactions he's getting from lots of people commenting, who are themselves mostly self-described political liberals or progressives.) In my view, this is a gut-check progressive populist issue...do we stand with the ordinary small homeowners or the big powerful private companies? We do need to preserve some right for the state to regulate or even in rare cases take private property, with just compensation, for PUBLIC USE (as stated in the Constitution)...but we cannot let it be so open-ended that corrupt politicians can collaborate with powerful private interests to hurt the little people. I fear this could really come back to haunt us when we try to convince people that liberals/progressives are on the side of the ordinary man/woman, unless we make a STRONG STAND for common sense and justice. Well, that's my view. Any others?

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