June 23, 2005

MORE ON KELO: Judging by my email, and the reactions I've seen around the blogosphere, I think the political impact of this decision is going to be very large. Here are a few thoughts on the impacts it may have:

Bad for Bush: A lot of conservatives -- especially the small-government, libertarian-leaning kind -- are already deeply unhappy. This may cause them to either withdraw from politics, or at least lose vigor in supporting the Republicans. It's been a steady stream of bad news for them this year, and the Bush Administration hasn't exactly thrown them any bones. Passing Social Security reform might have fixed that, but the less said about that subject, the better.

Good for Bush: The White House spin will be "This is why we need to confirm our judges." Nice, if they can make it work. But will they be nominating people who would have voted the other way in this case? And -- more to the point -- judges aside, are they willing to support legislation to address this issue? If they are, they may get some traction. If they aren't, then the comments about judges will look like an effort to change the subject and escape responsibility.

Other Impacts: I suspect that this decision -- somewhat like Bowers -- will cause a lot of activists to shift their focus to state legislatures and state courts. One difference: State legislatures, and sometimes state courts, are in the pockets of real estate developers and corrupt local politicians in a way that they weren't beholden to anti-gay-rights activists. So it'll be a lot harder. This may also lead to a greater focus on local politics by political activists (and bloggers!) of all stripes. That, at least, would probably be a good thing.

UPDATE: This is not as big a deal for the left, but maybe it should be. As Julian Sanchez notes:

Now that the "liberal" justices on the court have sided with the drug warriors against cancer patients, and with a plan to rob people of their homes for the benefit of wealthy developers, will some court-watchers on the left begin to question the wisdom of having let economic freedom become the red-headed stepchild of modern jurisprudence?

My guess is no, but I'd love to be wrong.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. This post at Kos is supportive of the decision, but the commenters seem to think that it's a giveaway to Wal-Mart at the expense of the poor. Which is certainly true.

Meanwhile, here's a proposal from Right-Thinking that even the Kossacks might get behind:

Here’s a thought: How about the GOP-controlled Congress puts the flag desecration amendment on the back burner and gets to work on an amendment limiting the power of the state to seize private property from citizens?

I think it's a great idea.

MORE: Reader Eric Cowperthwaite has surveyed the blogosphere reactions linked below and observes: "If this is how the normally GOP leaning libertarians and minarchists feel, the GOP is in deep trouble right now."

Depends on what they do. But if they do what I expect -- not much -- then, yeah. Meanwhile, reader Matt Ness emails:

Just wanted you to know that I'm a proud liberal who reads your blog on occasion, and I've always appreciated your even-handed regarding most subjects, even though I tend not to agree with you on many of them.

I was really happy to see that you acknowledged that not all liberals out there favor the Kelo decision. My wife and I were both horrified when we read the news about it. It didn't seem like a left-wing decision to us at all--it seemed crazy. And it was quite obvious that this decision would ultimately favor folks like Wal-Mart and business park developers over the poor and middle-class.

I think you'll find that many self-described "liberals" and "left-wingers" do not support this turn of events. None of us want to see our hard-earned homes handed over to Best Buy or whatever.

Perhaps we'll have a political Perfect Storm, then. Nothing would please me more.

MORE: A reader who prefers anonymity thinks this is the end of the real estate bubble:

Some of the luster attached to dirt has been severely diminished for the small investor class. I've made a few dollars in real estate and now I'm gong to have to look elsewhere. Having the capriciousness of government looming over my property takes all the safety out of the equation. On an even more serious note, the three pillars of prosperity for emerging nations are free markets, rule of law, and private property rights. We just got busted down to third world status.

Ouch. Realistically, I don't know how much this should affect investment decisions, at least in the short term. But psychologically it may have more of an effect, and the long-term point is apt if perhaps a bit overstated.

STILL MORE: Slashdot: "Needless to say, the little guy loses to the commercial developer this case... "

Inevitable followup comment: "All your homes are belong to us."

Jonah Goldberg: "I don't see any downside whatsoever in George W. Bush going before the cameras and delivering a sober but stern denunciation of this ruling. The principles are obvious."

TAPPED calls it an "illiberal ruling" and observes:

Loose interpretations of a government's right of eminent domain is the sort of thing we expect in Harare -- not New London.

Plus, Ry Cooder has thoughts. Hey, maybe it is a Perfect Storm!

Still more here. And, er, here . . . .

Jonathan Adler: "There are a few problems with President Bush going out and attacking the Supreme Court's Kelo decision. First, the Bush Administration had the opportunity to intervene on the side of the homeowners, and they decided not to. Indeed, it was pretty clear to those watching the case that if the Solicitor General's office participated at all, it would have been on the side of the city government seeking to use eminent domain." Oops.

Jeff Goldstein: "This is nannystatism at its most cynical. And if the Bush administration were to use this ruling to push for the kinds of conservative justices who strongly object to what amounts to outright thievery and municipal bullying, I think they’d have a real winner on their hands. . . . Personally, I’m for starting a cyber support group for the New Londoners who are planning a show of civil disobedience when the bulldozers tractor up to the doors of their homes. Anybody else?"

Michelle Malkin has another roundup.

Donald Sensing, meanwhile, thinks that churches will make especially attractive targets for eminent domain: "[T]here is no kind of building more vulnerable than a house of worship, for the simple reason that cities do not collect property taxes from houses of worship, nor any other kind of tax. . . . In every city and town in America you will find churches sitting on what is now some the most valuable land there."

We'll see.