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"Kelo v. City of New London" and the Limits of Eminent Domain
Author: Ilya Somin
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the city of New London, Connecticut, could condemn fifteen residential properties in order to transfer them to a new private owner. Although the Fifth Amendment only permits the taking of private property for “public use,” the Court ruled that the transfer of condemned land to private parties for “economic development” is permitted by the Constitution—even if the government cannot prove that the expected development will ever actually happen. The Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London empowered the grasping hand of the state at the expense of the invisible hand of the market. In this detailed study of one of the most controversial Supreme Court cases in modern times, Ilya Somin argues that Kelo was a grave error. Economic development and “blight” condemnations are unconstitutional under both originalist and most “living constitution” theories of legal interpretation. They also victimize the poor and the politically weak for the benefit of powerful interest groups and often destroy more economic value than they create. Kelo itself exemplifies these patterns. The residents targeted for condemnation lacked the influence needed to combat the formidable government and corporate interests arrayed against them. Moreover, the city’s poorly conceived development plan ultimately failed: the condemned land lies empty to this day, occupied only by feral cats. The Supreme Court’s unpopular ruling triggered an unprecedented political reaction, with forty-five states passing new laws intended to limit the use of eminent domain. But many of the new laws impose few or no genuine constraints on takings. The Kelo backlash led to significant progress, but not nearly as much as it may have seemed. Despite its outcome, the closely divided 5-4 ruling shattered what many believed to be a consensus that virtually any condemnation qualifies as a public use under the Fifth Amendment. It also showed that there is widespread public opposition to eminent domain abuse. With controversy over takings sure to continue, The Grasping Hand offers the first book-length analysis of Kelo by a legal scholar, alongside a broader history of the dispute over public use and eminent domain and an evaluation of options for reform.
This collection examines the classical liberal perspective within the professional study of history. The contributors investigate the origins and development of the classical liberal approach, argue for its revival within academia, and analyze its relevance to such topics as economics, civil liberties, feminism, and civil rights.
Bestselling author Michael Shermer's exploration of science and morality that demonstrates how the scientific way of thinking has made people, and society as a whole, more moral From Galileo and Newton to Thomas Hobbes and Martin Luther King, Jr., thinkers throughout history have consciously employed scientific techniques to better understand the non-physical world. The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment led theorists to apply scientific reasoning to the non-scientific disciplines of politics, economics, and moral philosophy. Instead of relying on the woodcuts of dissected bodies in old medical texts, physicians opened bodies themselves to see what was there; instead of divining truth through the authority of an ancient holy book or philosophical treatise, people began to explore the book of nature for themselves through travel and exploration; instead of the supernatural belief in the divine right of kings, people employed a natural belief in the right of democracy. In The Moral Arc, Shermer will explain how abstract reasoning, rationality, empiricism, skepticism--scientific ways of thinking--have profoundly changed the way we perceive morality and, indeed, move us ever closer to a more just world.
Constitutionalism and Rights explores the ambivalent relationship between the American tradition of constitutionalism and the notions of rights that have emerged over the last three centuries. The six essays focus systematically on selected tensions between these two fundamental strands in the American tradition of liberty and self-government. Discussed are: ideas of rights and constitutionalism generally; mechanisms and procedures necessary to assure rights in a large bureaucratic state; rights as expressed in public welfare programs; innovations employed by the eighteenth-century Framers to achieve limited government as a means to securing fair and equal individual freedom; the dependence of rights on institutional devices and the rule of law; the need for public virtue (balancing individual rights with self-sacrifice for the common good) if the American constitutional system is to survive; and the dangers of individualism and individual rights posed by modern liberalism. The essayists are prominent scholars representing the disciplines of political science, government, and law. They all state their confidence in the American constitutional system, but they also voice doubts about the future if problems are not redressed. The editors conclude their introduction by expressing hope that this volume "will clarify some important issues and help us remember essential lessons of the past, as we continue in this great public conversation." Constitutionalism and Rights is the first of a three-volume series examining significant features of the Constitution. The series, inspired by the bicentennial of that great achievement, consists of essays presented by scholars at three conferences on the Constitution held at Brigham Young University in 1985, 1986, and 1987, and several additional essays written especially for these volumes.