David's Hammer: The Case for An Activist Judiciary

By Clint Bolick | Go to book overview
Save to active project

8. Private Property Rights

The New York Times recently reported on the sad plight of a com- munity of farmers whose land was being seized by the local govern- ment. The powers that be, it seemed, had decided that the land would be better put to use as factories. The farmers' leases were essentially torn up, notwithstanding the constitutional guarantee of sanctity of contract. But as one local leader assured everyone, “All the proper procedures were carried out.” As a result, the fields were bulldozed and people who had farmed land in the countryside their entire lives were compelled to move to the city in an attempt to find work. Some were reduced to collecting and selling garbage.1

Not surprisingly, the events I've just described took place in Com- munist China. One would expect that in a totalitarian country with little respect for property rights or the rule of law, bureaucrats could seize land from one person and give it to another with impunity.

But certainly not in the United States, right? Not only do we have a rich tradition of private property rights, but those rights are expressly protected in the U.S. Constitution.2 Both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments clothe property rights with the guarantee of due process. Even more to the point, the Fifth Amendment states, ”nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

At least that is what Susette Kelo and her neighbors in the Fort Trumbull area of New London, Connecticut, thought until they received a rude awakening. Kelo had lived in her home with its view of the water since 1997 and had made extensive improvements to it. Her neighbor Wilhelmina Dery had lived in her home since she was born in 1918, and her husband took up residence there when they were married more than 60 years ago. Their son lived in the next-door house, which he and his wife received as a wedding gift. The neighborhood was a tidy and close-knit one, comprising residences and small businesses—a true slice of America.

But in the late 1990s, as part of a broader plan to redevelop New London and increase its tax base, the New London Development


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
David's Hammer: The Case for An Activist Judiciary


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 192

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?