A Fitting Property Rights Memorial

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 7, 2005 | Go to article overview

A Fitting Property Rights Memorial


Byline: Todd Gaziano and Paul Rosenzweig, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

One of the "great first principles of the social compact" is that a legislature can not "take property from A and give it to B." So said the Supreme Court just after our nation was founded.

"It is against all reason and justice," the court said in 1798, "for a people to entrust a legislature with such powers; and, therefore, it cannot be presumed that they have done so."

Well, so much for that 200-year old presumption.

Just a few days ago, by a 5-4 vote in a case called Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court rejected the Founders' wisdom and said it was perfectly fine for the city of New London, Conn., to take Wilhelmina Dery's house - a house her family had lived in more than 100 years - and 14 neighboring houses (including one owned by Suzette Kelo), and give them to Pfizer Inc., so it could knock them down and build a global research center.

Why would the city do that? Apparently, Pfizer will pay more in taxes than Mrs. Dery and her neighbors. And according to the Supreme Court, that's enough. No longer is your home your own. No longer do we believe, as William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, said in a 1763 speech to the House of Lords that: "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter. But the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement."

Instead, our new city-kings can take any property they choose - particularly if they take from the poor and give to the higher-tax-paying rich. How's that for turning Robin Hood upside down? Is it any wonder minority groups such as the NAACP were on the side of Mrs. Dery and are now up in arms?

As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor correctly wrote in her dissent: "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property." No property is safe from expropriation by the government.

Congress has moved quickly to respond. …

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