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Pfizer's Role in Kelo Takings:

Several people have noted that they believe that my reference to "what's good for Pfizer is good for New London" in a recent post was a red herring. As I have noted previously, Justice Stevens begins his opinion by contending that the New London redevelopment plan came about only after painstaking consultation with all relevant stakeholders, and in the end, the city just happened to agree with Pfizer on everything that it wanted, including the taking of the Kelo plaintiffs' homes.

I confess that I was surprised at some of these criticisms. Having talked to lawyers involved in the case, it seemed to be fairly well understood and accepted that Pfizer was the driving force behind the plan and that the takings were undertaken at Pfizer's behest. As one lawyer reported at a Georgetown Federalist Society program that I participated in, "Pfizer got pretty much everything that they wanted."

An article in the the New London Day newspaper (registration required) has now uncovered the depth of the Pfizer's involvement in motivating the government's exercise of the eminent domain power to take the Kelo plaintiffs' homes (HT: Roy Poses at Health Care Renewal Blog). Using extensive documents obtained under the state's Freedom of Information Act, the article reports that Pfizer drove the process from the outset and essentially made the takings of private homes and subsequent redevelopment a condition for its moving to New London.

The article is very long and detailed. I'll just quote the first several paragraphs that sum up the findings of the investigation:

Pfizer's Fingerprints On Fort Trumbull Plan

Documents show the pharmaceutical giant was involved in the Fort Trumbull project form its inception, even before announcing its research center would expand into the New London neighborhood

In mid-July, as commentators and politicians around the country decried this city's attempt to seize private homes for economic development on the Fort Trumbull peninsula, a press release appeared on the Web site of Pfizer Inc.

The pharmaceutical company, whose $300 million research complex sits adjacent to what remains of the neighborhood, announced that it wanted to set the record straight on its involvement in the Fort Trumbull development project.

The project, the statement said, wasn't Pfizer's idea.

"We at Pfizer have been dismayed to see false and misleading claims appear in the media that suggest Pfizer is somehow involved in this matter," the statement said. The writers said the company "has no requirements nor interest in the development of the land that is the subject of the case."

But a recent, months-long review of state records and correspondence from 1997 and 1998 — when officials from the administration of then-Gov. John G. Rowland were helping convince the pharmaceutical giant to build in New London — shows that statement is misleading, at best.

In fact, the company has been intimately involved in the project since its inception, consulting with state and city officials about the plans for the peninsula and helping to shape the vision of how the faded neighborhood might eventually be transformed into a complex of high-end housing and office space, anchored by a luxury hotel.

The records — obtained by The Day through the state Freedom of Information Act — show that, at least as early as the fall of 1997, Pfizer executives and state economic development officials were discussing the company's plans, not just for a new research facility but for the surrounding neighborhood as well.

And, after several requests, the state Department of Economic and Community Development produced a document that both the state and Pfizer had at first said did not exist: A 1997 sketch, prepared by CUH2A, Pfizer's design firm for its new facility. Labeled as a "vision statement," it suggested various ways the existing neighborhood and nearby vacant Navy facility could be replaced with a "high end residential district," offices and retail businesses, expanded parking and a marina.

Those interactions took place months before Pfizer announced that it would build in the city, on the site of the former New London Mills linoleum factory, and months before the New London Development Corp. announced its redevelopment plans for the neighborhood and the former Naval Undersea Warfare Center next door.

As I have noted, a particular understanding of the facts in the case and the governmental processes behind it seems to underpin Justice Stevens's opinion in the case. His belief that judicial enforcement of the "public use" clause is unnecessary seems to be rooted in the notion that local democratic processes will be transparent and participatory in discerning the "public good" in these matters. In fact, it seems clear that Pfizer had the taking of individual's house "wired" from the outset and that there was little that could be done to change this.

The article notes the way in which the Court's particular understanding of the facts influenced its decision in the case:

NLDC and city officials have long characterized their efforts to recast the working-class neighborhood as a response to Pfizer's decision to build on the peninsula, rather than a move made as a condition of Pfizer's involvement in the project.

And in the state and federal court rulings that upheld the city's takings of homes for the private development project, judges at every level of the judiciary have assumed the same.

Even in a blistering dissent, which warned that the NLDC's plan left all private property under the "specter of condemnation," U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor sets the beginning of the case in February 1998, when Pfizer announced its plans to build its facility. While challenging the constitutionality of the eminent domain project, O'Connor and the other justices accept that it was an independent effort to "complement" the construction of a research complex next door.

But in a series of recent interviews, several former high-ranking state officials confirmed what opponents of the project have long insisted and what the company continues to deny: The state's agreement to replace the existing neighborhood was a condition of Pfizer's move here.

Current and former Pfizer executives, meanwhile, concede that the company expected a major redevelopment of the area to occur and offered guidance, but they strongly deny that they insisted on specific changes.

The entire article is worth reading. I hope it is still available on the Day's website.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Pfizer Responds to New London Day Story:
  2. Pfizer's Role in Kelo Takings:
AppSocRes (mail):
I'm not a lawyer, but might there not be a civil remedy here? Given this information, might not an attorney be able to argue that collusion by Pfizer and the New London City Council resulted in damages to those parties who did not wish to sell but were forced to as a result of the emminent domain proceedings? Whether or not such a suit were to break new legal ground and whether or not it were succesful, it would embarass Pfizer and the Ne London politicians behind this piracy, and put government and corporate interests on notice that there is a price to be payed for their rapacious indifference to us citizens.
10.24.2005 10:38am
Public_Defender:
In these comment sections, a couple people kept insisting that Pfizer had absolutely nothing to do with forcing the Fort Trumbull people out of their homes. The commenters kept denying Pfizer's role even after I quoted the NLDC's web site that praised the service of Pfizer's management on the NLDC's board.

The question is, will those commenters now finally admit they were wrong?

And for those who honestly believed Pfizer had nothing to do with this, I have a friend in Nigeria who needs just $350 so he can access $10 million in frozen funds. Once he has his $10 million, he'll send you a 10% fee for your services. Please send your bank account information to . . . .
10.24.2005 10:58am
Richard Riley (mail):
Well, the courts' (at least the federal courts') traditional practice is to assume that legislation is enacted in an orderly and public-spirited fashion. Could Prof Zywicki explain when he thinks it would be appropriate for courts to "go behind" legislation and find, or assume, corruption in the legislative process, as he suggests here? I'm no proponent of what happened in New London, and my question is serious. When does, or can, or should a judge find corruption in the process, and base a decision on that? Does it require judicial findings of fact? What quantum of corruption or accommodation of private interests would be enough to vitiate a statute or ordinance? Surely we don't want to say that some level of media buzz creates a presumption of corruption, since that's certainly no better and may be worse than the current presumption of legislative regularity.
10.24.2005 11:00am
William Spieler (mail) (www):
I liked when the lawyer said, "politicians don't get money for abusing eminent domain," and I laughed.
10.24.2005 11:04am
Virginia:
Conspiring to do something legal is not a crime, even if it harms someone. And according to five justices of the Supreme Court, what Pfizer and New London did was perfectly legal.
10.24.2005 11:10am
corngrower:
AHHH? What did Pfizer do wrong? You may have to back in the Archives. But I seem to remember A SCOTUS decission that said it is Constitutional to take private poperty from one person and sell to another person. So if Pfizer is guilty of collusion to convince NLDC to expand the area next to its holdings, (in my business we call it negotiating) No laws were broken and according to SCOTUS 'the public good' portion in the constitution was met. So were does a civil suit come from that violated no law.
10.24.2005 11:17am
Troy:
Pfizer did what corporations do. If I wanted to build a development I would do the same thing. Government is there to regulate this sort of stuff. The courts and politicians (notice how I separated the 2 for humorous effect) are allowed to say "No" or "Take a hike" or (my personal favorite "Go pound sand."

It's sort of like (not completely mind you) blaming my kid for eating too many cookies. He asked and I gave them to him and my job is to regulate the amount of cookies my son eats. Who's fault is it? His for seeking cookies? (something 5 year olds do to perfection) or mine for not adequately regulating his intake? Assume I have control of the cookie jar.
10.24.2005 12:14pm
Crane (mail):
To expand on Troy's example, Pfizer is like a ridiculously wealthy kid who offers wads of cash to a poor babysitter to let him eat as many cookies as he wants. Sure, it's her job to keep him from stuffing himself, but she's got bills to pay and that money could make a big difference.
10.24.2005 12:21pm
Public_Defender:
"What did Pfizer do wrong?"
"So were does a civil suit come from that violated no law?"


These are two very different questions. I agree that there does not appear to be grounds for a civil lawsuit, but it's still fair to argue that Pfizer was morally wrong to force people out of their homes just so the company's new building can be in a prettier neighborhood.

It's also fair for the homeowners to use political pressure against Pfizer and the the NLDC to try to stop the evictions. Pfizer and the NLDC decided to use the political process to kick people out of their homes. Pfizer and the NLDC can't justifiably complain when the homeowners use the same weapon to fight back.

The professor is right, this is an interesting fight. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Who has the power to stop the takings. Can the city do it? The State? Only the NLDC? If the city stops the takings, does it have to pay the NLDC an inflated price for the homes? What liability for the city and/or state did the developer build into the contracts? Could the city just re-re-zone the area residential to stop the NLDC from razing the homes?

This is a chess match in which all sides get penalized for being too aggressive or too passive.
10.24.2005 12:25pm
Troy:
Crane...

Yes the "babysitter" is more apt than the "parent" (I slipped into parens patriae mode for a moment!

If Pfizer bribed, then of course they're wrong. If they just strongly asked and cajoled and offered a corporate HQ, etc. then what's the big deal? New London is allowed to have scruples and act on those. Unfortunately for the Kelos --- New London did.
10.24.2005 12:37pm
Aultimer:
How about fraud? It seems Pfizer said they had "no requirements nor interest in the development of the land" when that wasn't true. The landowners relied in their approach to lobbying the government. It's a stretch, but so was the taking.
10.24.2005 12:47pm
roy solomon (mail):
Should we take this as the rantings of an untamed male, or has your wife vetted it as socially appropriate?
10.24.2005 1:00pm
Delurking (mail):
Doesn't the city have a stronger case to justify the takings if it is true that Pfizer made it a condition of their locating a research center in New London? If we accept that fostering economic development is an acceptable "public use", then showing that Pfizer would not build a research center at all if the properties were not taken and converted into office and hotel space just strengthens the case for the taking.

If the city takes the properties and gives them to the developers, they get not only new offices, shops, and a hotel to spur economic development, but also a $300M (IIRC) research center, which undoubtedly will bring a few hundred Ph.D.-educated people and their families to the area, each of whom will be paid a salary well over $100,000. Those people will also value education, and make sure that the schools in the area improve. The research center will also hire 1000 or so support staff for the researchers, at salaries much higher than are currently available in the depressed area. (These numbers are estimates based on a $300M facility, if I have that wrong, they are off.)

If the city refuses to take the properties, Pfizer goes elsewhere.

Now, how is it that the case against use of eminent domain is stronger now that it is known that Pfizer wanted this?

I think Pfizer and the gov't didn't want it known that this was a condition of building a research center because it is in vogue to demonize corporations and those who do "collude" with them, but I don't understand the arguments being made here that the case for the takings is now weaker.

Personally, I still think that governments should not be able to authorize such takings, because:
1. I think they will screw it up more often than not, harming the people whose properties they seize and providing no economic benefit for their cities.
2. If no government were allowed to do this, the companies couldn't use it as a bargaining chip.
3. There is too much potential for abuse by local governments.

Thanks for your comments.
10.24.2005 1:12pm
Byomtov (mail):
Interesting post. It's quite refreshing to see conservatives objecting to corporations using political clout and money to get their way to the detriment of individual citizens.
10.24.2005 1:12pm
Visitor Again:
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but THE PROCESS IS ALWAYS CURRUPTED in these things! How out of touch can you be? As out of touch as five Supreme Court justices.
10.24.2005 1:16pm
Public_Defender:
As far as I can see (which may not be far enough), the only way Pfizer's dishonesty could matter legally is if the company lied in the eminent domain proceedings.

If Pfizer or the NLDC knowingly submitted false evidence to the court about Pfizer's role, then maybe, maybe, the homeowners could get a do-over of the court case. But I doubt it would work.
10.24.2005 1:34pm
Tbag (mail) (www):
Does this mean that some Libertarians are not just "libertarians" and recognize that corporate power, and especially corporate coopting of state power, can also be a serious threat to true individual liberty and individual property rights?

That would be a refreshing change of pace.
10.24.2005 1:39pm
GuestGuy:
If this taking is such an attrocity and the entire city is affronted, why don't the people just throw the bums out of office? This doesn't seem to be a case where minority rights are being trampled by an overzealous majority. True, a minority of citizens will lose their homes (albeit while receiving just compensation), but a vast majority seems to be opposed, while only a minority is in favor...
10.24.2005 1:54pm
corngrower:
PD

Pfizer did nothing wrong. Cannot be sued in a criminal or civil court.

But It's still morally wrong.

I got a whole cadre of the morally wrong.

The public school system. Morally wrong? Your serious right? Morally wrong?
The entire system of the public school system is not morally wrong? The public school system is morally bankrupt. IF…. The public school system would even tempted educate our young in the last 40 years; this would not be a discussion. The parties involved would understand the constitution and we would not have the Kelo decision.

Now thats an example of morally wrong. Can I sue them?

Please. Did not Pfizer buy the property without the use of eminent domain? The question is NLDC taking property to extend more private business.

It's also fair for the homeowners to use political pressure against Pfizer and the the NLDC to try to stop the evictions

Yes they are free to use public pressure Just the Law of the land NOW states'Nope you don't have the right to stop the sale of your property to another private person' So if you want to speak of morals you may want to have a contact with your SCOTUS justice to reconsidered their brilliant legal decisions and reverse them. And guess what. There is no longer (never been) the right of private property ownership. Hence a local govt has no power to overturn the constitution. Without amending the new constitution that SCOTUS has handed down by fiat. 5 unelected citizens that sit on SCOTUS

An interesting fight.

If SCOTUS could read the constitution no one would have to type a word.

Change the zoning. Love that idea. how bout you buy some land to build a retirement home for your golden years. But wait 6 months later that plot of land you paid $60,000 for because of its great location, gets rezoned. Now its worth $1500.00 ( I did not forget a zero) You still own it. You cant build a house on it. You cant farm it. You cant sell it, because the supreme city council decide it needs to be 'wild', and no one can do anything with it but let it go back to the wild. Yeah, sure change the zoning. long term that looks good for the little guy, like you.

The govt NEVER has to pay an inflated price for the property,,,,.Why, because they dont have to, because you cant sue the govt without its consent.

SCOTUS booted this and I dont know how to fix it.
10.24.2005 2:10pm
Lorenzo (mail):
There seems to be an assumption that if Pfizer did no wrong (legally speaking) then there's no case. There's also the matter of NLDC and its conduct of the process. It was assumed by the judges all down the line to and including SCOTUS that the process was transparent and all "stakeholders" were part of the decision making. The property owners were stakeholders, and it's obvious (now that withheld documents have been revealed) that the homeowners had no influence in the process and it was not transparent. Federal attorneys have indicted several Connecticut mayors for corruption with less to work with than that.
10.24.2005 2:18pm
cfw (mail):
"Personally, I still think that governments should not be able to authorize such takings, because:
1. I think they will screw it up more often than not, harming the people whose properties they seize and providing no economic benefit for their cities.
2. If no government were allowed to do this, the companies couldn't use it as a bargaining chip.
3. There is too much potential for abuse by local governments."

Interesting "bottom line".

To some extent it may boil down to what we trust more, the Adam Smith "free market" approach or the idea that democracy works.

Assuming the democratic process is properly triggered (full disclosure, with elected officials making the call), I would consider democracy the more tested process.

Hence, I would support the framer's decision to allow ED, with just compensation, subject to the Justice Stevens proviso that it should be disfavored from a policy perspective (used as a last resort when leaving the issue to the free market seems wrong).

If the NLDC had called for a referendum before the $300 million project as a whole began, and disclosed all the negotiations with Pfizer, does anyone doubt how the community would have voted? On what evidence tied to voting?

The cost/benefit analysis seems to have favored the Pfizer project as a whole, by a wide margin. The Kelo minority can claim they are getting "screwed" to serve the majority, but they have their rights to just compensation. They have psychic injury, yes, granted, and that is something we can all regret.

But such injury is part and parcel of life in complex society, no? If the loss of the Kelo house (that she bought the year befroe the condemnation proceedings started) is all she suffers in the way of psychic injury in 80 years of life, is she not going to objectively look back and see herself as blessed with a pretty trouble-free life? If she remains emotionally scarred and traumatized for years and years, is she perhaps being a bit overly-sensitive?
10.24.2005 2:32pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Richard, you ask a fair set of questions, which I think point out the problem with the majority decision in Kelo. They obviously didn't want to give their seal of approval to overly corrupt takings, so they had to pretend that there was a real distinction between those and the routine deals.

The O'Connor approach avoids this problem, by creating a bright line. (Boy, there's a sentence I never thought I'd type.)

The point isn't that the courts should "go behind" the deals and overturn the egregious ones; the point is that such "corruption" is a feature, not a bug. Towns don't confiscate land for private developers out of some idealistic notion of the common good; they do so when there's a collusive arrangement between the developer and the town.

---

Tbag: Does this mean that some Libertarians are not just "libertarians" and recognize that corporate power, and especially corporate coopting of state power, can also be a serious threat to true individual liberty and individual property rights?
That would be a refreshing change of pace.


Does that mean that you don't understand the difference between "corporate power" and "corporate coopting of state power"? The latter illustrates exactly why the former isn't a problem. Without the 'state power', there's nothing for the corporation to coopt. Libertarians have always recognized this. It's the state that's the problem; liberals refuse to recognize that.
10.24.2005 2:34pm
corngrower:
Guest guy

You are right. Throw them out. I have sent a letter to each, school board member, township member, city council member. county board member, state representative, etc

Would you vote to take private property in order to sell it to another private person?

As of now I have very few responses. If this is a question that takes a lot of thought, I am very concerned
10.24.2005 2:39pm
Lorenzo (mail):
Corngrower, I assume you think the vote would always be 'no'. One reason the definition of public use was expanded was the need for ED to allow privately owned public utilities to work. Privately owned, but regulated, trolley systems were built by free enterprise to serve cities that couldn't afford to create publicly owned transit. Here in San Diego, the first water distribution system was privately owned, building aqueducts to deliver mountain water to the coast. In both cases, there were physical limits to the siting of the facilities. If you'd put it to a vote asking "Do you approve of ED to build a trolley so you don't have to walk or own a horse?", or "Do you approve of ED to build a steady water supply can be built for when your well goes dry?" you'll probably get a 'yes' vote. It's not always a case of "Do you approve taking the Jones house so the Smiths can live there?" or even "Do you approve taking the Kelo house so luxury condos with a view can be built for Pfizer researchers?"
10.24.2005 4:18pm
Public_Defender:
Pfizer did nothing wrong.

Do you know that for sure? If I were an Institute for Justice attorney, I'd be scouring the evidence to see if I could find Pfizer lies big enough for a motion to set aside the judgment. There's probably nothing bad enough, but I'd look.
10.24.2005 5:03pm
Visitor Again:
Voting the bums out is no answer because the majority of the voters usually support the bums. The political bigshots and the corporate bigshots have things settled beforehand. The package is then trotted out to the public at large. The advantage to the vast majority will be clear--e.g., a spanking new shopping mall cnveniently located but not in their backyard, plus a huge increase in the municipality's tax base. The only ones screwed are a few dozen small home owners and/or small business owners, who lose their property. These takings for the benefit of new private owners rarely if ever result in any political upheaval.

In Kelo the Supreme Court pretty much gave carte blanche to government as to what is public use. California did not even need the Kelo decision. In California a local government body has the power to declare an area blighted and subject to redevelopment, and once that declaration has been made, the area is then CONCLUSIVELY PRESUMED TO BE BLIGHTED FOR ALL PURPOSES BY LAW. The local governing body then adopts a redevelopment plan, proposals are accepted from private concerns, property is either bought under pressure of eminent domain proceedings or subjected to such proceeedings, and the area becomes a new shopping mall. Everyone is happy but the small minority of ousted owners. This huge unchecked eminent domain power in California may be subject to some sort of constitutional challenge, but it has not yet been challenged as far as I know.

As far as I can see, Pfizer did nothing illegal. Secret meetings and negotiations and deals are all business as usual. If someone lied about or concealed something material during the eminent domain proceedings, too bad; that's intrinsic fraud and does not render the proceedings invalid. If you don't expose it at trial, you are out of luck.

The only check on this power is the just compensation clause and its limitations on eminent domain, which appear to be nonexistent under Kelo.
10.24.2005 5:22pm
Howard (mail):
One would think that with its stock tanking Pfizer would have much bigger problems to solve first instead of trying to steal homeowners' property for a dubious plan

Howard, 104 shares
10.24.2005 7:31pm
Ralph (mail) (www):
I am a New London native, but have lived out of town since before NLDC was established, and just resettled here three years ago. I am not up to speed on all the twists and turns in this story, but one thing I have found out on the "eve" of municipal elections on Nov. 8, is that only two of the seven city councilors were in office when this all started. To some undeterminable extent, it seems we have already thrown most of the bums out. Blanket disapproval of all the current incumbents (some of whom campaigned on their opposition to NLDC) would be painting with too broad a brush.

Besides, at their October meeting, the council voted unanimously to "fire" NLDC -- a virtual impossibility, but it got everyone's attention and the state weighed in on some issues that an arrogant NLDC had been ignoring. I think most if not all the councilors could now conceive of speaking "NLDC" and "Frankenstein's monster" in the same breath, even if only under their breath.

Because New London is so small in area (about 7 square miles) and so loaded with tax-exempt real estate (state and federal properties, a large hospital, three college campuses, several churches, etc.) the property tax rate is quite high and the city's budget is quite tight. The economic calculus is a bit different here, and the benefit to the city of having the Pfizer facility here may not be all it appears, especially to outsiders.

My hypothesis is that most of those high-price Ph.D.s (who didn't want to have to drive through a working-class neighborhood on their way to work) neither shop nor own property in high-tax New London, but rather go to the suburban malls and make their homes in outlying low-tax bedroom communities. We no longer have any county establishment, nor yet have any regional revenue sharing here, but as the city's budget is "running on fumes" the idea of a commuter tax for those in the Ph.D. salary range and above comes to mind. Class warfare can be a two way street.

Also, Pfizer does not provide the proportion of stable, family-fostering, well-paid jobs that it used to. Everything than can be out-sourced or done by a contractor, is - and by the lowest bidder. There is a definite caste division between the FTE (full-time employee) elite and the hired help. Computer professionals, for example, are hired for a mere 6 months at a time. Many service workers who would be eligible for it anywhere else, do not have health insurance. (Pretty ironic, regularly working 30-40 hours a week for the world's largest pharmaceutical company - albeit indirectly via contract - and not eligible for health insurance because your official employer lists you as "part-time, on-call" to cut costs and bid low.)

To some extent, Pfizer "got over" by coasting on five decades of accumulated good-will. That "capital" is eroding fast. Since their meteoric success with Viagra, Pfizer is not the "neighbor" it used to be. It is just one more concrete and steel corporation with no soul but the heart of a cash register. There's nothing wrong with that, that's what shareholders want their corporations to be when they grow up. But for a local boy, it's sad to watch a proud contributor and integral participant in the community morph into an unabashed manipulator and arrogant machinator.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
10.24.2005 9:13pm
GuestGuy:
Vistitor Again:

So what do you propose? An activist Court proposing "public use" regulations? There is a political check on this type of behavior. Even though any taking involves only a small minority, there is a reciprocity check in that most people could see something like this happen to them or someone they know - and wouldn't like it. Furthermore, many states have responded to Kelo by providing statutory property rights that augment those provided by the federal constitution. I don't see why those who cringe at the idea that "liberty" could include a freedom to choose contraception or sexual partners, but find it perfectly acceptable to interpret "public use" as meaning that the property must be owned by the government (or whatever else it should mean in their opinion).
10.24.2005 9:32pm
Tbag (mail) (www):
David - the no-state thing is a pipe dream and you know it. Without state monopoly on military force, then there would be direct corporate military force.

You have the same problem without the middle man.

I understand your point. But supposing that sans-state we would live in a utopian vacuum of power-by-coercion is patently ridiculous. Anarcho-capitalism is as untenable as Marxism.

You don't have to be a libertarian to see the folly of Kelo, and I think we probably agree with one another in judging it. But I know an abuse of state power when I see it. Why can't you see an abuse of corporate power when it's staring you in the face?
10.25.2005 12:41am
Delurking:

cfw said:

To some extent it may boil down to what we trust more, the Adam Smith "free market" approach or the idea that democracy works.
[snip]
I would consider democracy the more tested process.


Wow. I wouldn't. Given how many mundane things are produced so efficiently without the guidance of a government (except insofar as it ensures the existence of law, order, and currency), I can't see a vote doing things better. I'm willing to listen to arguments, though.


If the NLDC had called for a referendum before the $300 million project as a whole began, and disclosed all the negotiations with Pfizer, does anyone doubt how the community would have voted? On what evidence tied to voting?
[snip]
The Kelo minority can claim they are getting "screwed" to serve the majority, but they have their rights to just compensation.


The majority may have voted for it. That is one of the reasons we the constitution we do, to protect the rights of the few from tyranny by a local majority.

Does anyone really believe that the owners wouldn't sell at any price?

"Just compensation" seems to mean the market value before everyone found out that a $300M facility was to be built nearby. From an investment point of view, it seems to me that the homeowners, some of whom had been in a stagnant market for years, were finally about to see some appreciation in their property values. However, the city took the property from them right before the price went up, and gave it to a developer who will sell it once the value has gone up a lot (regardless of what is built, the value of the piece of land will go up). Don't the homeowners, and not the developer, deserve that gain? The compensation might be just if it takes this into account. It doesn't.
10.25.2005 12:45am
Visitor Again:
Guest Guy,

You're right, some states are putting checks in place in response to Kelo. Some states, I believe, already had some checks in place before Kelo. My point is that it's too bad that, in the wake of Kelo, we are relegated to the vicissitudes of the political process to protect property rights. The Supreme Court in Kelo took away from us the only reliable, permanent check on the power of eminent domain.

I don't regard the Supreme Court giving some teeth to the public use requirement as judicial activisim. The words in the fifth amendment's taking clause are limitations on governmental power, not meaningless verbiage and certainly not authorization for the exercise of relatively unrestrained power by government. The overriding purpose of the Bill of Rights is getting the government off the backs of the people, and this means enforcing rights of property as well as rights of liberty. As usual, property rights get short shrift in the Supreme Court.
10.25.2005 8:18am
corngrower:
WOW !

What a great bunch of posts since my last.
What I find most intreging is the juxtaposition of two current debates. Harriat Miers is not qualified for SCOTUS,,,,because she lacks judge experience, conlaw experience,a prof for conlaw,etc. Yet I have yet to see a single post defending the SCOTUS Kelo decision. So, how is it, that 5 SCOTUS judges, that have all of the qualities that Miers lacks,are unable to read the words of the constitution? (And more that 225 years of stare decissess sp) (Miers also lacks).

Lorenzo; When did the definition of 'public use' get expanded? I have an old copy of the constitution, so I must have missed the part where the people 'expanded' the right of the govt to expand their control on the people. Simple civics lesson. It is called the Bill of Rights. ( first 10 Ammendments to the Constitution of the United States of America). But if you read those amendments, you will find that each, Restricts, what the govt can do. These are not rights granted by the govt. If the govt gave them to us, they could take them away. These are our freedoms that can not be infringed on by the govt .

Water and transportation. That's the best ya got? Seems to me that transportation, water, electricity, communication,etc benefit 'the public'. So you argue, with SCOTUS, that another mall, and, another hotel, benefit the public? So you want the govt to decide that a defined area of our nation needs a mall, the govt uses your money to build it and then uses your money to subsidize it?

Visitor Again
In Kelo the Supreme Court pretty much gave carte blanche to government as to what is public use.

Ahh, no, SCOTUS changed the word of the constitution from 'public use', to 'public good'. Thought we needed an amendment, but, five people decided differently,as to how to amend the constitution. California? Last I checked it was still part of USA. Can Alabama pass a law allowing slavery? I did not know that a state could enact a law that was counter to the constitution. My guess is that all of the liberals in California have not tried to declare an area 'blighted' that has a single home in it, that the combined family income exceeded $2 million. Else it would have been challenged.
10.25.2005 11:47am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Tbag, I am not an anarcho-capitalist.

Why can't you see an abuse of corporate power when it's staring you in the face?

I can. This was not an abuse of "corporate power." Corporations have no power to seize property. None. Zero. It's illegal for them to do so, even if they pay for it. Therefore, this can't be "corporate power." It's state power.
10.25.2005 1:18pm
Tbag (mail) (www):
David - So the fact that a corporation, through money and influence, can coopt state power means that the corporation is powerless?

I understand that it is relying on state power, and we both agree that said state power should not be present in this case. I guess we should leave it at that with this post, but I don't see why you insist on falling back on naked ideology to defend a bad actor in this situation. In other words, why is it the state's fault for existing instead of Pfizer's fault for coopting and abusing state power?
10.25.2005 2:13pm