Little Pink Houses, For Pfizer And Me

Timothy Carney at Washington Examiner:

The private homes that New London, Conn., took away from Suzette Kelo and her neighbors have been torn down. Their former site is a wasteland of fields of weeds, a monument to the power of eminent domain.

But now Pfizer, the drug company whose neighboring research facility had been the original cause of the homes’ seizure, has just announced that it is closing up shop in New London.

To lure those jobs to New London a decade ago, the local government promised to demolish the older residential neighborhood adjacent to the land Pfizer was buying for next-to-nothing. Suzette Kelo fought the taking to the Supreme Court, and lost. Five justices found this redevelopment met the constitutional hurdle of “public use.”

Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:

Well, the public certainly was used.

Jacob Sullum at Reason:

A decade ago, when it began seizing property in the Fort Trumbull section of New London, Connecticut, the local redevelopment authority had grand plans. They were so impressive that the U.S. Supreme Court, in a highly controversial 2005 ruling, said they took precedence over the individual plans of the people who happened to own the neighborhood’s homes and businesses. The Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London cleared the way for the neighborhood to be cleared away. But the “waterfront conference hotel at the center of a ‘small urban village’ that will include restaurants and shopping” never materialized. Neither did the “marinas for both recreational and commercial uses,” the “pedestrian ‘riverwalk,'” or the “80 new residences.” The one major benefit the city could cite was the Pfizer R&D center that opened adjacent to Fort Trumbull in 2001, lured partly by the redevelopment plan. But today the pharmaceutical company announced that it will close the facility and transfer most of the 1,400 people who work there to Groton. As Scott Bullock of the Institute for Justice, one of the attorneys who represented Susette Kelo in her unsuccessful attempt to stop the bulldozing of Fort Trumbull, told the Washington Examiner‘s Timothy Carney, “This shows the folly of these redevelopment projects that use massive taxpayer subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain.”


Ilya Shapiro at Cato:

That this purported “public use” is now exposed as the façade for corporate welfare that it always was is, of course, little comfort to Suzette Kelo and the other homeowners whose land was seized. But hopefully this will be an object lesson for other companies considering eminent domain abuse as a route to acquire land on the cheap — and especially for state and local officials who acquiesce in this type of behavior.

You can read Cato’s amicus brief for the ill-fated case here. Cato also hosted a book forum for the story of Suzette’s struggle, Little Pink House, featuring the author, Jeff Benedict, the attorney who argued the case, the Institute for Justice’s Scott Bullock, and Ms. Kelo herself, here.

Ed Morrissey:

What are the lessons from this debacle?  First, the American system should protect private property from the reach of government as a starting point.  The Kelo decision — which was not a radical departure by any means, but the nadir of a slow trend of hostility towards private property — assumed that the decision about the best use of private property by private entities was better off being made by the government.  That insulted the entire notion of private property and put individual liberty in jeopardy.  Essentially, the Supreme Court endorsed the idea that using eminent domain to transfer property from one private entity to another was entirely legitimate as long as the government in question liked one owner over another.

Think of it as an early endorsement of Barack Obama’s response to Joe the Plumber on redistributionism, only in this case, Kelo and New London stole from the poor and gave to the rich.

And guess what?  New London chose poorly anyway.  Instead of having homeowners on that property, paying taxes and providing stability, the city now has an empty lot and a ton of political baggage.  The biggest lesson is that private owners should have the benefit of deciding for themselves the best private use of their land — primarily to bolster the rule of law and the concept of private property that lies at the heart of our personal liberty, but also because government is a lot more likely to muck it up.

UPDATE: Steve Verdon

UPDATE #2: Kevin Drum

UPDATE #3: Alex Knapp


Filed under Supreme Court, The Constitution

2 responses to “Little Pink Houses, For Pfizer And Me

  1. Pingback: What We’ve This Weekend « Around The Sphere

  2. Pingback: What We’ve Built Today « Around The Sphere

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s