I’ve been contemplating the unwise Supreme Court decision permitting a municipality to seize property for use by a private developer under eminent domain. I find myself in the rare position of agreeing with Chief Justice Rehnquist, and Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, who joined in an opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor that, “The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more.” Justice Thomas wrote in his own dissent that those displaced by urban renewal tended to be lower income residents.
The decision has been widely criticized. Municipalities are reduced to comparing the likelihood of having one’s home seized to that of a lightning strike. But Supreme Court Justices, of all people, should know, it isn’t the probability that matters, but the principle. “The court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution,” wrote Justice Thomas.
In the paper I wrote for my graduate program application, I contemplated the issue of class in association with information and tried to show that the discredit of traditional information providers worked to favor the elite. I saw that conservatives sought to deprive non-elites of access to information, in the form of news, and preparation for civic engagement, in the form of a college education. Conservatives are working against the American dream, I said.
But here is a decision on another aspect of the American dream, issued by a largely Republican-appointed Supreme Court to be sure, but opposed by its most conservative members. I cannot imagine owning a home in America without fear of the ramifications of this decision. I cannot imagine that there will not be a tremendous backlash arising from this.