Many pundits -- especially on the political right -- are incensed about the Supreme Court's recent verdict in Kelo v. City of New London, which backed the Connecticut town's use of eminent domain to take (with compensation) a woman's house for economic development.
Whatever one thinks about the court's decision, let's be clear: "confiscation" of people's property is hardly new. Any Native American can tell you that. Nathan Newman points to renters, as opposed to home owners, who are routinely evicted from their homes at the whims of developers. In many of the "corporate recruitment" deals in the South and beyond, state and local governments muscle private landowners out of their property -- publicly and privately -- to clear the way for incoming businesses.
So let's not pretend Kelo is an earth-shattering decision reversing years of policy sticking up for little folks.
What's even more troubling is absence of any discussion about the rampant "seizure" of assets that belong to the public:
- Every day, the public's air is "confiscated" by big polluters, who destroy the value of this common resource with toxic emissions - causing untold harm to public health and our environment;
- The media airwaves, which by law belong to each and every American, have been "seized" by a handful of conglomerates that routinely flout public oversight;
- Dozens of community institutions - hospitals, school programs, services for low-income citizens - are being privatized and handed over to corporations whose top priority is often making money, not serving the common good.
- Our national forests - a treasure owned by all of us - are being cut, logged and sold off to powerful timber interests for a fraction of their fair market value.
This is our property - common assets that all of us own, but which in one way or another are being taken away, often without our consent and usually without fair compensation.
Where are the Kelo critics in defending the public's property?