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June 24, 2005

Grabbing property and power ...

I'm going to be mostly missing in action for a few days. Did want to talk about the Supreme Court's dangerous ruling on government grabbing private property but ran out of time before I got to read the decision.

I'm pretty sure, though, that the logic employed by the majority isn't going to convince me its a good idea to grab a viable, even thriving, neighborhood and hand it over to developers. The court has guaranteed that a good many evil developer/government assaults on the homes of ordinary folks will occur 'round and 'bout the country.

Sort of related ... I'm most all the way through Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, which leaves me bemused by the similarities between politics now and then, when parties first formed. The critical issue was the federal power.

Hamilton, you'll recall, was the leading proponent of central power. As Washington's go-to guy in peace as in war, Hamilton created among other instruments, a central bank, a coast guard and a revenue service that stripped customs money from the states. He worked hard to create a standing army. Most prominent in the party that coalasced against the Hamiltonians was Jefferson, who with his supporters saw all Hamilton's creations as destructive of freedom and property rights.

I suspect even Hamilton would be surprised, shocked, at what his progeny have grown to be.

The politics of the 1790s were, the book reminds, if anything more vicious than today's. The Hamiltonians were convinced that Jefferson intended to import the French revolution to America and institute America's own reign of terror. The Jeffersonians were as convinced that Hamilton intended to use the new national army to subjugate opponents and, in alliance with England, set himself or some English royal on a hereditary throne. Even civil war seemed ever a possibility.

The press made no pretense of anything other than partisanship. Personal attacks, most often made anonymously, were the order of the day. Most prominently, the Hamilton-backed Gazette of the United States did vicious warfare with the National Gazette, the editor of which was on Jefferson's payroll in the state department.

The more things change...

Posted by jcb at June 24, 2005 05:27 PM

Comments

Thanks for the interesting history tidbits. I guess I would be in the Jefferson camp, along with O'Connor. Her comments summed up the problem with the whole thing:

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor objected that ``the words `for public use' do not realistically exclude any takings, and thus do not exert any constraint on the eminent domain power.''

O'Connor said, ``Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded.''


Didn't Charlie Brooke just veto such a thing in Davenport?

Posted by: Vita at June 24, 2005 10:45 PM

Great blog; politics out your way and here in New York arent all that different, which is actually a depressing thought, now that I think of it; although it seems I've seen this blog's name somewhere before...

Posted by: akaky at June 25, 2005 11:05 AM