by Frank Clarke
part of the 'Adverse Reactions' series
for the Tampa Bay Sounding
July 27, 2005
Suzette Kelo bought a house in a run-down part of New London CT because it was near the water. That was her first mistake. Then she poured a lot of money into making it a nice place to live — because it was near the water. When the City of New London condemned her property to make way for condominiums which would bring in lots more tax revenue, she dug her heels in.
On June 22nd 2005 after losing in court after court, Suzette Kelo lost again when the United States' Supreme Court ruled for New London, against Suzette Kelo, and against everything this country had been founded to protect. In a 5-4 split Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer held that filling a city's tax coffers was, indeed, a public purpose. There has been surprise, shock and outrage that it was the court's "liberal" judges who did this. Everyone who still thinks in terms of liberal-vs-conservative would be surprised, shocked, and outraged; those who have abandoned that tired old mode of thinking are merely outraged.
To see what I mean, let's take a look at the make-up of our Supreme Court:
The rabid conservatives, Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, stood up for the underdog against the forces of wealth and power; O'Connor, always a swing vote, went this time with principle (and her dissent was a jewel, by the way); the liberals buckled, bowing to the demands of power. What in the world is going on here?
What's going on is an object lesson on how our "left-right paradigm" has become obsolete. If we continue to use it, if we continue to think in terms of "Right is good(bad); left is bad(good)" we will continue to be shocked at what happens in Washington. The old order changeth: there is no more "left" or "right". There is only "collectivist" and "individualist": "the state is all-important" vs "the citizen is all-important". It hardly needs saying that this country was founded on an individualist model and the people, by and large, remain so to this day. That is why we are outraged that the Supreme Court could so blithely crush Suzette Kelo for the sake of New London's fiscal health.
But we shouldn't be surprised.
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