The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Better Late Than Never (seriously)

The campaigns which form the basis of public policy fight have many individual battles, and contrary to popular belief the core of these fights isn't necessarily over philosophies which are "Republican" or "Democratic", but are, in face, more between "statists" and "anti-statists", those who would see government power (the "state") expanded or contracted.

The property rights fights are one such example - many different fronts, many different fights, each one with a separate strategy. Within these fights, the eminent domain abuse issue is but one front, one of the most important today. And one lesser-known, but no less interesting a skirmish in this fight, was over the Department of Justice's involvement in the Kelo case.

Any administration has those devotees who are interested in holding on and increasing the power of government and the scope of that power. This is no less true in the current administration, which , despite having been elected on a mandate of sharply curtailing government's reach, has been less successful in that endeavour than some of us who are anti-statists might have hoped. Such was the debate at DOJ over Kelo.

It was publicly known that DOJ was going to file a brief on the side of New London in the Kelo case. When pressed on this issue, the answer given was that the administration wanted to strongly protect the general power of government to condemn private property, and that any steps to curtail that power would endanger it overall. This was hogwash, of course, but the statist lobby _IS_ a powerful one, especially when fueled by big business money (incidentally, it's a general rule over here at the Liberty Blog that whenever you see big business, big labor and big government together on an issue, you had best run for the hills).

Nevertheless, with the thought that "if you don't have anything nice to say about something, don't say anything at all" in mind, a determined group of anti-statists went into action. Led by the folks at IJ (of course) they put together a coalition which did, in fact, convince Justice to _NOT_ file a brief. You might ask, why didn't they ask for a brief to be filed on their side in the case? The answer is simple: they knew that wouldn't happen, and in public policy, some of the best chances for success are when you ask for something reasonable and press very hard for it.

They won, and applauded the administration. Again, some were a big bit quizzical about the applause (I remember one person asking - why are we congratulating them for _NOT_ doing the wrong thing? Why aren't we condeming them for not doing the _right_ thing? The answer to that is fairly simple: the coalition was being realistic and you _HAVE_ to support the administration when they make steps toward doing the right thing, even if they haven't come all the way.).

That being said, DOJ's assistance on the side of the property owners would have been helpful. In fact, any sort of official imprimatur on the position of limiting the power of eminent domain would have been extraordinary. As it was, we lost the Kelo case (as you know) and here we are.

Thus, it was quite surprising that I read the following on Wednesday:,0,2769405.story

Bush Cautious On Seizing Property
August 3, 2005By DAVID LIGHTMAN, Washington Bureau Chief
The Hartford Courant

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Tuesday he was "troubled" by the Supreme Court's ruling in the New London eminent domain case and will give "serious review" to congressional efforts to ease its impact.

"I'm concerned about the government overreaching," Bush said in a 50-minute interview with eight newspapers, including The Courant.


Tuesday, Bush boasted of how "the people were given a vote. [on the new Texas Rangers' stadium in Arlington, TX] They said, `We're for this.'"

They approved the plan, he said, because "people were actually able to take a look at the pros and cons and whether this made sense and therefore give the city justification to move forward with helping to put the land together to build the stadium."

Although he chuckled and said he is hardly advocating a referendum every time a government wants to take land, "I am talking about a philosophy which should be people-oriented and that the definition of economic development be scrutinized very carefully."
---end quoted material---

While I wish the President had demonstrated this leadership this past spring, when the DOJ was considering filing a position on the other side in Kelo, I am glad that he has stepped up and made a stand now, given all the important work being done in Congress on this subject. As I was explaining to someone else this week, while it would have been great if the President had shown up to this dance early on, the fact that he's in the room and talking about getting on the floor is a wonderful thing.

Welcome to the fight, Mr. President. Thank you for understanding, and remembering that it's not big business money that wins elections. It's the votes of the small business owners who are under assault from over-reaching statist policy.


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