George Leef’s latest Forbes column focuses on a new film that dramatizes the infamous U.S. Supreme Court case that sanctioned eminent domain abuse.
The Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in Kelo v. New London was that year’s blockbuster. Literally. The Court gave its blessing to the use of eminent domain to destroy blocks of housing so that city officials could pursue their dreams of a more wondrous community by seizing private property for a planned commercial development.
That taking had been challenged on the grounds that the precise wording of the Fifth Amendment’s provision allowing eminent domain – that the property had to be taken for “public use” – did not countenance takings where there was merely a purported “public purpose” in doing so. The Court’s “liberal” wing didn’t care either about the Constitution’s precise words or the harm its ruling would inflict on lots of “little guy” owners whose modest properties stood in the way of grandiose political projects.
Kelo is among the many cases demonstrating that ordinary Americans are served best by the strict rule of law rather than by “progressive” jurisprudence that empowers government officials.
And that is the message strongly conveyed by the recently released movie about Susette Kelo’s fight with the arrogant officials in New London, CT. Little Pink House premiered February 2 at the Santa Barbara film festival. In the film, Catherine Keener (who was nominated for an Oscar for her roles in Being John Malkovich and Capote) portrays Susette Kelo, the nurse who refused to meekly accept the city’s decision to force her out of the small home she had fixed up and loved. …
… In the end, the homes belonging to Susette Kelo and her neighbors were demolished for no purpose at all, since the hoped-for development collapsed. What was once a nice residential area is now acres of rubble. Perhaps some viewers will get the message that big government plans are prone to turning into boondoggles. Perhaps some others will get the point that it’s morally wrong for government officials to treat property owners as pawns on a chessboard, easily exchanged for a positional advantage in the game.
But what’s the point of making a movie about a court case now more than a decade old?
The reason is that, even though quite a few states changed their laws to make takings like that of Susette Kelo’s house more difficult, eminent domain abuse remains very much alive. Many officials still lust after private property and often find ways of grabbing it.