Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Unlimited Government?

Well, that's what J. Peter Byrne seems to advocate in his online debate with Richard Epstein about Kelo v. New London (discussed in an earlier post):
[In the city of New London's taking,] I see self-government, which while never pure, gives most of us a voice and is capable of innovation....I think that the democratic process provides the best and most legitimate accountability, especially if it is amenable to reform from above, as municipal decision making is by state statutes. The abuses in eminent domain can be addressed through statutes improving procedures and changing the measure of compensation.

Not incidentally, I think New London's plan here is quite reasonable, so far as I understand it. They are redeveloping some 90 acres, strategically located between a new Pfizer research facility—the largest private investment in New London in many years—and the water; they are constructing a new park and providing substantial infrastructure and environmental remediation in their best shot to encourage private development of offices, hotels, and residences. The plaintiffs' property lies in the middle of the 90 acres and in a flood plain. The elevation of the land needs to be raised for development and that cannot be done with functioning inholdings. This is not warehousing, but a sensible, long term development plan, which the people of New London have knowingly approved and financed.
In other words, government can do anything it wants to do, as long as it is done in the name of "social progress" or "economic development" -- and as long as it pretends to draw its legitimacy from the "people." By Byrne's rule, government is entitled to tell us where to work, where to live, how many children to have, and on and on. If government is so "smart," why don't we just let it run all of our businesses and lives? We could then stop pretending that we live in something approximating liberty.

It all reminds me very much of Hitler's abuse of German law to advance his repugnant agenda. Just go through the motions and what do you get? Absolute power of the kind that makes mincemeat of schnooks like Byrne.