Washington, DC - In a stunning decision which harkens to the writings of French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (who coined the slogan "property is theft"), the US Supreme Court has ruled that local governments can seize private property for private economic development. The ruling is expected to have far-reaching and unexpected consequences.
The case in question pitted homeowners in New London, Connecticut against the city after the city announced plans to raze their homes to make way for a new business park, health club and riverfront hotel. Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens said, "The city [New London] has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community."
When asked for clarification of the ruling, Justice Stevens groped for an analogy that would aid his cause. "Remember in that Star Trek movie when Spock had to go into that warp core I think it was, and he was like going to die and stuff? And then Kirk came over and is all sad? Well, it's like Spock was saying, ‘It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.' This case offers a perfect example of this in the real world. New London is the ‘many' and the homeowners are the ‘few'. Such is life."
Upon learning of the ruling, city planners from across the country have begun proceedings to seize private property to make way for new development. Some property-rights advocates have expressed concern that this ruling could lead to wide-spread graft and corruption as developers seek to gain access to private property.
Milton Hornsby, one such advocate - reached in his office in Silver Springs, Maryland - explained the potential problem. "Imagine that there is a home on a prime parcel of real estate that some greedy, money-grubbing developers have their eyes on. Does their granting favors to city officials in order to gain access to that property not seem a possibility? I fear that this will become standard operating procedure across America as a result of this ruling."
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the minority, echoed these sentiments: "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fall out from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process."
Thomas J. Donohue, the president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, dismissed these concerns and applauded the decision. "Some of America's most valuable commercial real estate is being wasted through residential occupation. This ruling gives big business the green light it has long sought to demolish and redevelop at will. In the words of that great president, Ronald Reagan, ‘It's morning in America'!"