Mother, May I Sleep With Knee-Jerk Ideological Orthodoxy?
Alyssa Rosenberg writes for Think Progress and The Atlantic. Today she was mad. Why? Because Brooke Shields is going to be in a movie about a famous abuse of eminent domain.
That abuse was at the heart of the case Kelo v. New London, in which SCOTUS famously and disgustingly ruled that the state can take your property and give it to another private party if it can come up with some theory about how that transfer will benefit the public. In New London, the issue is whether the city could force homeowners to sell their homes and turn land over to private developers in order to remove "blight" and promote "development." That concept made SCOTUS positively giddy:
Those who govern the City were not confronted with the need to remove blight in the Fort Trumbull area, but their determination that the area was sufficiently distressed to justify a program of economic rejuvenation is entitled to our deference. The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including–but by no means limited to–new jobs and increased tax revenue. As with other exercises in urban planning and development, the City is endeavoring to coordinate a variety of commercial, residential, and recreational uses of land, with the hope that they will form a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Well, back in 2009 I wrote about how that turned out by quoting a WSJ story:
Now, four years after that decision gave Susette Kelo’s land to private developers for a project including a hotel and offices intended to enhance Pfizer Inc.’s nearby corporate facility, the pharmaceutical giant has announced it will close its research and development headquarters in New London, Connecticut.
The aftermath of Kelo is the latest example of the futility of using eminent domain as corporate welfare. While Ms. Kelo and her neighbors lost their homes, the city and the state spent some $78 million to bulldoze private property for high-end condos and other “desirable” elements. Instead, the wrecked and condemned neighborhood still stands vacant, without any of the touted tax benefits or job creation.
But in all fairness, I have to point out that there has been an important update since 2009, when I suggested that the city and the state had wasted $78 million and forced citizens out of their homes to facilitate a phantom development and had not produced any jobs or anything of value. The condemned land has recently started providing value and jobs. I apologize for suggesting that it never would. Specifically, the condemned land is producing jobs and value in the Post-Hurricaine-Vegetation-And-Debris-Disposal-Industry.
Now, we learn from the local newspaper, The Day, that following the hurricane Irene, the city has designated the Fort Trumbull redevelopment site as a place to dump vegetation debris. For a video of locals dumping that stuff on the site, click here.
Anyway, that's the subject of Brooke Shields' new movie, apparently. The prospect of such a movie on the Lifetime Channel irritated Alyssa Rosenberg, who said the movie would be "anti-eminent-domain" and described it thusly:
I’d had the vague sense that Brooke Shields’ career wasn’t in the best place (as Entourage tells me, if she’s involved in a project with Johnny Drama, that’s not a good sign), but I’m sort of depressed, both because of what it means for her talent and what it means for her politics, that she’s starring in an anti-eminent domain movie on Lifetime about the Kelo case. Speaking out about postpartum depression and the idea that seeking treatment for it isn’t shameful is really useful and important. Sparking fears that the government’s going to take your property is a lot less useful.
Challenged on this, she tried to clarify that sure, there are occasional abuses, but that's only because corporations SUCK:
Apparently, this post has given people the impression that I think the Kelo ruling was good. I don’t think it’s good that corporations can manipulate eminent domain for their own benefit. But I don’t think a Lifetime movie is going to differentiate between Kelo and eminent domain as it ought to function. Instead, I think it is likely to take a conservative, totally anti-eminent domain tack that will not further the conversation. I should have made the connection between those two points stronger.
Hence, Alysse Rosenberg's reaction to an impending movie about a grotesque injustice and abuse of government power is to be angry because it might imply conclusions that do not suit her ideological biases. This is roughly the equivalent of Ann Coulter getting in a snit that someone is making a movie about Cameron Todd Willingham because it will just be a way for liberals to make the death penalty look bad.
E.D. Kain reacts by asking, not unreasonably, why aren't progressives upset by Kelo in particular and eminent domain abuse in general?
Progressives should be deeply bothered by a case like this, and should celebrate the fact that at least a television movie is being made about Kelo. Government should not be in the business of cronyism and theft, and liberals should be up in arms when government enriches private corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens.
And I should be 175 pounds with abs of steel and all my hair. But blogger's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for? The truth is that too often we react based not on the merits of a particular story or case, but based on the political and cultural baggage the case carries. That's how a crowd can cheer 234 executions in Texas even when there are Cameron Todd Willinghams. That's how Rosenberg can get upset that someone is telling Kelo's story even though it's so clear that Kelo was wronged.
If we discovered that PeopleEnergyCom had used money and influence to convince elected officials to detain citizens so PeopleEnergyCom could use them as human batteries to provide cheap power, progressives like Rosenberg would be saying "corporations are so awful!," and Rosenberg's conservative equivalents would be saying "government is so awful!" [Libertarians would be saying "PeopleEnergyCom should only be able to do that if they negotiate arms-length revocable contracts at market rate with their human batteries!"]
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