As conservatives we are of course all watchful for, and suspicious of, overweening state power. Governments do sometimes need to be able to act, though. The Tory in me appreciates what a British Prime Minister (though not a Tory) once called "the smack of firm government," when it's appropriate.Well put.
There are quite large areas of public life where the problem is not the govt doing too much, but govt frustrated in doing anything at all. The state of public works in New York City illustrates the point. It's little short of miraculous when govt here gets ANYTHING done, let alone a major public works project. (Look at the decades-long struggle to set up public toilets for the use of New Yorkers.) Yes, yes, I know, the Connecticut decision involved private development, not public works, but the eminent domain principle apparently comes in to both cases. Consider the paralysis over the World Trade Center site. If use of urban land were not such a tar pit of regulation & litigation, surely a vigorous govt, exercising eminent domain, might have done something with the site by now.
Yay for private property rights and down with govt usurpations. No argument about that as a general principle. When govt needs to act, though, it ought to be able to do so without unnecessary impediments & infinite delays, & private citizens, properly compensated, should yield their rights.
June 26, 2005
John Derbyshire on Kelo: