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Determined

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So, here’s the thing.

I decided, absolutely, that there was going to be a blog post today.  I even had things I wanted to talk about. 

It’s just that it’s really hard for me to write anything else after a day when the fiction has gone well.  It’s as if my mind is working to a different tempo.

But one of the things that has happened really bugs me, so here goes.

I don’t know how many of you remember a SCOTUS case called Kelo v. New London.  It happened a few years ago, and the fast-and-dirty outline was this:  the city of New London, Connecticut, used the right of eminent domain to condemn a neighborhood of working class homes and small businesses.

It did not do this, however, to build a new town hall or a public park or any of that kind of thing.  It did it so that it could sell the property to a large drug company–I’m pretty sure it was Pfizer–to build a new facilty.

The residents (Kelo among them) protested, saying that eminent domain was to be used only for public projects, not to enrich or advantage private corporations.

The city of New London claimed that eminent domain could be used for any project that would enhance the well being of the town.  The residents and small businesses in this area paid little in the way of taxes.  The new Pfizer facility would pay a lot, and on top of that would offer good jobs to many locals.

When the case got to the Supreme Court, the judges split 5 to 4 in favor of the town, with all the conservatives voting in favor of the residents.

I remember there being a fair amount of shock expressed at this by posters to various forums I was reading at the time.  It seemed to be incomprehensible to most of them that the liberals had voted “for big business and corporations” and the conservatives had voted for the little guy.

It didn’t seem at all comprehensible to me, because of course that wasn’t what the sides were voting for.  The liberals were voting in favor of the government having the right to determine what was in its own best interests, and the conservatives were voting in favor of property rights, plain and simple.

At any rate, SCOTUS gave the win to the city of New London, which prompted handed over “fair market value” checks to all the residents and business owners, moved them out, and bulldozed the place.

And bulldozed is where things sit, as we speak.

Pfizer soured on the project, and never built a facility in New London.

What was once a thriving–if somewhat lower-rent–part of town is now a wasteland.

And as if the last storms, the town was suggesting that residents use the bulldozed area to dump their storm debris.

Personally, I think it’s interesting that I found out about all this not through the local news up here, but in this month’s Reason magazine.

But of course, that’s one of the reasons why I never restrict my reading to just one side of the ideological divide.

I really am completely wasted here.

I’m going to go have lunch.

Written by janeh

December 28th, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

14 Responses to 'Determined'

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  1. Not at all on-topic, but thought you’d be interested in this article from your previous posts. Happy New Year to you -http://www.salon.com/2011/12/27/therapists_revolt_against_psychiatrys_bible/
    judy

    judy

    28 Dec 11 at 4:12 pm

  2. Ah, Kelo! Let’s not forget the $78 million New London paid for confiscations and demolitions, nor the upscale gym for the “creative class” which was to result. (Even before Pfizer pulled out, they didn’t need or want most of the area for plant. It was going to be housing and amenities for Pfizer employees–and presumably the wealthier class of “civil servant”–so they wouldn’t have to mix with the hoi polloi.)

    Funny thing is, I don’t know anyone who was surprised. It was pretty much what the libertarians and conservatives expected–though we were gratified to have four justices who hadn’t “grown in office” enough to betray us yet.

    The liberals weren’t surprised because to them it never happened: at most, minor and favorable pieces in the Washington POST and the New York TIMES, with no follow-up on the hash New London made of it. It goes down the same memory hole as Solyndra and some of the shadier aspects of Dodd-Frank and Obamacare: this sort of thing happens, they admit–but they draw no lesson from it. As a college classmate explained to me this weekend, people who stand in the way of expanded government are “horrible people who should all be taken out and shot.”

    Say this for Sasha: she’s clear, consistent and doesn’t mince words. A big Obama fan, too.

    robert_piepenbrink

    28 Dec 11 at 5:35 pm

  3. Judy, great minds obviously think alike. I was just about to post a link to that very same article. :-)

    Here’s another good one:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/how-to-land-your-kid-in-therapy/8555/

    Mique

    28 Dec 11 at 7:27 pm

  4. Of course I remember New London. The only thing surprising to me about it was that *anyone* voted against corporate privilege.

    Pretty sure the SCOTUS went outside of its jurisdiction for this one, though. Certiorari should not have been granted in the first place. I’m half tempted to read the majority opinion, but I’m not sure I can handle the necessary drinking binge right now.

    abgrund

    28 Dec 11 at 7:37 pm

  5. ab, so not the point.There IS no “corporate privilege.” Big business can’t compell me to buy their product–like, say, health insurance–nor to sell my home at a price it sets. But when you give that power to government, guess who the big winner will turn out to be?

    Why I have no patience with people who regard an all-powerful government as a check on the wealthy and influential. Who more likely to be the beneficiary of government power?

    robert_piepenbrink

    29 Dec 11 at 6:00 am

  6. michaelwfisher@cox.net

    29 Dec 11 at 5:30 pm

  7. I suppose I should have quoted some of the more interesting parts in counterpoint to Robert’s assertions above that big business can’t compel him to buy there product. Yeah, uh huh. Well, even if thay can’t, and that’s by no means certain absent a strong government, still:

    We tried it, and it failed

    The libertarianism that has any effect in the world, then, has nothing to do with social liberty, and everything to do with removing all restrictions on business. So what’s wrong with that?

    Let’s look at some cases that came within spitting distance of the libertarian ideal. Some libertarians won’t like these, because they are not Spotless Instances of the Free Utopia; but as I’ve said, nothing is proved by science fiction. If complete economic freedom and absence of government is a cure-all, partial economic freedom and limited government should be a cure-some.
    Pre-New Deal America

    At the turn of the 20th century, business could do what it wanted– and it did. The result was robber barons, monopolistic gouging, management thugs attacking union organizers, filth in our food, a punishing business cycle, slavery and racial oppression, starvation among the elderly, gunboat diplomacy in support of business interests.

    The New Deal itself was a response to crisis (though by no means an unprecedented one; it wasn’t much worse than the Gilded Age depressions). A quarter of the population was out of work. Five thousand banks failed, destroying the savings of 9 million families. Steel plants were operating at 12% capacity. Banks foreclosed on a quarter of Mississippi’s land. Wall Street was discredited by insider trading and collusion with banks at the expense of investors. Farmers were breaking out into open revolt; miners and jobless city workers were rioting.

    Don’t think, by the way, that if governments don’t provide gunboats, no one else will. Corporations will build their own military if necessary: the East Indies Company did; Leopold did in the Congo; management did when fighting with labor.
    Post-communist Russia

    Or take Russia in the decade after the fall of Communism, as advised by free-market absolutists like Jeffrey Sachs. Russian GDP declined 50% in five years. The elite grabbed the assets they could and shuffled them out of Russia so fast that IMF loans couldn’t compensate. In 1994 alone, 600 businessmen, journalists, and politicians were murdered by gangsters. Russia lacked a working road system, a banking system, anti-monopoly regulation, effective law enforcement, or any sort of safety net for the elderly and the jobless. Inflation reached 2250% in 1992. Central government authority effectively disappeared in many regions.

    By the way, Russia is the answer to those testosterone-poisoned folks who think that guns will prevent oppression. The mafia will always outgun you.

    Today’s Russia is moving back toward authoritarianism under Putin. Again, this should dismay libertarians: apparently, given a little freedom, many people will demand less. You’d better be careful about setting up that utopia; ten years further on it may be taken over by authoritarians.
    Pinochet’s Chile

    Or consider the darling of many an ’80s conservative: Pinochet’s Chile, installed by Nixon, praised by Jeanne Kirkpatrick, George Bush, and Paul Johnson. In twenty years, foreign debt quadrupled, natural resources were wasted, universal health care was abandoned (leading to epidemics of typhoid fever and hepatitis), unions were outlawed, military spending rose (for what? who the hell is going to attack Chile?), social security was “privatized” (with predictable results: ever-increasing government bailouts) and the poverty rate doubled, from 20% to 41%. Chile’s growth rate from 1974 to 1982 was 1.5%; the Latin American average was 4.3%.

    Pinochet was a dicator, of course, which makes some libertarians feel that they have nothing to learn here. Somehow Chile’s experience (say) privatizing social security can tell us nothing about privatizing social security here, because Pinochet was a dictator. Presumably if you set up a business in Chile, the laws of supply and demand and perhaps those of gravity wouldn’t apply, because Pinochet was a dictator.

    When it’s convenient, libertarians even trumpet their association with Chile’s “free market” policies; self-gov.org (originators of that cute quiz) includes a page celebrating Milton Friedman, self-proclaimed libertarian, who helped form and advise the group of University of Chicago professors and graduates who implemented Pinochet’s policies. The Cato Institute even named a prize for “Advancing Liberty” after this benefactor of the Chilean dictatorship.
    Destination: Banana Republic

    The newest testing ground for laissez-faire is present-day America, from Ronald Reagan on.

    Remove the New Deal, and the pre-New Deal evils clamor to return. Reagan removed the right to strike; companies now fire strikers, outsource high-wage jobs and replace them with dead-end near-minimum-wage service jobs. Middle-class wages are stagnating– or plummeting, if you consider that working hours are rising. Companies are rushing to reestablish child labor in the Third World.

    michaelwfisher@cox.net

    29 Dec 11 at 5:34 pm

  8. OH, and a little bit more:

    The wealthiest 1% of the population doubled their share of the pie in just 15 years. In 1973, CEOs earned 45 times the pay of an average employee (about twice the multipler in Japan); today it’s 500 times.

    Thirty years ago, managers accepted that they operated as much for their workers, consumers, and neighbors as for themselves. Some economists (notably Michael Jensen and William Meckling) decided that the only stakeholders that mattered were the stock owners– and that management would be more accountable if they were given massive amounts of stock. Not surprisingly, CEOs managed to get the stock without the accountability– they’re obscenely well paid whether the company does well or it tanks– and the obsession with stock price led to mass layoffs, short-term thinking, and the financial dishonesty at WorldCom, Enron, Adelphia, HealthSouth, and elsewhere.
    Welcoming your new overlords

    The nature of our economic system has changed in the last quarter-century, and people haven’t understood it yet. People over 30 or so grew up in an environment where the rich got more, but everyone prospered. When productivity went up, the rich got richer– we’re not goddamn communists, after all– but everybody’s income increased.

    If you were part of the World War II generation, the reality was that you had access to subsidized education and housing, you lived better every year, and you were almost unimaginably better off than your parents.

    We were a middle-class nation, perhaps the first nation in history where the majority of the people were comfortable. This infuriated the communists (this wasn’t supposed to happen). The primeval libertarians who cranky about it as well, but the rich had little reason to complain– they were better off than ever before, too.

    Conservatives– nurtured by libertarian ideas– have managed to change all that. When productivity rises, the rich now keep the gains; the middle class barely stays where it is; the poor get poorer. We have a ways to go before we become a Third World country, but the model is clear. The goal is an impoverished majority, and a super-rich minority with no effective limitations on its power or earnings. We’ll exchange the prosperity of 1950s America for that of 1980s Brazil.

    michaelwfisher@cox.net

    29 Dec 11 at 5:38 pm

  9. Michael, there are bits and pieces of truth in there. But before you check out the price of steel in the monopolist Carnegie years–dropping like a rock–or explain to me why an adult should be forbidden to take medicine he feels might help his condition because the FDA disagrees, you might want to consider that inequality didn’t start growing with deregulation, but by most accounts 1973–about the time OSHA, the EPA, the EEOC and most of the other bureaucratric fruit of LBJ and NIxon got up and running. I don’t care who started a regulation. I don’t care why. Over time, government power, and especially detailed government power with “interpretations” and “waivers” always favors the people who can have lunch with politicians and high-ranking officials, not the poor schmo who votes and pays taxes.

    It is neither taxes nor regulation I’m objecting to–though I lack some people’s enthusiasm for them–but a bureaucratic maze in which the regulations are whatever a senior bureaucrat of influential politician says they are, and the “activist” government which feels competent to back private-sector businesses with my tax money. THOSE conditions benefits precisely the people you’re nominally opposed to.

    No good whining to me about the filthy rich if you want the governmentn to have the power to confiscate property to benefit its friends, exempt them from taxes and regulations, and regulate their competitors to death. That’s what created and perpetuates our present mess.

    I do not say there should be no regulations, and governments have necessary purposes for which taxes must be collected. But unless you really want the influential rich to treat the taxpayers as cattle, those regulations and tax codes have to be simple, transparent and without exceptions–and in that case, Senators wouldn’t be worth renting, and most of the bureaucrats would have to work for a living.

    robert_piepenbrink

    29 Dec 11 at 8:56 pm

  10. I think of Libertardianism as a kind of religious dementia parallel to the Ghost Dance. It is suicidal both to the culture and to the great majority of the individual followers, but is irresistible to many. Arguments against it are wasted; it is not a rational movement and its followers are not interested in reason. They believe that if they dance the dance, the buffalo will return and “free markets” will make everyone into a retired millionaire. There is no point in telling them that flesh has a reliable history of susceptibility to bullets. They are followers, not thinkers.

    This kind of obsessive, fanatical religious absolutism is common enough in history – it’s not hard to find specimens of utopian cults, whether they favor Ghost Dance, Proletarian Revolution, Galt’s Gulch, Racial Purity, or Heaven’s Gate. Occasionally there is a danger that such cults will do serious damage to society.

    Arguing with them is not useful; were they susceptible to fact or logic, they would never follow in the first place. The level of intelligence and knowledge necessary to refute the Ghost Dance or Ayn Rand already exists in every six year old. If there’s any way of combating such mass insanity, it has to lie either through simple violence or through removing the conditions that make bizarre, anti-rational ideologies attractive to significant numbers of people.

    abgrund

    29 Dec 11 at 9:42 pm

  11. You know, that would make a little more sense if anyone on this blog were advocating a libertarian position–not much more sense, but a little. Or is ANY restriction or government now regarded as libertarian absolutism?

    But what shall we say for the leftist’s belief that somehow THIS TIME the absolutist government won’t stack up bodies in mountains, and the regulated state won’t work to the advantage of the regulators and their friends? Amuse yourselves some day by tracking the statistics on the most regulated and least regulated states on the planet, and the most prosperous and the most impoverished. But actually, I’m doubling your workload. Down to quartiles, it’s a near-perfect match: the more hoops you have to jump through to start or operate a business, the poorer the average citizen is–the government officials still get by pretty well–and their “friends” in the officially private sector.

    Of course, if Zimbabwe is actually what you’re trying for…

    robert_piepenbrink

    29 Dec 11 at 10:33 pm

  12. What’s the word for “government by cronyism?”

    I just know that not being anyone’s crony, I keep paddling as hard as I can, and getting swept farther downstream. And I think I hear Niagara Falls in the distance….

    I keep thinking “Just four years on the Hill, maybe I too can become a multi-millionaire on $174,000 per year…”

    Lymaree

    29 Dec 11 at 11:14 pm

  13. For a while there I was blinded by strawdust from all the strawmen being flogged.

    I’m with Robert.

    Mique

    30 Dec 11 at 2:09 am

  14. There are people who are richer than I am. There always will be, guaranteed. They may be richer, relatively speaking, than in the past; I’ve been told so, but I can’t help thinking that any group that overpays itself so much deserves to have the company that pays the bills go belly-up. Others are hurt? That’s the way things work.

    I am NOT a fan of the Beloved Company caring for and protecting its workers, except of course insofar as they pay wages and provide physical safety as negotiated with workers, unions and/or governments. I grew up in a company town during its dying days – it’s funny to think how quickly times change, such places are almost as extinct as the dodo – and although many people loved that kind of life, it wasn’t for me (mainly for other reasons), and moreover, it wasn’t socially equal even though the ratio between managerial and labour pay wasn’t nearly as high was discussed here. So I think it’s a bit of a mistake to assume that if we get everyone having less of a pay differential, everything will be better, or more fair, or something.

    All government employees, top to the bottom have cronies. It’s only when they cheat based on that fact that there’s a problem. So it’s really an issue of corruption, not of how the government is structured. If it’s not that, it’s an oligarchy.

    Cheryl

    30 Dec 11 at 9:31 am

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