In a recent Supreme Court decision, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “If the peasants sow the fields poorly, they should be helped – and this particularly applies to the poor peasants – by means of collective cultivation of the large estates. There is no other way of helping the poor peasants.” Therefore, “the landed estates must be confiscated immediately.”
Actually, that was Vladimir Lenin writing in an issue of the Communist publication Pravda on June 2, 1917. I’ve compiled a small list of quotes for use in this article, but at times it can be hard to remember who used which ones. It doesn’t help that Lenin and Justice Stevens – the oldest member on the court – are roughly the same age. Rest assured that while quotes may be at times confused, no one’s beliefs will be misrepresented.
What the Supreme Court ruled on this week is as pertinent to America today as it was to Russia in 1917: the distribution of land. Connecticut statutes express a legislative determination that the taking of land as part of an economic development project is a “public use” and in the “public interest.” The point of debate was the constitutionality of a Connecticut city’s confiscation of land to that end.
Stevens defended the city, writing in the majority opinion: “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.” In other words, individual rights take a backseat to economic planning. If the poor peasants aren’t using their land as well as others might be able to use it, it can be taken away.
Those who take as permissible the idea of a “public interest” capable of obliterating individual rights are not unheard of. Maybe the justices simply looked to international law as a justifying precedent. In Zimbabwe, thousands of white farmers have had their land dispossessed in recent years. But President Robert Mugabe was only giving farmers a 45-day eviction notice, instead of the legally mandated 90 days. When this complaint was brought before the Zimbabwean Supreme Court, its justices ruled that the “public interest” overrode the “private interests of individual landowners.”
And then there’s Asia. Official estimates place the number of Chinese who have lost their land in recent years to the construction of roads, dams, housing projects and factories at around 70 million. Last November, government troops opened fire and killed a number of protesters in the Sichuan province, where thousands of residents were protesting the seizure of their land for construction of a hydroelectric dam project.
Of course, agents of the American government would do the same thing. Anyone who resists the confiscation of his or her property will be imprisoned. If someone resists imprisonment, that person, too, will be shot and killed. The only difference between the Chinese and the Americans is that Americans are being more amenable to the demands of their government.
On June 23, America took a step toward better emulating the admirable ways of the “international community” in Kelo et al. v. City of New London. Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kennedy won out over Justices Rehnquist, Thomas, Scalia and O’Connor in determining that private property could be taken away for the purpose of giving it to other people.
O’Connor, writing in dissent, said, “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.”
Resident Bill Von Winkle, who faces sacrifice by government on the altar of the “public interest,” said, “I won’t be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word.” If Americans are truly concerned with freedom, they’ll offer to join Von Winkle. It’ll be a pitiful day when the Chinese are more willing to die for freedom than Americans.
The senile trash who believe they’ve been endowed with a divine right to singularly mold the course of the world have driven another nail into the coffin of American freedom. My congratulations go out to Justices Stevens, Bader, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. You’ve proven that rights don’t proceed from God. They proceed from you.