Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and Eminent Domain

As the Occupy Wall Street protest/movement continues on, I'm struck by the apparent ideological cornerstone of those engaged in it: a fundamental belief in a right to resources and an expectation that the government should  be able to take from the "haves" and give to the "have nots." Read through the forum on the movement's "unofficial de facto online resource." Look at this laughable list of demands. Granted, other people--apparently in the movement--are quick to see some flaws in it and the admin of the site put a disclaimer on it:
This is not an official list of demands. This is a forum post submitted by a single user and hyped by irresponsible news/commentary agencies like Fox News and This content was not published by the collective, nor was it ever proposed or agreed to on a consensus basis with the NYC General Assembly. There is NO official list of demands.
But then, it's somewhat instructive to see the "non-leadership" of the "collective" calling the Mises Institute irresonsible. The article at Mises that drew this ire does misrepresent the list--though this could be a simple error--but it also notes thusly:
Indeed, the true members of the ruling class have nothing to fear from these protests, which on balance strengthen the power elite, whether the activists get their demands or not. This is because they do not have a coherent program for true liberty. The same principle behind freely living where and how you please and voicing one's opinions without harassment from the government underlies the freedom to engage in short selling, hostile takeovers, mergers, and speculation. Just as important, these protesters fail to understand that the market economy that they want the state to conquer is the principal engine of prosperity.
Not exactly what the protesters want to hear I'll wager, that they're ineffective sheep with little or no impact on society-at-large. But the proof is in the pudding, as usual. Already, Democrat politicians--you know, the ones that see more tax revenue as a good thing--are voicing support to the movement (no doubt hoping to co-opt all or some portion of it for their political goals).

And in that light, perhaps it's time to revisit Kelo v. New London, the 2005 Supreme Court ruling that held greater tax revenues were a public good, thus justifying the state taking private property from on individual and giving it to another. Remember, it was the liberal side of the Court that held this power grab by the state was Constitutional, it was the "moderate" Sandra Day O'Connor that penned the dissent.

Trevor Burris at the Cato Institute has also returned to the topic, in order to note a similar situation occurring in Alexandria, Va. and to relate a recent incident in Connecticut, wherein the author of Little Pink House--Jeff Benedict--and Susette Kelo were approached by a Connecticut Supreme Court Judge that had ruled agianst Kelo, leading to the hearing of the case by the SCOTUS:
Afterward, Susette and I were talking in a small circle of people when we were approached by Justice Richard N. Palmer. Tall and imposing, he is one of the four justices who voted with the 4-3 majority against Susette and her neighbors. Facing me, he said: "Had I known all of what you just told us, I would have voted differently."  
I was speechless. So was Susette. One more vote in her favor by the Connecticut Supreme Court would have changed history. The case probably would not have advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Susette and her neighbors might still be in their homes.  
Then Justice Palmer turned to Susette, took her hand and offered a heartfelt apology. Tears trickled down her red cheeks. It was the first time in the 12-year saga that anyone had uttered the words "I'm sorry."
This is a pretty remarkable thing, a Judge saying he screwed up on such a significant case. But unfortunately, it is settled law, the admission is inconsequential, useless.

Do you think the Occupy Wall Street movement is a good thing, that the goals of the protesters are noble and fair? What about Kelo? Should the government be allowed to arbitrarily take property from one person to give it to another? Are your positions consistent?

Cheers, all.


  1. I too wrestle with this reappropriation idea but I think, at it's core, Occupy Wall Street is a positive thing. I see it as truly directed more at selfishly used bailout money while, at the same time, grabbing people's houses; it's seen as big corporations get saved (and then some) and the average hardworking American gets ripped from their house in times of great difficulty for all of us. A simpler man like me could never understand the need for a mansion or a yacht but it's within the rights of those with money to buy those things; I think they just need to be more willing to 'coexist' with the American public instead of just dead presidents on currency. Will they? Probably trumps people in a modern society. Love is the answer to our problems; if only we loved each other and appreciated our differences but capitalism must lack love in order to continue to charge high rates; you can't charge top dollar on someone you love and if you don’t charge top dollar you’ll never pay off your student loans.

  2. Good stuff, but remember, capitalism creates wealth, love doesn't. It's usually better to have a million dollars to split unequally among one hundred people, then a thousand dollars to split equally. Usually. :)