Friday, July 01, 2005

It's amusing to see conservatives taking a brief breather from fulminating against the Imperial Judiciary (a favorite hobby of mine, too, as readers well know) to lambaste the Supreme Court's recent failure of Imperial will in the Kelo decision. Apparently, when it comes to the municipal government requiring you to sell your house to a developer, it's just fine, say conservatives, for the Supreme Court to run roughshod over elected, democratically accountable representatives of the public. I've long predicted that control of the nominations process would give conservatives Strange New Respect for judicial tyranny. It's always fun to be proven right.

But Marty Lederman and Nicole Garnett of SCOTUSBlog raise an interesting question: why has this particular ruling--which was completely in line with precedent, and hardly unexpected--aroused such righteous ire from conservatives?

To me, the answer is obvious: real estate is the cultural-financial obsession of the moment, the way stocks were eight years ago. For the Supreme Court to rule at this time that the government can take away your house--that is, not just your life savings, but your hot investment, your ticket to riches, your chance at an early, cushy retirement--is threatening in a way that it wouldn't have been, say, ten years ago. After all, the law still requires that "just compensation" be paid to the the owner of confiscated property. In normal times, that would no doubt be enough to ease any worries. But today, when everyone assumes that the real estate price elevator only goes in one direction--that is, up--the current market value of a home hardly seems like "just compensation". Why, who knows how soon the price of that confiscated home will be double, triple, quadruple what it is now?

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