Revisiting Kelo and Reading Roger Scruton at Law and Liberty

The next Liberty Forum is now available and revisits the legendary Kelo v. City of New London case. Essays from Todd Zywicki, Christopher Serkin, and Steven Eagle evaluate the case from an economic and constitutional perspective. The starting point of Todd Zywicki’s lead essay “From Kelo With Love,” is that Kelo’s principles are up for renewed debate given the proposal by several California counties to condemn underwater mortgages from their owners using the power of eminent domain. Post-Kelo events, Zywicki informs

[H]ave confirmed what was evident at the time: that defining “public use” so broadly to permit politicians to seize private property from one person and give it to another is misguided.  Indeed, by unleashing politicians and special interest factions to use the political process for their own purposes Keloturns the Constitution on its head.

Subsequent events since Kelo have confirmed its critics’ worst fears.  First, because of Kelo’s lack of a coherent rationale it also lacks a coherent limiting principle.  Second, Kelo fails to understand the nature of politics and why constitutional restraints on government are important and thus essentially puts the foxes in charge of guarding the chicken coop.  Third, the subsequent history of Ms. Kelo’s property in New London again shows the dangers of government central planning of economic development and provides a cautionary note about the wisdom of accepting “pie in the sky” theories of economic development.

Christopher Serkin responds to Zywicki’s essay in “Democratic Government and Eminent Domain.” Steven Eagle’s response “Kelo With Caveats” stresses how the principles of Kelo seem to validate the mortgage condemnation proposal. All are worth reading and considering in full.

In his review essay “Till We Contemplate Faces” David Conway considers Roger Scruton’s important new book, The Face of God. Scruton, Conway observes, argues that something profound has been lost in late-modern society in its objectification of the person and of nature. To make his case of what the something is Scruton provides an account that is complex and subtle.

It involves his making several wide-ranging forays into subjects as various as art, music, architecture, socio-biology, philosophy, and, last but not least, religion itself. The result is a set of profound meditations whose primary subject is the phenomenology of personhood, inter-personal relations, and numinal experiences. He combines them en passant with an acute and characteristically acerbic critique of contemporary consumerist culture that should pose a challenge to all free-marketeers. While his is not the most readily accessible recent treatment of these subjects, as ever Scruton’s is highly original, often deeply insightful, and never less than always thought-provoking.