Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Paterson's Domain

Reading about former NY governor Spitzer’s prostitute, former NJ governor McGreevey’s group sex sessions with his wife and aide, and now new NY governor Paterson’s affair [UPDATE: make that affairs -- awesome], it’s easy to laugh — and laugh and laugh — but it should never be forgotten that policy, not personality, is the important thing. And New York Sun, despite a negative-sounding headline about Paterson being a potential threat to development, reported something about him that pleases me: He’s opposed to eminent domain, that manifest legalized thievery whereby government not only steals private land for public purposes such as highways but, increasingly, for other private groups’ purposes, such as construction of an Ikea or Wal-Mart.

Paterson bucks the liberal trend in this regard, since all five of the liberal Supreme Court justices, in the vile Kelo decision, concluded (despite their philosophy’s ostensible concern for the little guy rather than simply for government for the sake of government) it’s fine to bulldoze old, poor neighborhoods against their will to aid businesses and real estate developers — a great reminder that secure property rights protect individuals, while business interests and government interests merely blend to protect each other.

He may be legally blind, but Paterson sees farther than those justices — like the blind Egyptian seer kept hidden under the floorboards in 10,000 B.C., if you will (or some Homeric reference instead). Actually, if I’m going to reduce it to a cartoonish personal description, I can’t help wondering whether Paterson being black might really have increased the odds of him taking this anti-eminent-domain position, since he probably knows that it’s often black neighborhoods that get plowed in favor of the mighty new forces of enterprise (who don’t want to have to buy things if they can help it — no libertarian since Adam Smith’s warnings about collusion between businessmen has said businesses are inherently libertarian — it’s the law that must ensure property-respecting rather than merely selfish behavior, something the left tends not to understand about libertarianism, refusing to see the world as anything other than classes and interest groups and voter blocs rather than individuals responding to legal and economic incentives shaped by public policy — such as, again, the strict property rights everyone from the little old lady in the dilapidated shack all the way up to Wal-Mart ought to have).

The grander political fusionism I’ve alluded to in this “Month Without Buckley” will require not just a right-wing-style enthusiasm for markets but also a left-wing-style cynicism, as deep as a punker’s, about the nefarious uses to which existing institutions can be put, and it may be a good idea to start by getting more leftists to see the thieving danger of letting government use eminent domain. Try telling the man having his house taken away that government “balances out” the oppression we supposedly experience at the hands of capitalism, with its “cruel” tendency to sell us goods and services. I can choose not to shop at Wal-Mart, but I can’t lie in front of the government bulldozers without punishment forever.

ADDENDUM: While I think of it, lest anyone doubt that Howard Dean is an evil shit, it’s worth remembering that he uttered one of the most brazen lies in American political history, gambling on the complete ignorance of the general public when, on a talk show, he said in response to the public’s outrage at the Kelo decision that to prevent more such decisions we need to get those “conservative justices” off the Court — though he must have known full well it was the liberal justices who supported the decision and hoped the clueless viewers wouldn’t. And liberal “respect for the little guy” wins another round.


Wow said...

aren’t there cases in which you’d be for eminent domain? i think it’s being used way, way too much and in many unfair ways, but there may be exceptions where a govt needs it. it should be used sparingly.

as for policy mattering over personality – this is about more than personality. spitzer broke the laws that he enforced for everyone else, so you can’t really trust anythign he says anymore. as for patterson and his affairs, that’s a more private matter.

Todd Seavey said...

Never say never — wouldn’t want the universe destroyed over it — but normally, no, abolish the government and thus, clearly, eminent domain, too. Multi-party private contracts of surprising complexity have been used to handle such things in the past.

And, yes, Paterson is a non-legal matter and (to answer your somewhat off-point questions from two other threads) charity is swell, as you are not the first to notice, St. Wow.