Carla Main, lawyer and journalist, author of the prizewinning book Bulldozed, Encounter Books, (2007), a riveting story about the abuse of eminent domain in Freeport, Texas, will speak at the Alexander Hamilton Institute (AHI) on Saturday, 4 October at 4:30 p.m, during Fallcoming Weekend at Hamilton College.
The Wall Street Journal calls her book “a primer on eminent domain and the legal arguments surrounding the claims of municipalities on private land.” The AHI’s good friend George Leef, Vice President for Research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, reviewed Bulldozed for the Cato Institute and concluded that the book’s “great lesson” was that “politicians should not be trusted with the power to remake cities according to their own visions.”
The AHI, located in the former Alexander Hamilton Inn, 21 West Park Row, in Clinton is a scholarly center devoted to the study of freedom, democracy, and capitalism. The AHI had originally invited Ms. Main to speak on March 8, but severe weather forced a postponement of her appearance.
Ms. Main will also speak to Kelo v New London, perhaps the most controversial Supreme Court decision since Roe v Wade. In October 2004, a bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the city of New London, Connecticut, had acted lawfully– within the meaning of the Takings Clause– when it initiated condemnation proceedings against Susette Kelo and eight other small homeowners to make way for a sweeping waterfront developmental project to benefit Pfizer Corporation. Neither Kelo nor her fellow plaintiffs were holdouts, trying to squeeze more money out of the city. They simply did not want to sell their homes. The decision sparked national outrage. The majority, in effect, had sanctified a definition of “public use” that had been gradually broadened by state and federal courts in the twentieth century to embrace the idea of “public good.” This elastic term, as critics pointed out, could mean almost anything. If one developmental project promised higher tax revenues for the state, then a taking that would transfer a piece of private property from one private owner to another could qualify under this enlarged definition as a “public good.” Nor, as the majority admitted, did the Court plan to second-guess the legislature on the design and economic promise of individual plans.
Sandra Day O’Connor, writing for the minority, maintained that the majority had violated one of the sacred first principles of the country. By “public use” the founders had meant something like a public highway or a coastal fort. “Under the banner of economic development,” O’Connor warned, “all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner . . . . Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
Ms. Main’s lecture is open to the public.
A reception will follow. The first 15 attendants will receive an inscribed copy of Bulldozed courtesy of the AHI.