When something of value is taken incrementally, it is sometimes called, allegorically, "slicing salami". That is, a slice of salami will rarely be missed, another slice will go unnoticed, until the salami is either almost, or all, gone.
American courts have been “slicing salami” for years. A recent slice named Kelo vs. New London was an audacious ruling that the fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not mean what it clearly says. Owners of private property were forced to sell to a government entity because the government could exact more taxes from a different use of the property. There was not even the pretense of going to the “penumbra” vault for cover. When Roe v. Wade came down, we heard the word penumbra for the first time from the Supreme Court. It seems our framers locked it into the Constitution, hoping it would be found by an enlightened court in years to come. It is a mysterious word, suggesting legality, but coming to be translated by true Constitutionalists as “anything goes”.
There was no pretense that the Kelo vs. New London decision was anything else than five unelected judges telling Americans that their property was up for grabs. The decision went beyond “eminent domain” (slice) and “blight” (slice) two excuses for takings that got the ball rolling. In a confusing ruling, it seemed the court was patting us on our heads and telling us not to worry, because our local governments would administer this decision fairly. If they truly believe this, it puts them in the same club that keeps seeing Elvis at the mall.
In Oregon, an initiative, forwarded by the citizens, said that the government could not restrict development on privately held land. Land use laws, administered by the government, were holding up development envisioned by some landowners when they bought their land, sometimes several years previously. The Supreme Court decision is probably going to make it more difficult for those landowners to realize the victory of using their land as they see fit. They will be lucky to even be able to keep that land, since the government has already said it would be the arbiter of how the land will be used. Certainly, in areas where the greens hold sway, NO use is good use. As it is, the local officials are dragging their feet in implementing the measure. This is an example of how difficult it is for average citizens to protect their rights and how easy it is for five judges to wipe them out.
The American people tend not to become alarmed unless a ruling directly affects their lives. It would be easy to think this decision will only force affluent property owners and businesses to sell their property to the government. However, no property is safe. If, for example, you live in a five bedroom, three bathroom house in a nice neighborhood, your family home would be ideal for a halfway house, dwelling for the homeless, or a rehabilitation facility for addicts. The trend is to put these in quiet, secure neighborhoods. It would certainly serve more people than just you, who might be living there alone or with a child or two.
Do you have a little cabin on land along a river? This setting would be ideal for a camp for disadvantaged youth. The same for a desert location. Maybe you own a resort in the mountains. Government officials seem to prefer these getaways for their seminars and other meetings. A resort in the mountains would be very appealing to those in government who had no qualms about taking from a private citizen “for the common good”.
In the recent ruling, several family homes were taken, to make way for a commercial enterprise. The government claimed that it needed those properties to give or sell to a developer. The taxes from such an enterprise would far outweigh the taxes paid by ordinary homeowners. The huge maw of government is always opening wider in search of more taxes. Never mind that the home owners would be paid less than what the owners thought the property was worth. Never mind that one owner had lived there all her long life. Never mind that many memories were held in those homes. How much are those memories worth? Far more than what any government could afford to pay.
Because there is so much cronyism in the local governments, one can envision favoritism shown to those who will pay the most, in cash or influence. Since the ultimate goal is the “common good”, who dares to say it is wrong?
“Can I have a slice of your Salami?”
“Well, it’s mine, you know, but I guess one slice won’t hurt.”
“I’m still hungry, Can I have another?”
“Well, maybe just one more. Wait, you’ve taken almost all of my salami. You even took the knife. Please, may I have just a little of my salami back?”
Barbara regularly writes for CapitolHillCoffeeHouse. She also appears in California Chronicle, Border Patrol, and Citizens Caucus. Her primary interest is illegal immigration, but she writes about other subjects as well.
Barbara lives in a large city on the West Coast. Her loyalties are with God, family, country, heritage and borders.
She enjoys music, painting, poetry and song writing.