Pfizer abandons Kelo site

posted at 4:05 pm on November 9, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Five Supreme Court justices ruled that the seizure of private property from several residents of New London, Connecticut to make way for a new site owned by pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer met the test of “public use” for eminent domain.  A decade after New London took homes away from its citizens to sell the land to a private corporation, Pfizer has decided it doesn’t want the facility after all, adding a fitting coda to a chapter of governmental abuse:

The private homes New London, Conn., took through eminent domain from Suzette Kelo and others, are torn down now, but Pfizer has just announced that it closing up shop at the research facility that led to the condemnation.

Leading drugmakers Pfizer and Wyeth have merged, and as a result, are trimming some jobs. That includes axing the 1,400 jobs at their sparkling new research & development facility in New London, and moving some across the river to Groton.

To lure those jobs to New London a decade ago, the local government promised to demolish the older residential neighborhood adjacent to the land Pfizer was buying for next-to-nothing. Suzette Kelo fought the taking to the Supreme Court, and lost, as five justices said this redvelopment met the constitutional hurdle of “public use.”

Ms. Kelo and many others lost their home, but the land is still undeveloped. Now Pfizer is abandoning the city altogether.

What are the lessons from this debacle?  First, the American system should protect private property from the reach of government as a starting point.  The Kelo decision — which was not a radical departure by any means, but the nadir of a slow trend of hostility towards private property — assumed that the decision about the best use of private property by private entities was better off being made by the government.  That insulted the entire notion of private property and put individual liberty in jeopardy.  Essentially, the Supreme Court endorsed the idea that using eminent domain to transfer property from one private entity to another was entirely legitimate as long as the government in question liked one owner over another.

Think of it as an early endorsement of Barack Obama’s response to Joe the Plumber on redistributionism, only in this case, Kelo and New London stole from the poor and gave to the rich.

And guess what?  New London chose poorly anyway.  Instead of having homeowners on that property, paying taxes and providing stability, the city now has an empty lot and a ton of political baggage.  The biggest lesson is that private owners should have the benefit of deciding for themselves the best private use of their land — primarily to bolster the rule of law and the concept of private property that lies at the heart of our personal liberty, but also because government is a lot more likely to muck it up.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Holy crap. I agree 100% with Ed Morissey. I’m going to go shower & cry myself to sleep.

Eyas on November 9, 2009 at 10:05 PM

You have got to be kidding. I hope the SCOTUS is paying attention. A teachable moment.

iurockhead on November 9, 2009 at 10:12 PM

Back in the 80′s I worked for an engineering company doing environmental assessments for a municipality condemning property for required, federal, increased airport setbacks. We would do interviews with private property owners to try to determine any “adverse” uses in the past. I had 8 property owners cry and 3 tell me to leave “or else”. They were all older people who had purchased property for retirement. Most were large lots several acres in size. As I was young and naive, I didn’t understand at the time – now I totally understand the 3 telling me to leave “or else”. GOVERNMENT NEVER KNOWS BEST – THEY JUST SCREW IT UP.

greengarnet on November 9, 2009 at 10:29 PM

They [the Founders] at least had the majority of the country with them. If we had the majority with us today, we could vote the bums out. So, as a minority, how do you propose to oppose all the powers of the government, unflattering media, and a majority of the unsympathetic populace?
AnotherOpinion on November 9, 2009 at 6:40 PM

The Founders were a minority, too. In most histories of the Revolutionary War that I’ve read, approximately 1/3 of the colonists were pro-Independence, 1/3 were Loyalists and the remaining 1/3 were “none of the above”.

ya2daup on November 10, 2009 at 6:09 AM

New London begins marketing the Pfizer property for a gaming casino in 5… 4… 3…

ya2daup on November 10, 2009 at 6:15 AM

IRONIC LOGIC FAIL…

Yoop on November 9, 2009 at 5:41 PM

I don’t see any logic failure, unless you consider having your mental shortcomings detailed to be some kind of insult.

MarkTheGreat on November 10, 2009 at 8:35 AM

…and you passed up the opportunity to gracefully admit your mistake.

thomasaur on November 9, 2009 at 5:50 PM

I responded in kind.

MarkTheGreat on November 10, 2009 at 8:36 AM

Maybe it’ll be the same day you post something that is factually accurate.

Proud Rino on November 9, 2009 at 6:42 PM

99% of my posts are accurate.

MarkTheGreat on November 10, 2009 at 8:39 AM

As a landowner in a rural area, this is always a huge concern.
Ranchers & farmers have been dealing with the abuse of eminent domain, as well as govt. entities abusing other laws, as well as EPA mandates, Endangered Species mandates, etc in order to gain control of private land.
When Kelo came down the pike, we were all extremely horrified that private land could be ‘legally’ confiscated by fed. & state govts for the sole purpose of giving it away to private corporations.
Right of way for a highway? Dam project?
I agree there.
But private entities?!
When will this madness ever end?

Badger40 on November 10, 2009 at 9:49 AM

Anyone want to make odds that the property will be redeveloped with section 8 housing?

Burgher on November 10, 2009 at 9:58 AM

When government is not responsive to the people, or even worse, they act against the people, is it any wonder that politicians begin to fear for their very lives and whine about the “violence” in in the words of angry citizens?
It comes to this: The people are responsible for their votes. They can vote smarter or they can continue to be abused and we will start seeing dead politicians and cries for harsh government crackdowns which will make the problem worse. Voting smarter is a lot less bloody and solves the problem on multiple levels. Just because politicians act like monarchs, it doesn’t mean they are such. We still have time to reverse this trend before the bullets start flying. Once that ugly genie is out of the bottle…God help us.

SKYFOX on November 10, 2009 at 10:05 AM

How? They at least had the majority of the country with them. If we had the majority with us today, we could vote the bums out. So, as a minority, how do you propose to oppose all the powers of the government, unflattering media, and a majority of the unsympathetic populace?

AnotherOpinion on November 9, 2009 at 6:40 PM

As an amateur scholar of the Revolutionary War period, I think I can safely say that the Patriots did not have the majority of the people behind them in the beginning.
Back then, as now, people were apathetic & selfish.
They didn’t want any trouble.
It was the initial Patriot minority that had the vision to change things, thereby bringing more over to their way of thinking.
Your post is that of a defeatist mentality.
I only thank God our forefathers had the moxy to keep at it (& thank the Brits for screwing up royally on several occassions with their arrogance).
Bcs they didn’t give up the dream of liberty, we are all here to freely enjoy it.
At least for the time being.
I prefer to remain optimistic, thank you.
Where there’s a will, there IS a way.

Badger40 on November 10, 2009 at 10:38 AM

As an amateur scholar of the Revolutionary War period, I think I can safely say that the Patriots did not have the majority of the people behind them in the beginning.
Back then, as now, people were apathetic & selfish.
They didn’t want any trouble.
It was the initial Patriot minority that had the vision to change things, thereby bringing more over to their way of thinking.
Your post is that of a defeatist mentality.
I only thank God our forefathers had the moxy to keep at it (& thank the Brits for screwing up royally on several occassions with their arrogance).
Bcs they didn’t give up the dream of liberty, we are all here to freely enjoy it.
At least for the time being.
I prefer to remain optimistic, thank you.
Where there’s a will, there IS a way.

Badger40 on November 10, 2009 at 10:38 AM

I don’t consider myself an historian of any kind — not even amateur. But, this currently omnipresent claim sounded like B.S. to me; and, it turns out that it most likely IS b.s..

see http://www.independent.org/publications/article.asp?id=1398

There are other sites addressing the same issue. I make no claims about the website I linked above, or any other. But there is clearly good reason to doubt this “1/3 support” claim. The claim demands proof. If you’ve got it, present it.

Eyas on November 10, 2009 at 10:39 PM

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