The New York Times and the “Right to Seize Private Homes”

The Times finds the burgeoning property rights movement (set in motion by the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Kelo vs. New London upholding a broad interpretation of eminent domain) worthy of a Tuesday front-page story by John Broder, “States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes.”

That negative headline reads as if the paper takes for granted that overturning property rights is something a government has a right to do, a “right” that’s now at risk of being “curbed.”

As Matt Welch noted in Reason Magazine after the eminent domain decision was handed down, the Times editorial page was one of the few and definitely the most enthusiastic supporters of the 5-4 decision upholding a Connecticut town’s right to condemn private homes to make way for private development. The chilly title of the Times editorial: “The Limits of Property Rights.”

Welch wrote: “Like the activist who loves The People but despises every actual person he meets, the Times editorial page takes liberal stands when the issue is safely abstract -- but when it comes to the paper’s profits and political battles, the Little Guy can get bent.”

Jacob Sullum, also of Reason, reminded readers that the Times “used eminent domain to forcibly obtain the land on which it is building its new headquarters” in midtown Manhattan.

Broder’s story isn’t overly biased, but some might find sympathy for a development lobbyist unusual in the Times:

“The lobbyist for California's local economic development agencies said the ruling and the resultant legislation had been a nightmare. ‘My life hasn't been the same since June 23, 2005,’ said the lobbyist, John F. Shirey, executive director of the California Redevelopment Association, referring to the date the Supreme Court handed down the ruling. The group represents 350 local redevelopment authorities around California and believes such agencies need the eminent domain power to rebuild distressed cities.”

Pity the lobbyists!

And after quoting a source from the libertarian legal group Institute for Justice, Broder concludes with a view from a “more neutral” and apparently more trustworthy observer who also has concerns about the backlash against the Kelo decision.

“More neutral observers expressed concern that state officials, in their zeal to protect homeowners and small businesses, would handcuff local governments that are trying to revitalize dying cities and fill in blighted areas with projects that produce tax revenues and jobs.”

The “more neutral observer” quoted by the Times quotes is John Echeverria, a George University professor who has donated to the Howard Dean and Bill Bradley presidential campaigns. How politically “neutral” is that?

For more examples of New York Times bias, visit TimesWatch.

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Clay Waters's picture

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