Saturday, June 27, 2015

Court backs property rights for a change

Well, it's about time.
In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, the court ruled 8-1 in a case that sounds narrow but has broad implications. It involved a New Deal-era program designed to “maintain stable markets” for agricultural products such as raisins by forcing farmers to hand over a portion of their crop — sometimes nearly half of it — to the federal government without payment.

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The court was unequivocal: “The Fifth Amendment applies to personal property as well as real property. The government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home.” That’s true even if — and it’s a big “if” in this case — the program provided some general economic benefit to farmers.

When the case was being argued, one of the court’s most conservative members expressed concern about the Soviet nature of the program. “Central planning was thought to work very well in 1937,” said Justice Antonin Scalia, according to an April report in the Los Angeles Times. “Russia tried it for a long time.” Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, although other liberal-leaning justices dissented on limited parts of the ruling. (Likewise, the court’s liberals sided with the government in Kelo.)

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