June 30, 2005

For the good of the Sultan

A comment added to Sam Smith's article, "Eminent domain means the eminent get the domain":

In "Beds in the East," the third novel of Anthony Burgess's Malayan trilogy, a bequest of $20,000 for the public good is used by the Sultan to buy a new Cadillac: "The highest good is the Sultan's good."

Just so, the Supreme Court has now clearly defined "public use" as private use: The highest good is the developer's good.

The whole Bill of Rights codifies protection of the few from the power of the many and the mighty. But the government now is openly a frontman for business, clearing the way of little people and constructing the legal charade for capitalist pillaging and clearance of the inconvenient. It is ironic that it was the most right-wing members of the Court who opposed this establishment of "lo stato corporativo," i.e., fascism.

As Sam points out about the many great urban development failures and follies, thinking of the "highest good" is easily abused and compensation is rarely "just." Without regard for dissent and opposition, a developer's dream becomes part of that mythical city on a hill, glittering in all its delusional glory (and promise of cash flow).

Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe bulldozes whole neighborhoods where the poor might support his opponents. George Bush in the U.S. dismisses his war's destruction of individuals and families as noble sacrifice for "a cause greater than themselves." Environmentalists, flattered by official attention and drunk with corporate partnerships, fight against the regulations and local opposition they themselves once championed but now find in the way of their dream of giant wind turbines (that can't even be shown to work) on every wild mountain ridge and rural open space. And liberals hail the right of the state to bulldoze homes that stand in the way of what they deem progress: waterfront condos for the wealthy few as a solution to the economic troubles of the many. Profits -- not homes -- as "public use."

Business wants it, so we must need it. As Billy Graham once said, there's nothing more inspiring to the poor heathen than driving through their neighborhoods in a big white Cadillac. The highest good is the Sultan's good.