by Timothy Sandefur
On the plane to Florida this week I managed to finish Carla Main's book Bulldozed, and it is outstanding. It has been a long time since a book made me as indignant and angry as this book did. It is really excellent, and highly recommended.
The book focuses on a Kelo-style eminent domain case in Texas, in which the city of Freeport, Texas, sought to take land from the family-owned Western Seafood company and transfer it to a private developer to construct a marina as a part of a projected tourist destination (read: "boondoggle"). The result, just as in Poletown and in other communities faced with such incidents, is a dissolution of community. Having torn down the fences that make good neighbors, the government creates instead a spirit of hostility and mutual resentment. In my brief in Kelo I wrote that "[e]minent domain abuse threatens this sense of domestic tranquility by putting the private property rights of some citizens at the mercy of others. Unlike simple political differences on policy outcomes or particular candidates, eminent domain proceedings result in depriving the losing person and his family of their homes or businesses, destroying the social bonds that make for healthy neighborhoods." The same is true of the city of Freeport, and Main illustrates it starkly. By the end of the book, the message is clear: the use of eminent domain to "reshape" communities is not just a violation of the Constitution: it's a shameful attack on the very core of community values.
Bulldozed is a powerful page-turner that illustrates the real-world effect that Kelo and decisions like it have on communities in this country. I can't imagine a better rallying cry for those determined to revive respect for private property rights.