Ran into a former high school classmate last night at a meeting of the Floyd Town Council. She and her husband are afraid, very afraid, they will lose her family home to the town’s planned business district revitalization plan.
She is not alone in fearing the town government will run roughshod over private property rights in the name of “progess.” The owners of Floyd’s widely-praised Angels in the Attic also feel threatened by the town’s efforts to secure a state grant to pay for widespread improvements downtown.
“Is nothing safe?” Her question was not rhetorical. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s incredible decision last week allowing the town of New London, CT, to seize homeowner’s property for private commercial developments, those who own property realize that nothing is, in fact, safe from the long arm of the government.
This is an extremely serious issue with serious consequences for the time-honored tradition that a person’s home is their castle. The anquish on my high school friend’s face was neither hysterical nor exaggerated. It was real.
And the threat is real. All of us who own property or hope one day to own a home should be afraid. It has happened before and, thanks, to the highest court in the land, it could all too easily happen again. John Prine’s words from his song Paradise come hauntingly to mind:
Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.
And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away