9/09/2005

The Reconstruction of New Orleans, Part I: The Land

The Good Lord, the Gulf Stream and the Supreme Court of the United States all work in mysterious ways.
Who would have thought that the most widescale devastation ever visited on a coastal American city would have happened just months after the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo - New London that the poor can't live by the beach?
The amount of private property in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast which will be seized by government under 'Kelo's test of 'public benefit' will be staggering. Steve Sailer has suggested 'Rebuilding New Orleans as Venice', and that a reconstructed city should embrace the water.
"I don't think actually that town is worth rebuilding, just as a kind of heritage park for what it is, which is a mildly agreeable party town, surrounded by this kind of stale welfare culture. I think it needs to be reinvigorated at a much more profound level. And I hope somebody is giving some thought to that. And that will be the private sector that does that, not government commissions."
Both Steyn and Sailer should read New Orleanian Sarah Whalen on the subject of reconstruction - hat tip Lew Rockwell. They might get their eyes opened.
But while both their proposals are undoubtedly well-intentioned, they do not solve the profound problem that any reconstruction effort will have to overcome - the sanctity of registered title. Even if your home's built from matchsticks on a mudflat six feet below sea level, if you have a recorded title to the land you own the land. And that land can only be taken away from you by legal means.
And less than three months ago, the Supreme Court gave those means teeth, even justifying it by saying development projects may be entitled to seize land on the basis that they will be able to pay higher taxes than residents.
On CBS News last night (yes, we watch Bob Schieffer in Scotland, if you're ready to sit up to 00.30 hours to do so), Bill Whittaker reported on hurricane damage in Biloxi, and mentioned how the loss of '$500 a day in local taxes' which had been paid by a now derelict floating casino was a blow to the local authorities.
The question is - how many agencies and authorities are already counting the tax income they will be able to make from development projects like hotels and floating casinos if they 'Kelo' half of the city of New Orleans?

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