I sometimes have mixed feelings about people in positions of authority who make serious mistakes and then apologize later. I admire them having the guts to admit they did the wrong things in the past, but I’m frequently still irritated by the arrogance of their original mistakes — and the consequences of those mistakes.
So I have mixed feelings about the news that a Connecticut Supreme Court justice has apologized to Susette Kelo for his role in taking her home away from her in the infamous case of Kelo v. City of New London. (I’m not going to outline the facts of the case since they’re so familiar to most people, but click the link for a summary if you need it.)
The case was the one that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and established the precedent that governments can basically take away private property from owners with pretty much any excuse they want to make up.
In the story about the Supreme Court justice in Connecticut, it turns out that the justice was at a function at which the Kelo case was being discussed by the author of a book about it. Kelo herself was there and the author explained the full details and context of the story, including its impact on Kelo. Afterwards, this justice — who was one of the four votes on the majority against Kelo at the Connecticut Supreme Court — came up to the author and Kelo and said, “Had I known all of what you just told us, I would have voted differently.”
Sadly, in future correspondence, the justice told the author that he still believed the case was correctly decided on the basis of U.S. Supreme Court precedents, but he would have voted to disregard those precedents if he had known all of the personal facts — yet he also said he believes it’s best for justices not to know those personal facts before making decisions. Can you say cognitive dissonance?
We have a lot of people in positions of authority today who seem to be taking the same sort of point of view. They see at least part of the damage they’re causing, yet they’re willing to continue down the road they’re on, hopeful that dedication to “the system” will somehow result in something good. They remind me of something Ayn Rand said in the foreword to her short novel, “Anthem“:
The greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting; the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom, with no concrete meaning attached to the word; the people who believe that the content of ideas need not be examined, that principles need not be defined, and that facts can be eliminated by keeping one’s eyes shut. They expect, when they find themselves in a world of bloody ruins and concentration camps, to escape moral responsibility by wailing: “But I didn’t mean this!“
There are some evil people in positions of power today, but most of the people who are in position to stop the things going on aren’t intentionally evil. They’re simply cowards who can’t face up to accepting that they are living lies in one way or another — and that their actions are slowly creating tyranny that will make life worse for everyone. And when that happens, it will be too late for apologies when they say that they didn’t mean to do this.
By the way, Kelo’s house was torn down by the city of New London — along with the rest of the property that the city stole from its rightful owners. Instead of building the fancy development that the brilliant top-down planners had anticipated, the city has let the land sit there unused. The land where decent homes once stood is now mostly vacant. The only inhabitants are a colony of feral cats.
In case you haven’t noticed, top-down planning still doesn’t work. Individual freedom does.
Note: The link for this story came via Radley Balko’s Agitator blog, which I’ll once again recommend that you make a daily part of your browsing.