David R. Henderson  

Little Pink House Is a 9

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I saw the movie Little Pink House in Monterey on Tuesday night. Here's the trailer.

I rate movies on a scale of 1 to 10. Anything 7 or over is one I'm glad I saw and would recommend.

Little Pink House is a 9.

It's the true story of Susette Kelo and her fight to keep her house from being seized by the local government in New London, Connecticut.

Spoiler ahead. The case goes all the way to the Supreme Court where she loses by a 5 to 4 vote. (That's a spoiler only for people who know nothing about the Kelo case.)

There's not a wasted scene or line of dialogue in the movie.

I was surprised by how much one of the villains, Charlotte Wells, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, made her case for seizing relatively low-income people's property on the basis of "social justice." I thought this might be poetic license because I don't remember social justice being so big a term 18 years ago, when this whole controversy got going. But I asked producer Ted Balaker and he assured me that yes, Charlotte Wells actually did talk that way.

Interestingly, one of the other heavies in the movie, Connecticut's governor, is not named, even in the credits. He is John Rowland.

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CATEGORIES: Liberty , Property Rights

COMMENTS (11 to date)
Thaomas writes:

Slightly off topic, but I've always wondered why the "seizure" issue is not framed in terms of how much of the presumed benefit for the transfer of ownership is to be shared with the previous owner. For the previous owner to insist on 100% or more does indeed seem unreasonable but so is zero (purchase at the the pre-development market value)

robc writes:

I have always thought there was a contradiction in determining market value, as the market value is that which a willing buyer and a willing seller agree to.

Without a willing seller, there can be no market value.

I have always thought that if we had to do ED, the only "proper" way to do it is to keep increasing the offer until accepted, but that the property value for property tax purposes tracks the offers. If you turn down X for the house, be prepared to pay property taxes based on X as the valuation.

You can bluff to try to get more money, but if the government backs down, you are still paying the higher tax rate.

I can see that system being abused by a connected owner getting inside info on how high the offers will go. But that seems like more direct abuse than current ED.

michael pettengill writes:

Is this a case for, or against, demolishing low density housing in places like San Francisco and Seattle where economic booms have produced a huge influx of high income workers that has displaced many working class families to the point of homelessness?

Would New London been virtuous if it bought the houses it could and either rented them to transients, used them for homeless, used them as halfway houses, or demolished them for development as large enough blocks have been acquired, changing the nature of the neighbor only as fast as residents died or moved out?

Or were the residents, like Kelo, entitled to act collectively to preserve the residential working class, mixed use, status by use of zoning to restrict development?

Is zoning to preserve what Kelo valued a good thing or bad thing?

Kevin Erdmann writes:

An under-appreciated aspect (one might say problem) of a fully implememted Georgist tax system is that this would become the standard, because the homeowner would pay taxes based on the value the developer places on the property.

Dave Smith writes:

robc, it's not the the seller is not willing, it is that the seller is not willing at the market price. Therefore, market compensation is not enough even if one thinks this type of taking is justified as ED.

Daniel Klein writes:

Disclaimer: The filmmakers Courtney and Ted Balaker are friends of mine.

LPH is indeed a fine movie, a 9, and the classical-liberal power simply resides in the story (the plot, the characters). The film's classical liberalism does not come across as gratuitous or didactic.

Don Boudreaux writes:


The legal - and ethical - issue that was at stake in Kelo was not how much or how little money Suzette Kelo was to get from the state for her house. The issue was whether or not the state has the authority to seize her house under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Ms. Kelo rightly argued that seizing A's private property in order to give it to B because B is likely to pay more taxes is not what the Constitution means by "public use" when it restricts government's power to "take" (upon paying just compensation") private property only for "public use."

robc writes:

Dave Smith,

No. What I am saying is that the "market price" is the price that makes the seller willing.

Market price is always enough, they just aren't willing to offer the true market price.

Or, I guess, that means there isn't a market price, if the buyers top offer is lower than the sellers bottom offer.

rob writes:


An under-appreciated aspect (one might say problem) of a fully implememted Georgist tax system is that this would become the standard, because the homeowner would pay taxes based on the value the developer places on the property.

No, because the Georgist tax would only be on the value of the unimproved land, and the seller has improvements they want to be compensated for also.

Fred Thompson writes:

Pius XI's 1931 encyclical,Quadragesimo Anno officially adopted "social justice" as part of Catholic doctrine. In the 1950s, it was the watchword of the Catholic Worker movement, later popularized by Michael Harrington in The Other America.

Kevin Erdmann writes:


My understanding is that this is actually an explicit part of the Georgist plan. Land owners would be induced to develop real estate to its most productive use because the tax on the land would reflect it. So, little old ladies who owned little old homes in the middle of a growing metropolis would pay higher taxes, and would be more likely to sell to developers who would develop the structures appropriate for the location.

One of George's bugaboos was land speculation where land around cities is purchased and left underdeveloped as its owners wait for its value to rise.


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