Christopher Swope was GOVERNING's executive editor.E-mail: email@example.com
Most Sunday mornings when I read the newspaper, my issue of Parade Magazine goes straight into the garbage can, along with all the other stuff in the yellow poly bag. I imagine that many of Parade's 34 million weekly copies meet the same fate as mine. Still the publication has to be taken seriously, if only because millions of people are surely exposed to its cover while checking what's on sale at Home Depot.
That's why this week's cover line, "Will the Government Take Your Home?" is so troubling. The accompanying article about eminent domain is laced with exactly the sort of scare-tactic hysteria I wrote about in July's Governing. There's even the five-point "What You Can Do" sidebar, promoting the false idea that learning how to fight off City Hall fatcats is somehow just as essential to the average person as, say, saving for retirement.
This is just another example of how the Institute for Justice may have lost last year's Supreme Court battle over eminent domain, but is now winning the war.
Parade chronicled all of IJ's favorite anecdotes, and quite nearly reprinted the tips for fighting the government straight from IJ's website. These libertarian lawyers are so good at spinning the media they should consider launching a P.R. firm if they ever get tired of taking on property-rights cases pro bono.
The problem is that eminent domain is a much more complex issue than IJ cares to acknowledge--and reporters are either too lazy or too smitten with David vs. Goliath storylines to sniff out the nuance. If all this were simply a matter of public relations it wouldn't matter. But as I wrote in July, the property-rights lobby is using the outrage that publications like Parade are stoking to push a hidden radical agenda in several states. It's not just eminent domain they want to undo. It's the whole system of land use regulation.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.