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The raisins ruling: What 'property' is

| Tuesday, June 23, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Nearly 10 years to the day since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government could take real property for private use, the high court ruled that government could not take personal property in the same perverted guise of, ostensibly, aiding the economy.

It was a decade ago Tuesday that the court, ruling 5-4 in the notorious Kelo case, said government could, with just compensation, seize your real property and hand it over to a private developer. That ruling warped the Fifth Amendment's “public use” doctrine beyond recognition.

But on Monday, the court, ruling 8-1 in Horne v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, began to return recognizable form to the amendment's Takings Clause by rejecting a New Deal-era abomination that allowed the government to seize a portion of a raisin farmer's crop without just compensation in order to create raisin scarcity that would raise prices.

Said Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, “Government has a categorical duty to pay just compensation when it takes your car, just as when it takes your home.”

The Horne ruling will not end these market-manipulating programs. But it will make them less attractive to government's command economists. And it signals a welcome return to the kind of legal sanity that Kelo eschewed.

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