"For the greater good"


Am I the only person in the cable news television audience who finds the frequent ads from TIAA—CREF (the pension fund manager for teachers, professors and other groups*) downright creepy? I refer to the ones which end in the tagline "For the greater good."

Such verbiage, especially when delivered by a melifluous voice, immediately raises the specter of someone blandly informing me that my interests or rights are to be overridden for the benefit of others. In fact, whenever I hear it, I think:

"Sorry, Mrs. Kelo. You have to leave your house because we want it for a hotel. It's for the greater good...."

Today, Mrs. Kelo herself addresses the question of what exactly consititutes legitimate seizure of private property in testimony before Congress, and in a Washington Times op—ed.

As I sat there in the U.S. Supreme Court back in February and listened to the justices hear my case, I was so disappointed their very first question and first concern was for the power of government rather than the rights of citizens. 

In many ways, my neighbors and I are the victims of legislators, lawyers and judges who believe it is somehow a sign of intelligence to make language that clearly means one thing mean something exactly the opposite: "Public use" now means private use; judges don't judge but instead let legislators decide whether they're violating the Constitution. There is nothing intelligent about misusing language in this way to take away people's homes and their rights.

I think she's right, and that the Kelo Decisiion was an outrage. Let us hope that Congress enacts legislation restricting the use of federal funds when property is seized in order to convey it to private developers. And please, TIAA—CREF, get rid of those awful ads. They reveal a stranbge (at best) mindset, perhaps appropariate to the professoriate, but repulsive to many others.

*In the interest of full disclosure: because I was a professor for a number of years, I actually have a TIAA—CREF retirement fund of my own.

Thomas Lifson   9 20 05