Last Monday, “Eminent Domain” was the takeaway phrase from Markets & Morality’s first public event of the semester. Held in Winants Auditorium, the group held a screening of the 2017 Courtney Balaker film “Little Pink House,” which discusses property rights and government overreach. The film itself ran for approximately an hour and a half, after which a short discussion and Q&A session was held by Dr. David Ryden of the Political Science department.
As a primarily economics-oriented group, Markets & Morality centers on the ideas of free enterprise, political thought, Christian values and social ethics. The group typically consists of around a dozen members from varying majors and grade levels, who meet regularly for events on the themes aforementioned; these may be reading meetings, dinnertime discussions with prominent speakers and intellectuals, film screenings such as the one held Monday, travel opportunities to visit organizations associated with the group and weekend retreats (Those interested in joining the club, or simply becoming a “friend of M&M” are encouraged to contact the group’s director, Professor Sarah Estelle.)
After opening with a brief introduction describing the significance of Constitution Day and its connection to property rights, the group began their showing of “Little Pink House.” The film tells the real-life story of Susette Kelo, a resident of New London, Connecticut who becomes engaged in a legal firestorm involving a private corporation’s drive to forcefully repurpose her land. Kelo, played by Catherine Keener, is a recently divorced EMT trying to renovate a run-down small home with a prime view of the river. Pfizer, a pharmaceutical conglomerate who has just recently developed Viagra, wants to develop on a plot of land appropriated under the “New London Development Company” that includes Kelo’s “little pink house.” After she refuses to sell to them, even for above-market prices, they move to invoke “Eminent Domain” which designates seizure of her house.
Why? Because it’s for “the public good,” which they have little legal responsibility to prove. This case makes it all the way to the Supreme Court, in one of the most notable decisions in modern judicial history. Markets & Morality took care to ensure that this was not simply a movie night; the event was sponsored by the departments of Political Science, Economics and Business, as well as PreLaw Society. Dr. Ryden, Hope’s professor of Constitutional Law, spoke for approximately twenty minutes, being sure to answer all relevant questions and giving some insight into the subject. The event even featured shaped cookies, with a yellow bulldozer and a pink house. The next public event hosted by Markets & Morality will be a lecture on Oct. 15, featuring Dr. Paul Glewwe.