We realize that for a guy who announced his intention to hold his commentary on the Horne case until after the opinion comes down (any day now) we have been going on a bit about it, but we just came across a quote that captures that case to perfection and we feel we should share it.
Oscar Wilde said that nature imitates art. One of our undergraduate professors turned us on to that line and suggested that as we go through life, we keep track of such instances, so we did. Here is an example that captures the essence of that line to perfection in the Horne case.
“In such a world [of administrative law], there is no ‘law’ — in the sense of (a) you the citizen being found by (b) a jury of your peers to be in breach of (c) a statute passed by (d) your elected representatives. Instead, unknown, unnamed, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats determine transgressions, prosecute infractions, and levy fines for behavioral rules they themselves craft and which, thanks to the ever more tangled spaghetti of preferences, subsidies, entitlements, and incentives, apply to different citizens unequally. . . . No trial, no jury, just a dogsbody in some office who pronounces that you are guilty of an offense a colleague of his invented.” Mark Steyn, After America, at pp. 83-84 (2011).*
Which captures what happened in the Horne case to perfection. There, the government, purporting to act under a Great Depression era statute (that Justice Kagan characterized from the bench as the most outdated statute), said in effect to Mr. Horne: “Give us your raisins, tons of ’em amounting to 40% of your crop, without compensation, so we can use them to manipulate the raisin market by raising prices, and if you won’t, we — not a court — will levy a $400,000+ fine on you, which you won’t be able to contest in court until after you pay it.”
In the first go-’round, the unanimous Supreme Court didn’t like that last part, and now (in the second go-’round) is poised to tell us if that is a taking. But what’s to ponder? Isn’t this kleptocracy? A quintessential, uncompensated, physical taking of private property forbidden by the Fifth Amendment as a per se taking? Still, we just have to sit and wait for years on end until the last moment of the court’s current term to get the answer to that oh-so-difficult question.
And when that answer finally comes down, who knows what “justification” for this meshuggas the left wing of the court will come up with?
So stay tuned.
* If you are not acquainted with the writings of Mark Steyn, you should be. He is a conservative writer whose books and columns are perceptive and witty, and whether you agree with him or not, are well worth reading, if only for his acerbic style.