Sample Synthesis Essays for AP English Language
A recent Supreme Court decision has provoked much debate about private property rights. In this decision, the court ruled that the city of New London was within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution when it condemned private property for use in a redevelopment plan. This ruling is an example of the classic debate between individual rights vs. the greater good.
Carefully read the following sources, including any introductory information. Then, in an essay that synthesizes at least three of the sources for support, take a position that supports, opposes, or qualifi es the claim that the government taking property from one private owner to give to another for the creation of further economic development constitutes a permissible “public use” under the Fifth Amendment.
Refer to the sources as Source A, Source B, and so forth. Notes in parentheses are for your convenience.
Source A (U.S. Constitution)
Source B (60 Minutes)
Source C (Kelo decision)
Source D (Koterba, political cartoon)
Source E (Broder)
Source F (Britt, political cartoon)
Source G (CNN and American Survey)
The following is the complete essay that our writer developed for the eminent domain synthesis prompt, which is found in the Master exam.
Every time that my grandparents visit, I have to vacate my bedroom so that they can have a room of their own during their visit. It's always a painful few days because I'm locked out of the room that I've decorated, the room that holds all of my things; it's the room that's "mine." As my mother always says, "It's for the good of the family." But, no matter how much I feel deprived, I always know that I'll have it back in a few days. However, the results would be different if she applied the principal of "eminent domain." I would lose my room permanently, and it would be turned into a real guest room. I would not be a happy family member.
Because of this experience, I can empathize with the home owners affected by the recent 5:4 Supreme Court decision Kelo v. New London that cited a section of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation" (Source A). The Court ruled that New London, Connecticut, was within its constitutional rights to take private property and give it to another private individual in order to further the economic development of the city (Source C).
Contrary to what the Court sees as "permissible public use" (Source C), I believe that a government taking a person's home or business away and allowing another private individual or company to take it over goes against the idea of our private property rights. A good example of this is the situation in Lakewood, Ohio, where the mayor wants to condemn a retired couple's home in order to make way for a privately owned, high-end condominium and shopping mall. As Jim Saleet said in his interview with 60 Minutes, "The bottom line is this is morally wrong … This is our home … We're not blighted. This is a close-knit, beautiful neighborhood" (Source B). The Saleets who have paid off their mortgage should be allowed to remain there as long as they want and pass it on to their children. Here, individual rights should prevail.
However, I must also take into consideration the need for cities and states to improve troubled urban areas and clear blighted sections with new construction, tax revenues, and jobs (Source E). If governments are blocked from arranging for needed improvements and income, decline of cities and other areas could result. For example, the mayor of Lakewood, Ohio, Madeleine Cain, claims that the city cannot make it without more tax money coming in. As she sees it, Lakewood needs more money to provide required services. "This is about Lakewood's future. Lakewood cannot survive without a strengthened tax base," Mayor Cain told 60 Minutes (Source B). Here, it sounds like the greater good should prevail.
Legal experts disagree about which of the two positions is the better one. Scott Bullock of the Institute for Justice sees the principle of eminent domain as an important one for government planning and building but not for private development (Source E). On the other hand, John Echeverria, the executive director of the Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Institute, sees a danger in legislators going to the extreme in the opposite direction and limiting essential powers of government. "The extremist position is a prescription for economic decline for many metropolitan areas around the country" (Source E).
Ultimately, I have to agree with the large majority of people who responded to recent polls conducted by both the Washington Times and CNN. When asked if local governments should be able to take over private homes and businesses, over 60% said "no" (Source G). But, I will have to be open to the possibility that public use and the greater good may, in some cases, be the only viable solution to a complicated problem.
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