In the United States, the Supreme Court has final say over whether any law is constitutional. So in a way it's the final barrier that prevents any legislators from getting too crazy or racist in the laws they pass.
But the Supreme Court itself is not made up of gods or wizards. They are just people, with agendas. And sometimes they have rendered opinions that make you wonder if the whole legal system isn't just full of crazy people from the top down. For instance, the court has ruled ...
5A Business Can Kick You Out of Your House if It Wants to Build There
Home ownership is truly a dream for many of us. The security of having a house to live in, building equity and owning a large enough floor plan to install the Batcave (it simply will not fit in a studio apartment) is second to none. It is your property, your sanctuary, and as long as you pay the mortgage, no one can take it away from you. Unless, that is, some corporation wants to build there.
You probably already know that there is such thing as eminent domain -- the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution mentions the taking away of private property by the government for public use (as long as they pay you for it), like if they need to build a highway or something there. But in the city of New London, Connecticut, seven homeowners had their property forcibly acquired by the government, and it wasn't for a new overpass or water treatment plant: Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, wanted to build a facility there.
"The owners told us to go Pfuck ourselves."
The city council argued that it was really the same thing -- given the potential economic growth and the jobs the pharmaceutical company would bring into the community, the acquisition could be considered as being for the public good (this is the same line of reasoning Obi-Wan Kenobi used when telling Luke Skywalker that his father was dead, when his father was actually both alive and Darth Vader). The seven unlucky property owners who were forced to sell their homes and move thought this was hot steaming bullshit (one of the homes they wanted to bulldoze had stood for more than a century) and took their case all the way to the Supreme Court in what is known as Kelo v. City of New London (2005).
The highest court in the land sided with New London, because money makes you nod your head at inappropriate times. The homeowners had their houses taken away from them and demolished (and were paid an amount the government decided was fair) to make way for the pharmaceutical company. The company then heroically ran out of funds and didn't build anything, leaving an empty vacant lot that was eventually turned into a garbage dump.
Sometimes the greater good smells like rotting cabbage and coffee grounds.