L. Neil Smith's
Number 333, August 21, 2005

"...far greater threat than Al Qaeda..."

CounterPoint: Do unto Others and all that jazz
by Seth Cohn
AbErrant Special Correspondent on the ground in the great Free State of New Hampshire

Exclusive to TLE

Alan Weiss's piece on Logan Clements and the Lost Liberty Hotel, while entertaining and thought provoking, is missing many of the facts.

Fact: Here in New Hampshire, eminent domain, thanks to a 20 year old decision by the New Hampshire Supreme Court (when Souter was on that bench, ironically), cannot have a commercial element to it. No 'Hotel' project passes that muster. Logan's Hotel has no teeth to it, so why spend any political capital on it? Many of us support doing something with some true potential for success.

Fact: a second project to begin eminent domain proceedings on Souter's property was begun at the same time as Logan's Hotel, but hasn't gotten nearly the press attention, despite that it's far more likely to go through. Thanks to NH RSA 39:3, a mere 25 signatures of local voters later, and a citizen petitioned warrant article is added to the ballot for the next Town Meeting & Vote. No worries about Selectmen who are personally opposed to the ED idea, this is a real balloted issue now, asking for the creation of a public Park, dedicated to honoring the Constitution.

Fact: Using the same petitioning law, a similar undertaking on Justice Breyer's property is underway as well. Here in New Hampshire, we still have the sort of political process our forefathers lived under, with true representative democracy at the local level, allowing those who are directly the Justices' neighbors to express their discontent. Justice of, by and for the people, shall not perish in New Hampshire, so long as we continue practicing true local politics the old fashioned way.

Fact: Mr. Souter's 8.08 acres is assessed at only $27,000, in 1999 value. The whole property is assessed at $108,100, colonial home and all. According to town records, the Breyer property is assessed at $617,300. Thanks to a current-use credit on the land surrounding the house, Breyer pays property taxes on $199,003 of the total value. For those unfamilar with NH real estate prices and taxation, let's just say that those are quite low as assessments go. Low enough to make ED proceedings, even at 'fair value' compensation, quite an attractive prospect for the people, since a Park would likely attract far more local revenue, just in tourism alone. If nothing else, exposing the fact that these properties are underassessed is a good thing.

Fact: the NH Senate and House are already moving swiftly to consider law changes to better protect our citizens from ED. Kudos to them. We'll be watching, and many of us will be involved in the process, meeting with, phoning & emailing our state Representatives (one for every 3,000 people here in NH) and Senators here. Politics here in New Hampshire is one of the local sports... and it's unlike any other state. It's quite addictive, and I highly recommend it.

Fact: Souter and Breyer are Justices for life. By directly bringing the consequences of their actions home to them, literally as well as figuratively, we hope they'll see the error of their ways, and take another ED case so as to be able to reverse their decision, and strike down ED laws that reach far beyond the pale in redefining 'public good.' Clearly, they aren't willing to protect the important principle of 'private property ownership' when it comes to others, preferring to defer to the State as ultimate owner of everything. Perhaps the principle of 'self-interest' will kick in once they realize that their own chickens have no place to roost. While we hope so, if not, at the least, a new park or two will hopefully stand in memorium of our "lost liberty", doing far better a job of it than the ghost potential of a hotel, which, while it's a great PR stunt and attention getter, is unlikely to ever break ground.

Seth Cohn is a Participant and Organizer in the Free State Project, and notes that he's put his money where his mouth is and moved to New Hampshire last year. He's very active in a variety of local groups already, and expects to see Liberty in his Lifetime any year now, or perhaps sooner.


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