Weare, N.H.: Public Voted Libertarian in Eminent Domain Loss?

I know, the title is a bit confusing, and I’ll explain. The explanation will probably piss a few of you off, too.

According to the NY Post (via Fark), the Lost Liberty Hotel is now a no-go as local voters just rejected the proposal to evict U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter from his farmhouse by the use of eminent domain.

A group angered by last year’s court decision that gave local governments more power to seize people’s homes for economic development had petitioned to use the ruling against the justice.

But voters deciding which issues should go on the town’s March ballot replaced the group’s proposal with a call to strengthen New Hampshire’s law on eminent domain.

“This is a game,” said Walter Bohlin. “Why would we take something from one of ours? This is not the appropriate way.”

Like most Americans, I’ve certainly been angered by the Kelo decision, but to use the concept of democracy to apply eminent domain is no better than using judicial means. To begin, if it is wrong for the local development company to take my land, it is just as wrong for me to take the land of another. Two wrongs don’t make a right, even when done in the name of something just.

Joshua Solomon, a member of the Committee for the Protection of Natural Rights, was disappointed with the vote.

This seems a bit oxymoronic. How can someone who is allegedly protecting natural rights be upset when the attempt to seize the natural rights of another is thwarted?

Had the voters in Weare decided to use force to remove Justice Souter from his home, it probably would have have motivated votes to remove people from their homes and businesses in other communities. Like the Lost Liberty Hotel concept, the first vote or two might be a bit amusing — like forcing some corrupt mayor from his home or shutting down a local Wal-Mart. The next round of votes might be applied to shut down a strip club or porn shop. Then the local diner gets shut down to make room for a new chain restuarant. Then your neighbors can vote to kick you out of your house simply because you ran out of time to cut the yard or they don’t like the color of your house. This slipperly slope is a move away from individual rights and towards collectivist thinking.

The voters did the right thing by deciding to toughen eminent domain laws as opposed to applying eminent domain through the ballot box — which makes them more principled than the thousands of libertarians screaming for someone else’s private property.

Let the hate mail begin…

30 Comments
  1. I’ve been saying much the same all along. While I can certainly appreciate the humor, irony and even civil disobedience of attempting to use a bad law someone supported against them, it doesn;t make the alw right or just. I felt the pricipled stand would be to present this case and issue, as was done, but then to retract it before it become reality. I’m more disheartened by someone on a “Committee for the Protection of Natural Rights” being disappointed by this outcome. Does this mean that Libertarian politicians would use unjust means against thier opponents in the supposed name of “public good”? I would hope we can be more principaled than our opposition has ever been.

  2. all the supreme court said is that it will defer to the elected braches and, what is more, to the State’s elected branches, to determine when eminent domain might be utilized. Eminent domain is in the constitution, so the concept itself is not going to be found unconstitutional unless one amends the constitution. The people of Weare, rather than attack Souter– one of the most libertarian justices on the bench– are asking the state legislature to tighten up on the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes. If one wants to attack those taking advantage of eminent domain, then one should boycott Walmart (or unionize its workers) rather than pick on Justice Souter.

  3. Tony,

    I fight a lot of Wal-Mart eminent domain cases in Alabama, so I am very familiar with the company and its practices. How would unionizing Wal-Mart employees make any differnce in eminent domain cases?

  4. I agree. I just wish that he could have someway to get what was coming to him (Souter). I realize that by setting up the ‘let’s take the property of anyone who does something “wrong”‘ I just wish, i don’t know. The voters did the right thing.

  5. It was a publicity stunt, and from the amount of buzz it’s generated, they succeeded. Now eminent domain is one of the forefront libertarian issues in the news and we rightfully have Democrats and Republicans in a tizzy to get behind us on this.

  6. I am the person who initiated the amendment to the petitioned warrant article in Weare NH. While I oppose the abuse of eminant domain, the use of revenge is repulsive to me. Such battles are never settled. (Witness the middle east)
    Weare is a town of apx. 8500. There was no benefit to Weare to have this on the ballot. We, as residents shouldn’t be the pawns for this larger battle. For those who characterized my actions as sabotage, I suggest they research the strange manner in which local elections are held in NH. Elections are held as town meetings on two days separated by several weeks. In the first meeting, voters are given the opportunity to modify all items on the ballot (except candidates), and the second meeting is held to vote on that modified ballot. In towns that have elected to adopt SB2, that second meeting resembles the traditional election with secret ballots. Otherwise, it is an open meeting. I saw this as a game, and it was time to say “Game Over”.

  7. There’s nothing any more unprincipled about holding Mr. Souter to account than there was about dumping the British East India Company’s tea in the harbor.

  8. How can someone who is allegedly protecting natural rights be upset when the attempt to seize the natural rights of another is thwarted?

    Are you upset when you hear about an armed robber getting shot during a holdup? I’m not. Same principle.

    In abstract terms, it wouldn’t be an initiation of force — it would be retributive force.

  9. To Mr. Hanna: I say that you are comparing apples and oranges. We did not have the same form of government at the time of Boston Tea Party. Now we have legal means of redress.
    To Mr. Spangler: A armed robber being shot during a holdup is an example of defensive force, not retribution. Retribution would be the victim hunting down and injuring the robber. It is human nature to want to do this, but we have a system in place where the police have the duty to capture the robber and the courts have the duty to punish the robber. Taking the matter into our own hands is simply another step toward anarchy.
    Please think about the following: When you lose your temper, you lose. It may be as simple as respect, but it could be money, freedom, a loved one or a life. Anger is a human emotion. The measure of a person is in how s/he deals with it.

  10. Brad and Tom,

    My (combined) answer is that we did not have a true representative government at the time of the Boston Tea Party. We do have one, at this moment, and there is a way to change our political leaders.

    When I believe that we have moved too far from the concept of representative govt, I’ll quit working for candidates and instead argue for rebellion. I know Brad (and suspect that Tom) will agree that I have the cajones to put my life on the line should it come to this point.

    I don’t believe that we are at that point, yet. And if we are not at that point, my belief is that our responses should not harm other people.

    To be clear, I am in favor of civil disobedience, as long as the NAP/NAP principal is also applied.

  11. I’ll add that if the target was the development company (and not the justice), I’d have no problem with the landowners taking it out on them, as the justice system failed in this case, with no apparent further recourse possible.

  12. if the target was the development company (and not the justice)…

    That’s a good point. It is, however, flawed. The court system are not neutral arbiters. The state and the elite who benefit from the state committing acts of aggression on their behalf together constitute a criminal enterprise. You recognize this yourself to a degree, else you wouldn’t have correctly identified the development company as part of the state aggression (eminent domain).

  13. Brad, not sure on the latter. Drawing blood is drawing blood, to me. While I’m clearly not opposed to it (as evidenced by my years in the Army or my gun collection), I reserve it for the last line of defense (and certainly not for Iraq).

    Nigel and SVD, I do agree it was a good publicity stunt, but I’m also glad that we didn’t open that Pandora’s box.

  14. In my own defense….

    The media hasn’t reported my whole comments. I am not dissapointed that property has been protected.

    I am disappointed for two reasons.
    1. The language of the warrant article was changed thus denying the petitioners their first amendment right to have their issue put before the voters. “…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”
    2. The ‘new’ warrant article specifically protects Justice Souter from future eminent domain action. “To ask its selectmen not to use their eminent domain powers to take David Souter’s home…” Why is no one else in Weare afforded the same protection. No one else in the entire country enjoys such a specific elitist protection.

  15. JS:

    I wasn’t aware of the change. I’d love to see the warrant document — and will publish or link to it if it is as you’ve described.

  16. The final revision has not been published since yesterdays meeting.

    Here is what has been reported. An official revision should appear on the towns website (www.weare.nh.gov) sometime this week.

    Article 48
    Shall the town vote:
    1) To ask its selectmen not to use their eminent domain powers to take David Souter’s home for an inn.
    2) To urge the governor and the Legislature to adopt a statute and/or amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution to forbid eminent domain takings that would result in transfer of land or property to private interests for economic development purposes.

    Again, my disappointment lies in the fact that the town was unable to vote on the original issue (lets be honest..it was largely symbolic) and that the amended article should not have contained a specific exemption for Justice Souter.

    The Selectmen have claimed victory not by protecting property, but by elevating Souter above the law.

  17. I thought it was hilarious just to make a point. I would’ve disagreed with actually taking Souter’s house.

  18. I agree with Steve G., but I’ve got to admit, I was secretly hoping they’d get the bastard. It’s not something I could justify supporting, but it would have made me smile a guilty smile if they had gotten their way.

    I don’t see this as a failure at all, though. Logan & co. have succeeded in keeping this issue in the public spotlight, long after it would have otherwise been “yesterday’s news” to most folks. That’s a credit to their creative thinking & persistence. That’s some great work.

    >>Are you upset when you hear about an armed robber getting shot during a holdup? I’m not. Same principle.

  19. oops! …let me continue that thought:

    Brad, that’s an interesting point, but keep in mind that this would be more like robbing an armed robber than shooting him. I’m tired & haven’t given it much thought, so I’m not sure whether this changes things. It certainly makes for an interesting question to fall asleep thinking about, though.

  20. It was a good effort because it made some people think twice. I’m sure Justice Souter was one of them. He may not have changed has mind, but it had to enter his consciousness that Americans are tired of too much government.

  21. The next step should be to recall all the selectmen who in the heat of elitism gave Souter permanent protection.

    Of course they just following in the footsteps of the US Congress who have exempted themselves from – Social Security – Civil Rights – OSHA – Equal Rights – and many many other laws which the rest of us must OBEY or be punished.

  22. JS, my apologies indeed for being disheartened by seeing you quoted out of context. In context I certainly agree with your dissapointment.

  23. Forgetting the rhetoric from Logan Clements for the moment, those of us here in Weare always expected to be stopped.
    Only, we expectd to be stopped by the state legislature or by a lawsuit similar to Kelo v. New London…thus reversing its effect.

    Instead, we were stopped because a few people in town decided to raise Souter above the law.

    Our warrant article specified a particular parcel of land identified by it’s tax map ID numbers. The new and un-improved article gives blanket protection to a named individual.

    This is what I meant when I told the AP reporter that this was “not exactly the message we intended to send.”

  24. The people of Weare that attended the town deliberative session did NOT vote for strengthened eminent domain laws. What the group of 93 unguided activists did is violate the US Constitution (art. 14) as well as the NH State Constitution (art. 10).

    The activists are asking for the Town of Weare government to grant special protection for an individual by name; David Souter. This is illegal.

    I was there and I sat appalled to see the article rewritten and bastardized. This is a violation of a groups right to petition its own government, violating their rights.

    Walter Bohlin may think he is a patriot, or a superhero, but he is indisputably a coward in my circle(s). A man afraid of democracy, fearful of the remainder; 4900 registered Weare voters.

    “This is not the appropriate way”… Easy words, especially without presenting an effective plan that IS deemed appropriate…

    My one year old daughter could have entered the word “Not” in three places.