Thank you for joining me. The purpose of my talk today will be to clarify the purpose and moral justification for the Lost Liberty project and to take questions from supporters, opponents and the media...but I repeat myself.
I want to especially thank the first 25 people who showed up. We offered them a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. I want to mention why the story in this book is so relevant to our current situation. In this book the citizens of America are being suffocated by a government that grows more powerful every day. Eventually it becomes so powerful that nearly every aspect of people's lives is under the control of one state agency or another. The characters are at a loss as to how to liberate themselves from this abusive government until word spreads of a creative strategy to foil their oppressors.
This book is what inspired me to start the Lost Liberty project. The philosophy behind this book is called Objectivism. I'm an Objectivist. It would be inaccurate to label me as a conservative, liberal or libertarian. However, because 93% of the American public is opposed to the Supreme Court decision in Kelo versus City of New London, this project has gained the support of a wide cross-section of Americans. We have liberal and conservative supporters. Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians all want to spend a night in Weare. I've gotten wildly enthusiastic e-mails of support from everyone from high school students to grandmothers, from soldiers on the front lines to venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. When I first announced this idea visitors to FreestarMedia.com jumped from about 200 a day to 370,000. So apparently I'm not the only person believes that this project could help reverse a dangerous trend in America.
When a forest fire is on the loose, fire fighters will sometimes start small fires in order to prevent the forest fire from growing into an all consuming wildfire that burns down everything in its path. Would you say that these firefighters are contradicting their own principles by starting such fires? This is the best analogy I can offer as to why people who are opposed to the use of eminent domain can rightfully use eminent domain in order to stop eminent domain abuse.
Most Americans understand that the problem of eminent domain abuse is about to become a wildfire. Most Americans are smart enough to understand what we are seeking to accomplish with the Lost Liberty project is not to promote eminent domain abuse but to put an end to it.
We are outnumbered. Almost every large city government abuses eminent domain on a regular basis. We are outspent. Governments have nearly unlimited financial resources and vast armies of bureaucrats with which to fight us. All that we have on our side is a better principle and promising strategy. Sometimes when your adversaries become so powerful that countering them directly is impossible your only recourse is to arrange things in such a way that the cannon balls they fire land on their own houses.
On June 23, in the Kelo versus City of New London decision, The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 majority, ruled that a government is allowed to take your home and transfer it to another private party if it believes that it will generate more tax revenue and economic benefits by doing so. In the words of dissenting Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, ÒUnder the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private ownerÉÓ
This is not a story about a California man with a crazy idea. This is not a story about Weare, New Hampshire. This is a story about the never-ending struggle between freedom and force, between the individual and the state, between principle and power. There are no outsiders in this story, all Americans are affected by this terrible Supreme Court decision.
This IS a story about whether Americans will allow government to continue taking away more and more of their rights until one day government will control every aspect of their life, tax every dollar three times over, and they will become nothing more than pawns of an all powerful state. Now perhaps you think that this is an exaggeration. Perhaps I sound alarmist in making this statement but it is not ME that is signaling the alarm. It is the lesson of history.
History tells us that freedom is rare while abusive governments are the norm. History shows us that governments naturally tend to gain power while individuals naturally tend to lose it. We can see that the only way that freedom survives in a sea of statism is if individuals, empowered by rational principles, are not afraid to stand up and “say enough is enough, this injustice cannot stand.”
As human individuals our primary tool of survival is our mind. It is our mind, more than our body, that gives humans the ability to live and prosper in the harshness of nature. But individuals cannot live and certainly cannot prosper if force is initiated against them. Therefore we create amongst ourselves governments whose only proper function is to stop the initiation of force.
Stopping the initiation of force must be primary and highest purpose of government. And just as a person can not serve two masters a government can not have more than one primary purpose. For if government pursues other seemingly noble causes it inevitably violates this primary purpose and abnegates its moral legitimacy.
For example when government pursues the goal of eliminating poverty through cash disbursements to the poor it has to first take this cash by force from other people. Thus government, rather than stopping thieves, becomes the biggest and most prolific thief. Likewise when government decides that economic development should be its purpose it ends up taking property by force from its rightful owners. Now, criminals may steal your wallet or your car stereo but at least they don't run off with your house.
And to add insult to injury, while governments are busy violating rights and taking property from its rightful owners, they fail miserably at the improper ends they do pursue. In fact governments usually make things worse. And it only makes sense. Government has only one tool at its disposal: the threat of force which stands behind every law it passes. But the threat of force doesn't increase agricultural output, create computers from silicon, or cure disease. We can observe that the things that make our life better came not from the pens of legislators but from the minds of innovators.
But how can individuals, who require freedom from force in order to live and prosper, counter the nation's most powerful judges when those judges advocate the initiation of force? Only through education. So while the Lost Liberty development project will surely provide economic benefits to the town of Weare it will also help educate five special-needs students about the importance of the fifth amendment.
I would love to send Supreme Court Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer and Souter on a one year tour of Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea. In these countries they can learn what sort of economic development results when property rights are destroyed.
However, my educational venture doesn't plan on having a Òyear abroadÓ program. Rather, we'd like to provide Òhome schoolingÓ. Therefore, I have proposed that a lodging establishment be built to commemorate our Lost Liberty on 34 Cilly Hill Road in Weare New Hampshire. This is one of only five logical locations for such a hotel because it is plot of land owned by a Supreme Court justice who voted in favor of the Kelo decision.
According to this ruling a developer simply needs to show that his development will generate more tax revenue for the city government than the current owner pays in property taxes. Therefore, we simply need to show that that our development will generate more than the $2,895 in taxes paid by the current owner. Well, with a hotel and restaurant tax of 8%, the bill for three days of lodging and six meals for a couple might total around $450 thus generating $36 dollars in tax. If just 81 couples visit to the Lost Liberty development it can be said that this new owner of the land is generating more tax revenue than previous owner. However the calculation is complicated by the fact that the tax revenues first go to the state of New Hampshire then a fraction of them go back to the Town of Weare using a formula so complicated that even the person I spoke to at the Treasury Department couldn't explain it.
However, no matter what the formula is, if you go to the website http://www.pledgebank.com/LostLibHotel you will see that 1,411 people have pledged to pay for seven nights in a hotel built on property seized from David H. Souter. Therefore using the Supreme Courts own logic we've already met the criteria for seizing the parcel of land located at 34 Cilley Hill Road.
Likewise it goes without saying that other economic benefits will accrue to the town of Weare. The hotel can't run itself. People will have to be hired to build and operate it thus creating more jobs and more tax revenue. And of course customers won't want to spend all their time on the grounds but will surely spend their money at local businesses. So therefore using David Souter's own logic his property can be taken by the Town of Weare and transferred to developer.
Some might think that this project contradicts its own principles. Let me address that issue. It is wrong to initiate force. It is not wrong to stop the widespread initiation of force by applying the flawed logic of its most powerful advocates to those advocates. In other words, there is nothing wrong, and everything proper, with having the Supreme Court justices live under their own rulings.
Eminent domain abuse is out of control and the Kelo ruling has only make the problem worse. The Institute for Justice documented that in one five year period governments either took, or threatened to take, more than 10,000 homes, businesses, churches and private lands not for a “public use”such as a police station or post officebut for private economic development. Among many examples, the Institute for Justice found instances where governments:
Condemned a family's home so that the manager of a planned new golf course could live in it; Evicted four elderly siblings from their home of the last 60 years for a private industrial park; Removed a woman in her 80s from her home of 55 years to expand a sewer plant, but actually gave her home to an auto dealership; You can get this report, entitled ÒPublic Power, Private GainÓ, at IJ.org
And we must not for a minute think that the Supreme Court is some infallible agent of justice to whom we should blindly show our obedience. Let's not forget these Supreme Court rulings:
Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) Whereby the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans were not U.S. citizens and therefore couldn't use the courts.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).Whereby the Supreme Court legalized racial segregation in publicly owned facilities
Korematsu v. U. S. (1941). Whereby The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of detention camps for Japanese Americans during WW2
But why are we seeking to build this project on the land of Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter? Well I had to start somewhere as I don't currently have the resources to pursue five developments simultaneously. And the success of these developments will be determined primarily by the local residents. Who better to put my faith in than the people living in a state whose motto is "Live Free or Die" and the residents of a Town whose official seal commemorates a riot against a bad government policy.
And I have not been disappointed. Several residents of Weare and nearby communities have gotten together and formed an organization called the Committee for the Protection of Natural Rights. Their website is natural-rights.org. They are the ones who will lead this project forward in the political arena. I know it's a lot of fun for those of you in the media to cast me as the crazy Californian with a wild idea but much like Richard Nixon once said, "eventually you won't have me to kick around any more". The sooner I completely hand off this project to the Committee for the Protection of Natural Rights, and to an experienced real estate developer, the better. I'm talking with several such developers right now. Eventually I hope that I will be getting beaten up by the media in another fine state.
I believe that proceeding with this project will tremendously benefit the cause of freedom no matter what the outcome. If we build the hotel it will show all Americans that even the property of a Supreme Court justice isn't safe from eminent domain. This should prompt people to demand that state and federal laws be put in place to strictly limit the use of eminent domain. If we are stopped from building the hotel because the State of New Hampshire enacts a bright line rule to prohibit eminent domain from being used in this manner then at least the residents of New Hampshire will benefit. In either case it should help five people learn why the fifth amendment must not be watered down
Ultimately, whether this project helps reverse the erosion of property rights or not depends on the residents of Weare, New Hampshire. All America is hoping that you will have the courage to rise above the natural tendency to automatically support the person that lives closer to you in a confrontation with someone from a distant place. We are all hoping that you will choose principle over proximity and that you will understand that our use of eminent domain must be taken in the context in which we currently find ourselves and with the purpose for which it was originally initiated.
The Boston Tea Party may have appeared, to the uninitiated, to be no more than a reckless exercise of retribution. We know now that it was an important step in liberating America from an oppressive government. Our development won't express America's outrage through the destruction of tea boxes but through the creation of lodging in a state that has reputation for revolution. In fact Article 10 of the New Hampshire Constitution offers gives citizens the right of revolution when other means of redress are ineffectual.
America is putting their hope for the restoration of property rights in the hands of the people of Weare, New Hampshire. I'd like to introduce you to some these people:
Joshua Solomon is a software engineer and a pilot who lives in Weare.
Keith Lacasse is architect who lives near Weare
Johnna Grzywacy is a health care auditor who lives in Weare.
Lars Hogblom is an architect who works lives (in/near) Weare
Gary Hopper is a former NH state representative who lives (in/near) Weare
And we have the first member of our legal team.
Paula Werme will lead a team of lawyers from all across America who have volunteered their services to aid this project.
I'll now take your questions.
(The above copy was the intended speech. Some variations occurred during delivery).