My Kind of Hotel

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Please read the PS after this entry. Our "white knight" may not exactly be what he seems.

This is racing around the internet like wildfire. I've seen it already just making cursory visits to Chapomatic and d'Anconia Online.

A new ruling by the Supreme Court which was supported by Justice Souter himself itself might allow it. A private developer is seeking to use this very law to build a hotel on Souter's land.

Justice Souter's vote in the "Kelo vs. City of New London" decision allows city governments to take land from one private owner and give it to another if the government will generate greater tax revenue or other economic benefits when the land is developed by the new owner.

On Monday June 27, Logan Darrow Clements, faxed a request to Chip Meany the code enforcement officer of the Towne of Weare, New Hampshire seeking to start the application process to build a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road. This is the present location of Mr. Souter's home.

Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.

The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Cafe" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. [links and minor correction added]
Amazingly, I find myself salivating at the prospect of a city council using "eminent domain on steroids."

My wife has relatives in New Hampshire. If this gets built, I'm staying in it no matter how much it costs. I need a new copy of Atlas Shrugged anyway!

Of course, I'm hoping a Supreme Court reversal interferes with that bit of poetic justice. I'm a much bigger fan of the real kind.

Thank you, Mr. Clements, and I hope we'll see Mr. Souter in court! Believe it or not, if that happens, I'll be rooting for Mr. Souter should his case wend its way to the Supreme Court. (And now that I think of it, wouldn't he have to recuse himself? Any legal experts out there?)

-- CAV

PS: Thanks to Martin Lindeskog, I now know that the mysterious Logan Darrow Clements in this story is a Libertarian. According to an entry in Nicholas Provenzo's blog, Rule of Reason, Clements ran in California's recall election for governor in order to, in his words, "spread Objectivist ideas in the mass media." As both Provenzo and another blogger, Noumenalself, point out, this kind of grandstanding is ultimately futile. As Noumenalself put it:
Running as an Objectivist in an election like that was worse than futile because it probably damaged Objectivism's public image far more than it succeeded in plugging Atlas Shrugged. Suppose you knew nothing about Ayn Rand or Objectivism. Now you find out that there is some Ayn Rand guy running in an election along with Schwarzenegger, Gary Coleman, Larry Flynt, a porn star, and a guy in a clown suit. What do you think you'll conclude about Objectivism?
This blog entry goes on to mention Clements's associations with Kelleyite pseudo-Objectivists.

So what does this have to do with Clements's current actions? Or should I say, "antics?" This is precisely the problem. All this might be merely ... antics purportedly done to "spread Objectivist ideas," but resulting in their being discredited instead.

What Clements proposes to do is exactly the kind of thing (not that it had to be the property of Justice Souter) that needed to be done: Provoke a test case to try getting this horrendous decision overturned. But is this really what Clements is doing, or is this just his chance to make a "splash" for Objectivism? Only time will tell.

In addition to possibly damaging the credibility of Objectivism, what if Clements fails to follow through? Perhaps someone else had been thinking, seriously, of doing the same thing and backed down upon hearing about Clements's plan. This person would not necessarily decide to do the "heavy lifting" with Clements out of the picture and even if he did, however much time it took for Clements's publicity stunt to reach its denouement would have been lost.

Time will tell, but the precedents are not good, based on Clements's past behavior and associations.

PPS. There has been quite a bit of further discussion on this over at d'Anconia Online and at Noodle Food. Furthermore, Tracinski at TIA Daily refers to this as a "brilliantly conceived public relations stunt," which it is. The question remains: "Publicity for what?" Clements is obviously motivated to promote his television show and whatever it is he regards as "Objectivism." As the commenter bbrown below points out, Clements probably does not have legal standing to sue, which backs up my contention that he is not really interested in trying to challenge the Kelo decision in court. But Clements, as bbrown also points out, is probably superfluous in that way: Other eminent domain cases are already in the works. There will be other opportunities for Kelo to be challenged.

So what's my "final answer," to use a moldy pop-cultural allusion? Clements is committing the same wrong as he did when he ran for governor in that he tries to use a publicity stunt to spread ideas. My condemnation of him for slowing down the eventual challenge to the decision is wrong, based as it was on my incorrect assumption that there weren't already other similar cases in the courts. As far as his effect on whether legislation for reform of eminent domain occurs, I regard that as negligible on further thought. Americans were up in arms over this decision without his goading us on and we won't need him to goad us on further. He may, in spite of himself, succeed in gaining some favorable publicity for Ayn Rand, given the emphasis on Atlas Shrugged in the stories about his stunt in the MSM, which will not directly mention his other associations in much detail. The issue he has chosen to grandstand on is so clear-cut that what, if anything, he has to say about it will likely be ignored as most Americans laugh at the big joke he has made at Justice Souter's expense. He'll make a big splash, maybe a few people will buy Atlas Shrugged, and a maybe few people will conclude that Objectivists are kooks after perusing his web site. But he'll otherwise be forgotten, and so much the better.

I'll concede that it's a brilliant stunt, but it will make little difference in the long run. Too bad a kook came up with it.


Today: Added prefatory comments in italics above the entry and a PS.
6-30-05: Corrected a name. Added a PPS.


bbrown said...

But isn't this sort of like trying to demonstrate the evil of taxation by seeking a level of 100% in order to bring the issue into immediate focus?

I agree that Souter et al. are able to make their decisions largely divorced from any consequences but is it an act of integrity to attempt to abrogate a fellow American's property rights. Even if it's an act that they implicitly advocated, it seems wrong to act in a way that you despise.

Gus Van Horn said...

I see this proposed course of action as moral and beneficial in one possible way. (Provided that government-aided theft is not the motivation.) I can't speak for Clements, so I will address this from the standpoint of the correct reason for trying to condemn Souter's property.

I might be -- but doubt that I'm -- wrong about this, not being any kind of legal expert, but .... Doing this could result in a legal battle that makes it to the Supreme Court, resulting in an opportunity for the court to reverse its recent decision. As a means of restoring our property rights, this action would be perfectly valid.

The motivation isn't theft-by-government, but a challenge to a bad law. The moral justification -- but not the legal status of the act itself -- is the same as for civil disobedience.

I considered whether spurring legislation by doing this would be valid. I don't think so. The way to get legislation going is to lobby like hell for it, to write letters-to-the-editor, and other forms of intellectual activism.

Related to what I think is the proper motivation for doing what Clements is doing. (1) Clements does not make it explicit that he is acting for the reason I cited above, now that I think of it. And (2) It is far from certain to me that he intends to follow through on this. (One of my original concerns.)

"Spreading ideas," which is as close to a motivation as I can ascertain for Clements is not a valid reason to do this for reasons I have already indicated above.

Having said all this, if I am actually wrong that this action could result in a new legal battle, then what Clements is doing is horribly, egregiously wrong, though perfectly legal. Why is it wrong? The public is focussed on punishing Souter rather than lighting a fire under Congress's seat to do something to protect private property.


bbrown said...

I agree with the use of test cases to precipitate changes, but there are *tons* of those going on around the nation before Kelo and will continue to occur.

Legally, I think Clements will be found to lack standing since he's a Californian media entrepreneur (stretching) whose motivation is clearly suspect. Any zoning laws in Weare could easily be used to deny his request. If he were a hotelier and Souter owned a commercial building, then I think he could probably take this to court and wend his way through the justice system.

It's obvious to anyone that he's grandstanding and that's--I suspect--not a legally actionable grounds for eminent domain.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for your contribution on the legal angle. If you're right that he has no standing, then Clements is indeed acting reprehensibly. In fact, if there are already other cases that might result in this decision being revisited anyway, then Clements is behaving in the worst ways I suspected.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving these comments.