Ed Driscoll

Putting The Independence into Independence Day

Mark Steyn writes, “On this Independence Day weekend, the people might wish to give some thought as to how they might reclaim their independence from the God-like Supremes”:

Most laymen understand the “public interest” dimension as, oh, they’re putting in the new Interstate and they don’t want to make a huge detour because one cranky old coot refuses to sell his ramshackle dairy farm. But the Supreme Court’s decision took a far more expansive view: that local governments could compel you to sell your property if a developer had a proposal that would generate greater tax revenue. In other words, the “public interest” boils down to whether or not the government gets more money to spend.

I can’t say that’s my definition. Indeed, the constitutional conflation of “public interest” with increased tax monies is deeply distressing to those of us who happen to think that letting governments access too much dough too easily leads them to create even more useless government programs that enfeeble the citizenry in deeply destructive ways.

Nonetheless, across the fruited domain, governments reacted to the court decision by sending the bulldozers round to idle expectantly on John Doe’s front lawn: In New Jersey, Newark officials moved forward with plans to raze 14 downtown acres and build an upscale condo development; in Missouri, the City of Arnold intends to demolish 30 homes, 14 businesses and the local VFW to make way for a Lowe’s Home Improvement store and a strip mall developed by THF Realty.

Get the picture? New Hampshire businessman Logan Darrow Clements did. He wants to build a new hotel in the town of Weare and he’s found just the right piece of land: the home of Supreme Court judge David Souter. In compliance with Justice Souter’s view of the public interest, Clements’ project will generate far more revenue for Weare than Souter’s pad ever could. The Lost Liberty Hotel will include the Just Desserts Bar and a museum dedicated to the loss of freedom in America.

I don’t know about you, but the last time I was in Weare, N.H., I couldn’t help thinking that what this town urgently needs is a good hotel. If it will help the Board of Selectmen in their decision, I personally pledge to take the most expensive suite in the new joint for the first month it’s in service. I’ll be sluicing plenty of big columnar bucks around town, racking up big N.H. Meals Tax payments at Weare’s finest restaurants and, along with my fellow guests, doing far more for the local economy than one ascetic, largely absentee bachelor like Justice Souter could ever do. Indeed, under Souter’s definition, it would be hard to think of a property doing less for the public interest than his own house. So let’s get on with putting his principles into action, and with luck his beloved but economically moribund abode will be rubble by the end of the year.

It won’t happen of course, but it would certainly be just deserts for Judge Souter if it did.