More About the Couch Enforcer and the Conflict of Politics

Here’s a comment left by an inhabitant of Keene about “code enforcer” Carl Patten Jr. on my original video post, followed by my comments:

I am a resident of Keene who (reluctantly) filed a complaint back in April with Keene Code Enforcement against a neighbor for having an unregistered truck on our property line, as well as running a business out of our quiet, residential zone…not to mention filling up our deeded right of ways with his unused camper and business equipment. My complaint was passed to Carl Patten who called me on the telephone and in a very condescending manner told me that our neighbors were within their rights to park as many trucks as they wanted and that he ‘didn’t see’ the engine block sitting in the driveway, or the pallet of bricks and stone that are strewn about the driveway…nor did he notice the unregistered truck in their yard. Next thing I learned, Carl is FRIENDS with this person who is clearly violating our deeded rights. Our Realtor was told by code enforcement last week that I called to have the file closed a few months ago(which I did not). So….now that I hear about your situation, I can clearly see that Mr. Patten brings favoritism into his work ethic…hmmm, perhaps he would allow you to put a couch in MY front yard and you and your tenants can do all the bird watching you would like because obviously, on my street, this stuff is allowed. We may be on different sides of the political track but we obviously have a similar gripe about how a city employee handles his job…Good luck to you…I am definitely staying tuned.

Tina, thank you for sharing your story. What you are seeing here is not an isolated incident but instead quite typical of government. Because government is funded through coercion, its agents can rule arbitrarily and capriciously, punish their enemies, and reward their friends. If you decide you’ve had it with them and refused to pay a portion of their “property tax bill”, they could try to take your house from you! No business in the voluntary society operates in this manner.

I’m not sure what “side of the political track” you’re on, but I assure you I’m not on either side. I believe politics just leads us into conflict over who should rule the other. It is an endless conflict as multiple interest groups struggle to wrest control of the violence of the state away from each other. I do not want to control the lives of my fellow man and only want to live in harmony and peace. I’m willing to pay for services I find valuable like roads and fire protection. I would like to be able to support the education models I find valuable instead of the one-size-fits-all state indoctrination system. In order to accomplish these ends, my friends and I will begin to live more and more free and invite others to join us. It’s a much more positive, constructive, and efficient process than spending precious time and money engaging in politics by running candidates, campaigning, and all that other stuff. As a sovereign individual, I don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to live free, and I do not recognize anyone’s purported “authority” unless it was explicitly granted by from me to them in a contract.

We are being the change we wish to see in the world. Please keep your mind open and you are invited to join us when you are ready. We are peacefully evolving to the next great plateau for mankind: the voluntary society, or Agora. Welcome to the beginning of the great transformation.

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  1. I appreciate your thoughts… briefly, just to clarify…I didn't mean to imply that there were only "two sides" but I see that when I also stated "track" that it did imply two sides…I was making reference to a possible difference in 'political ideology'…from the social movement aspect, not the political party aspect…but as your title to this entry also spells out, this situation does speak volumes regarding the conflict many of us find ourselves in when something falls out of place in the movement of the masses as well as the abuse of power.

  2. Ian,

    Suppose Tina takes your advice not to use the coercive government enforcement system. So she wouldn't pursue the complaint about a bad employee up the food chain. It wouldn't be worth the trouble.

    So how should she deal with this problem? Suppose she tries to reason with her neighbor about his refusal to honor her right to traverse his property, and the effects of his home business on the quiet enjoyment of her own property. What if he does not respond? What should she do?

    Some practical advice:

    Any administrative decision or action that is based on local land use regulations (e.g. zoning) can be appealed to the zoning board of adjustment (ZBA). They can hear the facts and make their own decision, based on the facts and the law. If they don't agree with the action or decision it is overturned in favor of the applicant. That's why it would be good for Ian to figure out if the couch ticket is based on zoning or something else. It wouldn't apply in Tina's case because you can appeal an action, but not inaction.

    Regarding the blocking of a private right of way, that would be a civil matter out of the purview of code enforcement.

  3. Good question Curt. Please listen to or read The Market for Liberty. It should answer many of your questions about free market justice and protection. You may download it free here:

  4. What are some non-violent ways Tina could deal with her neighbor?

    First, talk with the neighbor directly and express her concerns. Too often, people will call the authorities to handle these disputes. When people are threatened by the authorities, their reaction to the situation will usually be negative. Or, as in the case, the authorities are not effective or slow and inefficient.

    If the neighbor does not respond to her concerns, she could talk with her other neighbors and ask for their help. More people making simple, friendly requests will be more persuasive. Approaching the offender in a friendly manner will go a long way to achieving an amicable solution.

    Most people are fairly easy to deal with, once a line of communication has been established.

  5. Ian,

    Sorry, I'm packing up for a trip, don't have time to read 174 pages.


    What if your approach doesn't work. Then what? In our town, Danville, we don't have a code enforcement officer. People do mostly work stuff out, then they go to the town as a final resort. The selectmen will call the guy in, but it really is just a little more friendly persuasion as everyone knows we don't have the resources or even the inclination to nail people. Maybe Danville is "freer" than Keene. :-). With all that friendly persuasion, some people still don't cooperate. They say they will, but they don't.

    In my own case, I own some woodland (miles from my house) that has been in my family since 1845. Some people built a house right next to my property line, then they built a chicken coop on my property. I have been trying the friendly persuasion route and have gotten nowhere. The people acknowledge they shouldn't have done it and that they will move it but it never happens. A year ago I gave a conservation easement to a land trust. Now they will have to deal with this. I also have a friend of these people involved. I have asked the land trust to delay their first formal annual inspection in hopes we can get the people to move the thing. But I won't be surprised if the land trust eventually takes them to court to enforce their right to ensure that the property has no structures not associated with timber management or other permitted uses.

  6. Hello Ian:

    Ask Mr Springer about the witch hunt local

    officials in Danville ran two years ago, looking for "illegal" apartments in town. If I'm not mistaken, Selectmen used information gleaned from town police, fire and the assessor to put together a hit list. Danville is no different than Keene! Especially in an economy such as this, the people have a right to open home businesses and rent space in their homes to relatives and friend, without having to beg permission from bureaucrats What are the folks supposed to do, they didn't send all the good jobs offshore. They're just trying to take care of their families as best they can and exert a little economic independence. We all know if time get really tough, your town isn't going to bail you out.

    Dennis Herrick

    Plaistow, NH Town Crier

  7. Dennis makes a good point. We did have that incident. Actually, it was based on trash containers. Danville went to a collection system where they gave out one trash container per household. You can only put out as much trash each week as will fit in the container. You could ask for an extra container if you were willing to pay so much $$ a year for it. Apparently, everybody who asked was declared guilty of having an illegal apartment. But ultimately the selectmen backed down, I think in every case. And this was because everybody stood up for their rights. The "illegal" apartments predated zoning.

    If anybody is interested in the details, the SpeakoutDanville discussion is HERE.

    Like many NH communities, Danville has a "customary home occupation" provision in its zoning ordinance. If you don't go above threshold provisions, such as number of employees, customers visiting, you need to register with the selectmen but you don't need "permission". If you surpass the thresholds, you need to seek a special exception from the zoning board of adjustment.

Care to comment?