Monday, 21 November 2005

Countywide zoning is unwanted government control

Land zoning is currently an issue in Vance County, North Carolina, where an ordinance to approve mandatory countywide zoning is being debated. The argument against zoning is summarised in The Daily Dispatch.

Ask yourself these questions. Do you support zoning laws? Do you support land development plans and restrictions? Do you support restrictions on where businesses can locate? Do you support restrictions on building designs? Do you support government management of community growth?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are licensing the government to infringe on someone else's property rights. And what happens if a bigger mob doesn't like what you are doing with your land? Once the precedent for government control has been set the monster is loose. There is no turning back.

What is zoning? Zoning is government control of privately owned land...

This isn't to say that people should be able to do whatever they wish with their homes and property - only that they should be left alone as long as their actions do not violate anyone else's rights. If someone is concerned that his neighbor's excessively tall grass is becoming a haven for disease-infested rodents, for example, then the job of local government is to provide a forum (a courtroom) where such concerns can be addressed. But the onus is on the complainant to prove not only the existence of a menace, but also that the menace is directly affecting the use and enjoyment of his property. Of course, such a standard would relegate all but the most extreme cases to the dustbin. That is precisely why little government busybodies wouldn't stand for it.

Read on here. What's the libertarian alternative? The alternative is a 'voluntary city,' in which environmental conflicts are treated as an invasion of property rights, and imposed zoning is replaced by voluntary covenenants, market processes, and the protections of common law. Professor Bernard Siegan explains the libertarian alternative here. Cato Institute propose the halfway house of a Developers' Bill of Rights here.


  1. All this makes so much sense that I just don't understand the rage people get into when you discuss these issues. They always come up with the most ridiculous counterarguments. My guess is that less than 5% of this country actually believes in private property.

  2. Peter, I often read your blog, and I often think that instead of actually thinking about things you simply regurgitate misled dogma and flawed idealism. This article/blog entry and your recent obsession with endless economic growth predicated upon urban sprawl and the bloated property market confirms my observations.

    Interestingly there is an increasing group in society, those that anguish over such things as population growth but are loathe to relinquish any of the privileges that they now enjoy. Furthermore contrary to the techno-hubris that we've assumed over the last century, the set of "no technical solution problems" contains members. We do not, as libertarian economists would have you believe live on a planet that can sustain endless economic growth, or expansionism. If the people of china wish to live like all of us in the west we'd need about another 3 or 4 planets worth of resouces.

    There are limits on a finite planet and I expect the consequences of pushing those limits are beginning to manifest themselves now.

    Recommended research, if you can be bothered (why would you, we live in a democracy, if enough people believe something it must be true aye.) The Tradegy of The Commons. (as a starting point).

    Suburban sprawl and growth is part of the problem. Not the solution. You can't solve the problem of depleting resources by depleting them at a faster rate.

  3. Sorry - I don't agree with your 'running out' hypothesis (regurgitated dogma and flawed idealism).
    1) We'll not run out of the most important resource - human ingenuity.
    2) There is a fix for problems like the tragedy of the commons - it's called private property.

  4. You don't understand what the tragedy of the commons with such a response.

    I agree, there is no limit on human ingenuity, but no amount of human ingenuity will create a ham sandwich in the absense of a field of wheat and a pig.

    But... hey, don't listen to me, bury your head in the sand with Cresswell, as long as you've got your Ford Explorer and Plasma TV, who gives a fuck about the planet. It's not the libertarians problem, it will be someone elses is. And human ingenuity will fix it anyway.

  5. Steve, glad to hear you've been reading 'Not PC.' I'm flattered.

    I'll make two points in reply to your points, in the form of two questions:

    First, a post below has the title 'Sprawl is Good,' and the conclusion that choice is good. To which is it that you are actually opposed, sprawl or choice?

    Second, which resources specifically do you claim we are running out of? And don't you think your claim that we ~are~ running out is in itself an example of misled dogma and flawed idealism?

  6. 1. I'm opposed to sprawl. I think you'll find all manner of people opposed to sprawl, this isn't to say the idea (being opposed to sprawl) is correct by virtue of the numbers opposed, however you'll find the people opposed differ to the people who would continue "sprawl" in that those in favour are usually in favour not because they are in favour of choice, but because they are in favour of making a fast buck by subdividing land for suburban development (sprawl). This creates any number of problems worth debating. Those against sprawl, equally are against it due to it's inherent problems, dependancy upon motor vehicles, the fact that it's an absolutely appalling waste of resource, that it combines the worst of country living which it was supposed to emulate and fails in anyway to replicate a sense of community (the best part of city living).

    Thus, I think "choice", always needs to be balanced with rationality. The freedom to choose otherwise is always balanced against some moral duty. In this case to preserve something for another generation amongst other issues.

    2. Aside from "human ingenuity" of which apparently there is a infinite amount of (although amongst much comment I'm yet to discover it in even small quantities) if you agree that we live on a planet that is finite, it follows that there are finite natural resources upon which growth (in particular population but equally economic) is predicated upon. Thus, there are a great many resources which are becoming increasingly scarce. And you can interpret the term "scarce" in it's economic sense. In NZ merely for example, gas (Maui is currently declining at around 20 odd percent per annum), thus electricity follows since Maui is repsonsible for 25% of NZ's electricity generation. Oil is close to peaking in global production, given that suburbia is entirely dependant upon happy motoring it may be wise to reassess our desire to create more of an infrastucture that has a limited future.

    The question of oil production peaking is a contentious one I grant, however we can be confident that we are entering a period where continued "growth" in oil production is becoming tenuous to say the least. Certainly cheap easy to access oil is all but gone. 1999 oil was US$18 a barrel. For the last year or so it hasn't dropped below $50.

    Without wanting to harp on too much longer (as you can see it comes far too easily) the point I am making is that we ought to be thinking about creating a future that is one that we all might like to live in, rather than some hellish endless suburban nightmare that (I for one believes) is a living arrangement that is approaching it's use by date.

    Check out Jim Kunstler's Clusterfuck Archives. I think you'd probably enjoy him, even if you don't agree with him.


  7. Steve,I would'nt mind betting most of those opposed to sprawl do so because they can't afford to move themselves.

    And why are you worried about a "hellish endless suburban nightmare" if we're going to run out of the oil needed to commute?

  8. Kiwihunter, bet away. There are all sorts of reasons suburban sprawl is ugly. My main argument is it's an investment in an infrastructure that has no future. But then, the psychology of previous investment in simple minds is a powerful motivator. The residents of Dresden in the second world war are testament to that.

    Regarding your second point. Not sure where you got the idea in your head that I've said we are running out of oil. Pls quote me giving a reference. Actually we are pumping more oil that we ever have, in the history of industrial civilisation. The world is swimming in oil.

  9. steve still believes in the population bomb. Steve, let me tell you a little secret: most western countries are imploding and that's a big cause of their current economic problems.

    And what do you suppose to do about China? Deny them a decent life? Nuke them?

  10. And steve, with regards to you rather unvisionary finite earth, we live in an infinte universe. Resources enough.

  11. Yes you are quite right Berend. However so far apart from two or three people living in a space station, that costs billions to operate annually, we all live here - on earth.

    How we are meant to get from here to there (somewhere habitable in the infinite universe) and start creating more suburban sprawl there, is anybodys guess I suppose. How we are meant to "beam" down the infinite resources at our leisure - well, perhaps you could fill us in Berend. It's a wonderful idea. But, you can't feed your kids with ideas, and you can't heat the water you use for a hot shower with ideas either.

    Look maybe you guys are right. Perhaps we ought to be developing Mt Aspiring National Park, I'm sure we could sell it off for a hefty sum to rich fat asians (who having fucked up, or are currently in the process of fucking up, their own country) all now want to come here. It's the "Coronation St" attitute, if we sell it we can get lotsa money for it, then we can spend that money on an "investment" like a new porshe, or some other new novel thing.

    I love the way you use the term "unvisionary" as if "vision" is all that is required to create something that isn't there.

    This is the classic argument from utter stupidity - that we should demand a particular outcome because we want it to be so.

  12. Steve said
    Regarding your second point. Not sure where you got the idea in your head that I've said we are running out of oil. Pls quote me giving a reference. Actually we are pumping more oil that we ever have, in the history of industrial civilisation. The world is swimming in oil.

    I got the idea in my head that you thought we were going to run out of from this...

    "Oil is close to peaking in global production, given that suburbia is entirely dependant upon happy motoring it may be wise to reassess our desire to create more of an infrastucture that has a limited future".

    and this...

    "The question of oil production peaking is a contentious one I grant, however we can be confident that we are entering a period where continued "growth" in oil production is becoming tenuous to say the least. Certainly cheap easy to access oil is all but gone. 1999 oil was US$18 a barrel. For the last year or so it hasn't dropped below $50."

  13. Steve - your "we ought to be thinking about creating a future" is a fine sentiment. But as I'm past the "thinking" about it, and actually "doing" something to achieve it (that doesn't involve the coercion of others), I don't have the time to indulge in fantasies - sorry.

  14. Kiwihunter, ah, then it's your mistake not mine. I said the price is higher, I said growing production will become tenuous. However never did I mention we are "running out". You see it's this sort of bullshit mongering by the likes of yourself that don't help anything. You want to believe I said something, so you just fucking make it up.

    Let me make it clear, because, obviously you have a little trouble interpreting English (is it your second language). Either this decade (of which there is only 5 years left) or next - whatever, it doesn't really matter. The global production of oil will peak. This is an accepted geological fact, by oil geologists, the IEA, the US Geological survey, the US Dept of Energy (see the Hirsh Report), and pretty much everyone else (except many economists unsurprisingly).

    Peak oil production is the point at which we are pumping more than we ever have (um, slightly different from "Running Out") and after which production begins declining.

    This has been observed in many of the major oil fields from the US to Norway, to the North Sea. Once we begin on the decline curve, economic growth predicated upon cheap available oil will become difficult - because to grow economically you need to increase energy consumption. Please don't debate this point, it is a simple law of the universe. You can't grow without increasing energy consumption (see the laws of thermodynamics).

    In any case, we began running out of oil the day we pumped the first barrel. Just like today you are another day closer to your death.

  15. Sean,

    Exactly - if you think ripping up productive farmland to create more suburbia is a help - then good for you.

    If no one gave a toss as you do, then we'd truely be living in one shithole.

  16. Actually, it would be nice, if everyone actually read The Tragedy of the Commons.

    I don't expect you lot to be interested but if you are, here it is. And, I should say it is entirely relevant to this particular debate.


  17. Steve, I'm glad you raised 'the laws of the universe'.

    One such law is the law of abundance. As opposed to the (totally man-made) concept of scarcity.

    Because you get what you think. Think and live abundance, you'll get it. Think miserably like socialist pains in the ass, you'll get it.

    Left alone & free to choose, mankind finds solutions. The automobile was one such clean solution a century ago. Rapidly growing urban areas saw horseshit creating major hygiene problems. Voila the car. As demand for 'cleaner' vehicles increases, so the market will meet that demand.

    Instead of imposing your solutions upon everybody .. 'we should do this and that', etc .. just let people sort themselves out.

    That's the problem with socialists. They really don't have a high opinion of people.

    Sean's right. Rather than worry about everybody else's business, it's wise to just mind your own.

    It's a great philosophy to never let anybody 'should' on ya!

  18. Sus and all,

    I've posted a commentary on this blog (and it's consequent (largely clueless) discussion) on my blog site (why?, well I love meddling and poking my nose in - it's my nature as an irritant). "Sus", you get a mention on account of your above pearl of wisdom.

    So no, I don't intend minding my "own" business anytime soon.

  19. Ah Steve, you're a crack-up!

    I was all set to leave well alone; (getting too bloody old, see, as well as having other more important things to do - such as make money - yay capitalism); but your parting shot leaves me no choice but to shoot you!

    I should really devote my energies toward converting such a young (you sound young) albeit misguided mind, because I think you have potential .. but nah, bugger it!

    Shooting's preferable for both of us. It's quick, easy and relatively painless for you, depending upon my aim. And I always find the demise of a busybody personally satisfying.

    You'll be pleased to know that I'm a gentle soul at heart. In fact, I think I'm being bloody considerate, all and all!

    Anybody care to join me?!

  20. Sus, (the tag fits) ah well, I guess that's the "freedom fighters" answer to most things - At sometime in the not too distant past I tryed to "debate" matters of logical consistency with what turned out to be a pimply faced Ayn Rand obsessive (as if she was the only philosopher on the planet). The conversation quickly turned to "railguns" (whatever they are) and depleted uranium slugs, before it devolved into something to do with masturbation. The obvious logical rebuttal for a "libertarian" I assumed at the time.

    I'm glad you think I'm young. I like to think I am, although nature dictates otherwise.

    Meanwhile I'll leave it to you to accelerate entropy as fast as you can in the pursuit of a quick buck (as opposed to a quick fuck, which is the pursuit of the young).

    Another law of nature (no not a law prescribed by self-absorbed self-help gurus such as the one you mention above - "law of abundance", is this anything like the law of inverse stupidity?) - nevertheless, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - thus I'll busy myself trying to prevent people like yourself continuing to fuck the planet in pursuit of your own flawed self-interest and/or at the dictate of "the market", and you can busy yourself by preaching individualism and freedom (as twisted and bizzare a version as you like) to the detriment of all other considerations, as such followers of dogma would prescribe.

    "And we'll all be happy, and we'll all be wise and together we will live beneath the burning sky"

  21. In the year 1787, Alexander Tyler (a Scottish history professor at The University of Edinburgh) had this to say about "The Fall of The Athenian Republic" some 2,000 years prior.

    "A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.

    The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

    From bondage to spiritual faith;
    From spiritual faith to great courage;
    From courage to liberty;
    From liberty to abundance;
    From abundance to complacency;
    From complacency to apathy;
    From apathy to dependence;
    From dependence back into bondage."


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