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Michero
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So what if I own land and I don't build a house on it?  Say I don't use it for anything.  Say for example, I just sit on it until property values increase and then I sell it for a profit.  Are you saying that since I never put any investment back into the land that I never owned it?

There also have been multiple other threads that handle this. Search for "land ownership" or something.
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I don't know much about zoning laws in the US, but I have come up with what I see as a good system of acquiring land. I wrote about it on my blog. Tell me what you think. The posts are here:

Part one - mostly about owning land and utilizing it in Croatia

http://source.thinkertothinker.com/?p=4

Part two - the free Capitalist system as I imagine it

http://source.thinkertothinker.com/?p=6

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  • 1 year later...

[Wiping the burial dirt from my hands...]

Zoning laws are indeed alleged by the Supreme Court to be legitimately included in the States' police power. See Village of Euclid v. Amber Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926). Quoting the court:

The ordinance now under review, and all similar laws and regulations, must find their justification in some aspect of the police power, asserted for the public welfare. The line which in this field separates the legitimate from the illegitimate assumption of power is not capable of precise delimitation. It varies with circumstances and conditions. A regulatory zoning ordinance, which would be clearly valid as applied to the great cities, might be clearly invalid as applied to rural communities. In solving doubts, the maxim sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas [thus use yours so as others' not to harm], which lies at the foundation of so much of the common law of nuisances, ordinarily will furnish a fairly helpful clew. [i assume the court means 'clue,' as it is discussing neither ships nor strings. Sealing wax is left out entirely.] And the law of nuisances, likewise, may be consulted, not for the purpose of controlling, but for the helpful aid of its analogies in the process of ascertaining the scope of, the power. Thus the question whether the power exists to forbid the erection of a building of a particular kind or for a particular use, like the question whether a particular thing is a nuisance, is to be determined, not by an abstract consideration of the building or of the thing considered apart, but by considering it in connection with the circumstances and the locality.. ..A nuisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place - like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard.

...

There is no serious difference of opinion in respect of the validity of laws and regulations fixing the height of buildings within reasonable limits, the character of materials and methods of construction, and the adjoining area which must be left open, in order to minimize the danger of fire or collapse, the evils of over-crowding, and the like, and excluding from residential sections offensive trades, industries and structures likely to create nuisances.

The 'pig in the parlor' language has become famous.

While the court thinks nuisance a valuable analogy and justification for zoning, it utterly fails to justify allowing the legislature to declare that any pig in any parlor must be a nuisance to someone. Nuisance law is already a) overbroad and B) non-objective, but assuming its validity arguendo, it is still a private action where specific, ongoing acts by the defendant actually and substantially impair the plaintiff's ability to enjoy his property. You need an injured plaintiff (in the sense of impaired enjoyment of property) to have a nuisance. Someone has to complain. As zoning regulations to not require actual harm, but instead make a sort of strict liability for nuisance by virtue of mere presence, granting an automatic injunction. The analogue to nuisance breaks down. A zoning action is not in the character of a nuisance action (even though both seek the same goal), not just on the public vs. private aspect, but on the fault vs. no fault aspect as well. Zoning laws, at least as they are, aren't a proper way to prevent nuisances.

To determine if any statutory regulatory scheme can be used to prevent nuisances, I think the first step is to examine the State's police power: what is it, what are its rational limits, and how does it apply specifically to property? Is the State allowed to 'trespass' on private property to apprehend a suspected criminal? I'd like to say yes, but I'm not sure how to back that up. If so, when? Also, what power, if any, does the State have to take preventative measures to protect individual rights? To what extent can those preventative measures impinge on individual rights?

-Q

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  • 5 months later...
I think maybe what he's saying (but I could be wrong) is that nobody really owns the land ever. All you do is hold the rights to use and develop the land, and any developments you did make are yours and your alone to reap the benefit of.

In your example, the investment you made on the land was your mind's effort to know that the land would gain value regardless of you doing anything to it, the original capital you bought it with and the time you spent without selling the property (you could have sold the land earlier and used the money but you chose not to). So it is perfectly right to reap a profit. You didn't create the land but you did create value simply by sitting back and letting time roll by.

I know it has been a long time since there has been a post on this thread, but I'm posting this here because an interesting letter to the editor in my local newspaper seems to be best discussed under this context rather than its own thread. Interestingly, the post I quote touches on the issue that nobody ever really owns land.

This is the letter:

Defining property rights

Recent letters have discussed property rights, whether dealing with creek setbacks or viewsheds. There is even a Protect Our Property Rights organization.

There really is no debate on the matter. The definitions of “state societies” and U.S. land-use law provide the answer: In all state societies (such as ours), the state owns all land within its borders (there is no such thing as “private property”). The state determines how its citizens can use its property. When a citizen is finished using the state’s property, that property is turned over for use by another citizen.

In the United States, you don’t own property; you own a government lease (called a deed). As long as you pay “rent” (property tax), you can use the property.

If you stop paying tax, the state auctions the deed to another citizen. Real estate agents don’t sell property; they sell government leases (deeds to use some of the state’s property).

The Supreme Court only recognizes one “right” property owners have: the right to use the property in the same way it was used at the time it was purchased. Any use beyond that is subject to the wishes of the state (in the United States, this is determined by the people through their elected officials).

I have heard statements of this kind both by collectivist and statist types who oppose private ownership, as well as by proponents of private ownership who assert that the growth of the state has led to what amounts to what is described in this letter, caused by increasing influence by environmentalists and the left and quasi-socialist policies adopted by government.

I have a tough time with what to make of this. Not so much whether this letter is facetious or sarcastic or whether its author believes what he wrote, but whether this is what the status of property has become. If so, is it de facto or de jure?

Given which of the two it is, would it be moral for an Objectivist who owns property that is subject to similar restrictions (which were in place before ownership and the subject of a full disclosure during escrow) to seek or support the enforcement of such restrictions in place in a neighboring parcel in order to defend the value of one's property?

That is, two property owners buy into a situation where we're both restricted by zoning. One of them seeks to subdivide his property, requiring changes that will alter the look and feel of the surrounding area and cause an increase in the use of a privately owned street (with a public easement) that the subdividing owner doesn't own a share of. Is it right to oppose the subdivision or seek conditions that would be enforced by government in order to protect the other property owner's interests. Again, it's a situation where both property owners knowingly bought into a situation where parcels (as is the case in most of the United States) are restricted by zoning.

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  • 11 months later...

Did Ayn Rand write or talk about the issue of zoning at all? I thought she was not opposed to zoning laws per se, so long as the laws are rational and objective.

In general the principle of rights is this: Your rights end where mine begin.

I think that if a person were to open a brothel next to a school, that could be considered an infringement of property rights because such an action would be objectively harmful to the school owner. I am not sure if an ideal government would or should have zoning laws as we are familiar with them. I am not apposed to someone attempting at his own risk to open a school next to a brothel in that order. It would be irrational to do so and I could not imagine how a school owner could be successful next to a brothel. However, since the brothel was there first, I do not see how someone who opens a school next to a brothel could demand that the brothel close. Objectively, I cannot see how someone could complain if the actions of a neighbor were to increase ones property value. It seems that these issues only come up when there is a negative impact to property value. All of these instances are demonstrable, I don't see why courts should not be able to deal with such issues. Objective laws should simplify these problems. I am totally opposed to irrational laws which say: you cannot have a pink sink in your home or have two kitchens. I am not sure that expecting developers to be the answer to the problem is satisfactory either. Assume that developer A, says you can have a brothel next to a school and developer B says you cannot. At some point as these 2 developers expand and begin to collide I think we will be back at square one. I also see an issue with stating that the original owner has some form of super rights to stipulate how land will be used. This assumes that such a contract will be enforced by rational laws. What gives a person the right to build a home and then say that nobody can ever paint this house pink or tear it down? It almost seems like such a stipulation contradicts the concept of property rights. Land ownership is not the same as an intellectual license agreement which is acceptable when buying a book, computer software or using any other copy-written material.

Edited by Donovan.A
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I think that if a person were to open a whorehouse next to a school that could be considered an infringement of property rights because such an action would be objectively harmful to the school owner.

...

It seems that these issues only come up when there is a negative impact to property value. All of these instances are demonstrable, I don't see why courts should not be able to deal with such issues.

As I understand it, property rights can only be infringed upon by theft or damage of an individual's property.

Here's an example: You buy a house, and a few years later, some unsavory character moves in to the house next to yours. A few years after that, you decide to move, and put the house on the market. You advertise it for a reasonable value, but nobody is willing to pay what you are asking, because of the knucklehead on the next lot. This stinks, it's a bad situation for you. You have to either stay put, or accept a loss on the sale of your property (or at least get less than you were hoping to get.) His presence is a factor in other people's evaluation of your property as being worth less than it would be otherwise. However, there is no inalienable right to "profitable real estate sales", and the knucklehead next door hasn't actually damaged or stolen any of your property. You still own the same house on the same lot that you purchased years ago. The government has no business getting involved in this situation.

For the same reason, everyone who bought an iPhone for $600 (or whatever the original price was) in its first weeks on the market is owed nothing by Apple. It doesn't matter if Apple decided to lower the price later, or come out with a newer model. At the moment each person purchased the phone, they explicitly or implicitly decided that having a shiny new iPhone before anyone else was worth more to them than having $600. There was no fraud on Apple's part; electronics nearly always debut at higher prices, because some people will pay premiums to have a gadget first.

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It is true that a hi rise, a factory or a car dealership suddenly built next to your house can be violation of property rights, by deprivisng of sunlight/view, air and noise pollution respectively, but at the same time public offices can't forsee the specifics and innovations of human activity, therefore they can't accurately design zones "for the public welfare" without being just privileges. An industrial factory can be very "light" technological oriented and not a nuisance, such as a laboratory, and it would still be banned in a zoned residential neighborhood.

In a free market if you want to live in a house amidst other single story residential homes you'll have to buy in a gated community designed for that purpose. If you don't you run the risk of getting an ugly monoblock built next door, just as if you buy a stock it can go down. You can however, sue I guess, a factory or car dealership for nuisance.

When all property, when "the country", whichever it is, is held entirely by private individuals (or through their corporations), this would not be a problem.

A homeowner would buy a residential house belonging to a neighborhood with specific internal private rules. He would sign a contract that would grant him the right to not be surrouded by pollution producing developments. Just think of each neighborhood as an appartment building, each house an app. The building itself ( the land, streets, gardens and highways in the case of neighborhoods ) would as privately held as a the hallways and elevators of aparment buildings.

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Perhaps reading through the following website will provide you with some information. Houston, the fourth largest city in the country, has no zoning laws and it's been a hot button issue there for years.

http://txpropertyrights.blogspot.com/

And Portland, Or the city with the strictest regulations :fool:

*Some* Texans complaint that the city's turning into a patchwork of parking lots. But that's the beauty of Texas, it's completely descentralized. Like the "joke" of the guy who lives in Dallas-FW but actually lives in one of the many suburbs because no one lives in Dallas. And my point is, so what?

If a city needs to preserve its heritage to trhill, it means it's already dead.

Edited by volco
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In the mutually agreed uses of property, whereby the contract to the land imposes certain requirements on the new buyer, does this create an everlasting contract?

Man A buys 30 acres of land, Man A sells these acres on the condition that they will only build 2 story buildings (To increase the value overall, as there is no risk that the buyers view/sunlight will be blocked). Man B buys one of these acres. But now, when man B wants to sell to man C, has no choice but to offer the property under the same conditions he bought it on.

Does this mean that the properties can never have 3 story buildings, for as long as the land exists? Simlarly, if I sell a plot of land on the condition that whoever buys it does not ever stand on it, and doesn't let anyone else on it, does this mean the land is out of bounds for humans for eternity?

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It is true that a hi rise, a factory or a car dealership suddenly built next to your house can be violation of property rights, by deprivisng of sunlight/view, air and noise pollution respectively,

WRONG,

edit:

t is true that a hi rise, a factory or a car dealership suddenly built next to your house can devaluate it, by deprivisng of sunlight/view, air and noise pollution respectively, but you take the risk with the purchase.

But A factory (or a filthy house) next door can only violate your property rights by invading your property very clearly with toxic gases, etc, then how to settle this?

Well certainly not PRE-settling it (that would be zoning laws), but allowing the disputes to be solved privately.

Edited by volco
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In the mutually agreed uses of property, whereby the contract to the land imposes certain requirements on the new buyer, does this create an everlasting contract?

The answer is: yes, if A does it correctly. These are called covenants, and they are not zoning. They will be enforced by courts so long as enforcement does not violate rights (e.g., racially restrictive covenants will not be enforced). In order to do it correctly, A doesn't sell B the right to build anything over 2 stories on the property, and sells the right to enforce the covenant to all the other properties he carves out of his 30 acres. Such covenants are said to run with the land, so that the bind the owners of the land, whoever they may happen to be.

Responding to other stuff:

Property law recognizes a few rights that restrict what neighbors can do with their property. They are very limited: lateral and subjacent support. The common law used to also recognize the free circulation of air and light, but it no longer does. The right to lateral support means your neighbor cannot dig a gravel pit next to your property if the gravel pit will remove support from your property, threatening or causing collapse. The right to subjacent support means that if you sell the mineral rights in your land to a coal miner, he cannot mine out the coal in such a way as threatens or causes collapse. These rights are special, in that they give rise to strict liability, and there is no requirement of a covenant between adjacent landowners or an express encumbrance on a mineral deed in order to give them effect.

Common law also recognizes nuisance: intentional interference with the use and enjoyment of land owned by another. It requires interference with the property: sound waves can be nuisance, but erecting a tall building that blocks the sun cannot. It's like trespass, except for things instead of people, and it actually has to cause a disruption (whereas trespass by a person does not).

~Q

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I found a post by Paul Hsieh on NoodleFood today that seems to relate to some of the issues of this thread. It deals with the distinction between "conditional property" and property with certain contractual restrictions. Is There Such A Thing As Conditional Property?

Here is my own thinking on this. Zoning has a variety of uses. Mainly, it keeps harmful buildings such as factories and other heavy industries, loud and annoying commercial buildings, and residential buildings separated. I can see the argument for this sort of separation. It can keep pollution from harming people in their own homes, it can keep noise and other potentially negative affects separate from where people live and exist, etc. However, pragmatic considerations set aside, is it moral?

Let's take an example of a school existing on one piece of land, a neighboring plot is empty and it is bought by an industrial developer. The developer would like to build a factory next to the school, however the factory will produce pollution which could potentially violate the health of the students. In this case, I don't think the developer should morally be stopped from building that factory, however I think that it is his legal and moral responsibility to see that his factory is built in such a manner so as to prevent any pollution from harming the students.

The reason for this is that the pollution is an initiation of force and it is in violation of the students' rights.

I suppose the general principle here is that you can build and develop however you please as long as you do not violate someone's rights. But in the case of a brothel next to a school, or a building that diminishes your property rights (developments which do not initiate force), I think that while those circumstances are unfortunate, I don't think one has a moral leg to stand on to close down or prevent those new developments.

The reason for this is that a person does not have a right to high property values or ideal business locations.

Edited by brandonk2009
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The reason for this is that the pollution is an initiation of force and it is in violation of the students' rights.

Eeee. I don't think it's a good idea to start treating pollution as assault. Pollution should be a property issue, not a personal issue. The students do not have any right to the property - it is owned by the school. Pollution by the factory might be a violation of the school's property rights (in nuisance), if the school can show harm as a result of the pollution. The students don't factor into it. If they are harmed by the pollution, they may sue the school. Not the factory.

~Q

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I think that if a person were to open a brothel next to a school, that could be considered an infringement of property rights because such an action would be objectively harmful to the school owner.
That's clearly false, unless you are referring to the irrational "harm to property value" argument that is given to suppress business in general. A building is a building, and no harm is caused by the fact that people hav sex inside a building which is next to a school. In fact, there is plenty of evidence that this happens all the time, because vast numbers of schools are located in residential areas, next to people's houses, and in very many of those houses there is sex going on. What I think you are confused over is the difference between a brothel, and public displays of sexual intercourse. positioning such things publically, in front of a school, playground, or any other place where minors would frequently be found would be a problem. A brothel can be quiet and private. The only proper restriction would be against obnoxious nuisances that objectively would prevent any man from using their property. For example, acoustically trespassing on the neighbor's property with the stereo blasting at 110 dB at 3:00 in the morning; olfactorily trespassing on the neighbor's property with the pig-poo processing plant. Knowledge that people are having sex in a building is not one of those forms of trespass.
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I am the owner of the blog posted above. I fought a zoning ordinance in Houston in the early 1990's and one in Hobbs, NM in 2007. I was successful both times.

Zoning is always coercive, and always a violation of property rights. Zoning places restrictions on the use of property, and the owner has no voice in those restrictions. Indeed, non-owners have more of a voice in the property's use than the owner does.

Some of the comments I see on here implying tht zoning is acceptable are basing their argument on the same red herrings that zoning proponents use. These are addressed on my blog.

Brian Phillips

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Here is my own thinking on this. Zoning has a variety of uses. Mainly, it keeps harmful buildings such as factories and other heavy industries, loud and annoying commercial buildings, and residential buildings separated. I can see the argument for this sort of separation. It can keep pollution from harming people in their own homes, it can keep noise and other potentially negative affects separate from where people live and exist, etc.

Brandon! My new friend! I am gonna have to bonk you on the head! :P

This is the same argument that the government should ban handguns because they could be used to commit a murder. Likewise, the government should ban industirial buildings because they could be a company who pollutes. Like Qwertz said - this is an issue of property rights that would need to be addressed after the fact, not arbitrarily before anything has actually even been constructed!

Edited by KevinDW78
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Eeee. I don't think it's a good idea to start treating pollution as assault. Pollution should be a property issue, not a personal issue. The students do not have any right to the property - it is owned by the school. Pollution by the factory might be a violation of the school's property rights (in nuisance), if the school can show harm as a result of the pollution. The students don't factor into it. If they are harmed by the pollution, they may sue the school. Not the factory.

~Q

Pollution isn't assault in the same sense as a man taking a bat and beating a poor brute senseless. Really any sort of pollution, whether it is air, land, or water, can have negative affects which ultimately lead to physical harm. Any person or any building that intentionally pollutes (by this I mean a factory with a smokestack willingly putting it's waste into the air, or a factory flushing it's chemicals into a sewer system ending up in a river, and similar cases) ought to be held responsible for the harm that is a result.

The students do not need a right to the property of the school in order to sue the factory if the factory gives them, lets say, chemical burns from some sort of leak. It's not going to be the school's responsibility.

In Montana there has been numerous cases of certain industries such as rail industry and mining where chemical leaks and/or certain disasters result in harming private or public land and individuals themselves. The owners of the industries have been held responsible, not the land owners whose property ended up being polluted.

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Brandon! My new friend! I am gonna have to bonk you on the head! :P

This is the same argument that the government should ban handguns because they could be used to commit a murder. Likewise, the government should ban industirial buildings because they could be a company who pollutes. Like Qwertz said - this is an issue of property rights that would need to be addressed after the fact, not arbitrarily before anything has actually even been constructed!

Eek! That wasn't what I was advocating at all. Perhaps I should be a bit more clear?

I gave a few reasons why one would be for zoning laws, however then I addressed the issue of whether or not they are moral. I don't think they are as they are currently written (I'm not sure if one could create a proper zoning law or something similar, possibly land covenants? ). I never said that the gov't should ban industrial buildings, only that if one chooses to build an industrial building, it is up to that person to ensure that that building does not harm its neighbors. If the owner fails in implementing those safety measures, and harm results because of it, then that owner ought to be held responsible for the damage.

I said: ". . .I don't think the developer should morally be stopped from building that factory, however I think that it is his legal and moral responsibility to see that his factory is built in such a manner so as to prevent any pollution from harming the students."

Edited by brandonk2009
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The students do not need a right to the property of the school in order to sue the factory if the factory gives them, lets say, chemical burns from some sort of leak. It's not going to be the school's responsibility.

There is a big difference between pollution and an accident. Accidents would be addressed under negligence.

~Q

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There is a big difference between pollution and an accident.

Yup.

I think that it is his legal and moral responsibility to see that his factory is built in such a manner so as to prevent any pollution from harming the students

(emphasis mine) There is a difference between a property owner taking responsiblity for his property and the government taking responsiblity via proxy for something that hasn't even happend yet.

Edited by KevinDW78
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There is a big difference between pollution and an accident. Accidents would be addressed under negligence.

~Q

How would you deal with the issue of a factory releasing harmful chemicals into the air? Or a factory that is intentionally constructed so as to minimize costs, but increased pollution resulting in negative affects?

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Zoning (before-the-fact of construction) is a different issue from (after-the-fact) legal claims.

Zoning laws were designed so as to prevent those after-the-fact legal problems from happening. If it is established that zoning is immoral, then how in a society would one deal with the issues that will eventually arise?

Instead of zoning, possibly something like a restrictive covenant that runs with the land? I don't really know, I'm not a lawyer or anything. But it seems to me, that if one allows a factory to be built in a residential area or whatnot, that the factory will have to be constructed so as to eliminate all nuisance or harm or whatever you would like to call it, from interfering with its neighbors. That's the only solution I can think of.

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