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Zoning Laws

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Michero
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There is no reason why a free market couldn't handle these issues. The dirty little secret here is that folks move onto thier little residential plots of land counting on unearned value, namely, something pertaining to how the guy next door or down the street is going to use his plot in the future. To secure that value, they should all have to pay by purchasing from the appropriate landowners the specific right-to-develop in question, stipulating the permitted uses. What needs to stop is their transforming the enjoyment of the unearned into a right by which they can make unjust demands on others. There is no right to direct sunlight, for example, free from the neighbors unless they pay for it, and if they haven't, a just legal system would make them sit in the dark, or leave (this will be my heartless-seeming-but-really-benevolent post for today).

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There is no reason why a free market couldn't handle these issues. The dirty little secret here is that folks move onto thier little residential plots of land counting on unearned value, namely, something pertaining to how the guy next door or down the street is going to use his plot in the future. To secure that value, they should all have to pay by purchasing from the appropriate landowners the specific right-to-develop in question, stipulating the permitted uses. What needs to stop is their transforming the enjoyment of the unearned into a right by which they can make unjust demands on others. There is no right to direct sunlight, for example, free from the neighbors unless they pay for it, and if they haven't, a just legal system would make them sit in the dark, or leave (this will be my heartless-seeming-but-really-benevolent post for today).

In Houston, a large percentage of subdivisions use deed restrictions to accomplish a similar goal. Deed restrictions are voluntary, contractual agreements that limit land use. When you purchase the property, you contractually agree to limit how you will use that property.

In Houston, some areas have allowed deed restrictions to lapse, either through age or non-enforcement. Some have even voted to remove the deed restrictions because they thought they could make more money with less restrictions on their land. In all of these cases the decisions were voluntary and left to the individuals involved. Some made good decisions, some made bad decisions. Such is life.

Zoning removes the decision from the individual and vests it in goverenment officials. It literally turns land use into a democratic process, in which the majority (or their purported spokesmen) decides how the property owner uses his land.

Brian Phillips

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It is not the role of government to eliminate hypothetical threats to individual rights. It is the role of government to protect individual rights; that is, to protect them from actual harm. The factory spewing dangerous chemicals into the air does not harm anyone or violate anyone's rights. The government has no right to interfere. When those chemicals actually cause or actually threaten to cause demonstrable harm, the law of tort (for personal injury) or nuisance (for injury to property) kicks in to govern the suit after the fact.

Zoning is a means of protecting against hypothetical threats to individual rights. There is no moral justification for such government action.

~Q

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Just a short note:

Of course Zoning is good! No one really desires to buy a house next to a heavy industrial plant, it is self-evident.

The problem is about Zoning LAWS, and the question therefore is, who zones the land - and how the previous owners are affected -? Design by vote? by commitee?

The only moral and practical answer is of course, the owner of the property, or a voluntary association between owners.

So no more examples of whether your property would be affected by a pig slaughterhouse next door, and let's focuss on why the government shouldn't do the zoning instead of private owners.

This is obviously related to why all roads should be private, and indeed why all property should.

Edited by volco
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Volco,

What you describe is not properly called "zoning". there is no "zone" involved. What you are talking about is land use restriction by covenant. It requires horizontal privity of contract and vertical privity of estate. Such restrictions apply one by one, property by property; not to anything that could be called a "zone". Also, they can be defeated by private action - landowner may purchase the rights back from neighbors. This is as it should be. The people who decide on land use restrictions are, ultimately, the buyer and the seller. Property subject to a land use restriction is only subject to such restrictions as are on the deed to that property. Thus the restrictions on a piece of property do not extend beyond the borders of that property. Your neighbor might have an identical restriction in his deed, but the restrictions are as separate as the properties.

~Q

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  • 2 weeks later...
A brothel can be quiet and private.

Hi David,

Thanks for your input. I'm sorry for the lack of clarity. I was not referring to the quiet and private type of brothel, but the exact opposite kind i.e. a brothel building made of glass next to a school. Or in the case of a homeowner, who keeps his window shades open during his weekly orgy events and is right next to a school .

I am in principle opposed to anyone telling someone else how to dispose of their property. However, I think it is important to not drop context, and commit an accident fallacy, i.e. applying a principle to a situation it was not meant to cover. Rational laws are meant to respect individual rights. To the degree that you purchase property with stipulations is to the degree that you do not fully own that property. A clear example would be: buying a book versus buying the copyright (the intellectual ownership) of that book.

At the base of this discussion, I think the issue is: what are legitimate claims of property and how does the formation of a government and its social contract affect these issues.

It is interesting to read Ayn Rand's article on Patents and Copyrights and then revisit this discussion. We read the article last night in our discussion group, here in Dallas. I am going to reread it again.

Edited by Donovan.A
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I was not referring to the quiet and private type of brothel, but the exact opposite kind i.e. a brothel building made of glass next to a school. Or in the case of a homeowner, who keeps his window shades open during his weekly orgy events and is right next to a school .

The school can build a wall on its own property so that the children can neither see the other lot, nor the lot see them.

Problem solved.

Or, if the problem is noise, politely ask the lot owner to soundproof his walls, and offer to pay for it.

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I was not referring to the quiet and private type of brothel, but the exact opposite kind i.e. a brothel building made of glass next to a school.
This then has to refer to Rand's position on public display of sex acts, and is independent of there being any school, because the same principle holds. You might want to read the public sex thread we had about a year or two ago (it will no doubt show up after a little bit of searching).

The issue there is not how you deal with your property, but how you deal with the "in public" context. If all property is privately owned, then the issue is a straightforward one of contract. If you're playing the cards that we're dealt now, then you either need to build a screen just off the brothel's property line, or surrounding your property.

However, I think it is important to not drop context, and commit an accident fallacy, i.e. applying a principle to a situation it was not meant to cover.
Yes, but it is also important to keep context an not commit the fallacy of ignoring the nature of a principle. Specifically, the concept of property rights means that you exclusively own the property and may do with/on it what you will, as long as the act it self is not forbidden (is not a violatoin of someone's rights).
To the degree that you purchase property with stipulations is to the degree that you do not fully own that property. A clear example would be: buying a book versus buying the copyright (the intellectual ownership) of that book.
I absolutely have no idea what you mean. If you buy a book, you can burn, eat, sell, shred, read blah blah blah the book, because you now own the physical object. If you purchase the copyright, you then have the right to make copies of the book, but you do not own any physical copies. Perhaps you are thinking that if the description of your property right is complex then you don't "really" own the property? That's simply not true.
At the base of this discussion, I think the issue is: what are legitimate claims of property and how does the formation of a government and its social contract affect these issues.
I'm sorry, there is no social contract here. That is probably the theory of law and government that is most antithetical to Objectivism.

The concept you ought to be focusing on is "trepass".

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I think that this hypothetical is missing something. Reason. :D

If I'm a brothel owner where am I going to get my customers? Are they going to be prepubescent boys and girls from Mary's Discount Elementary School, or the by in large married men of the suburb where the school is found (surrounded by residential housing, and who knows who's prying eyes)... Or will my customers be found on a busy downtown road in perhaps a less than desirable back street where there is little reason for either a child or a stray wife to venture.

I guess the point is that business' will gravitate to the locations where they will be able to conduct their business in the most efficient manner. A trucking company isn't going to set itself up in a residential area, the roads are too small and access to the highway may not be the best. Wal-Mart wants to be close to other shops and services because they get spill-over business from them, close to a residential area but not in it.

Conversely most people do not want to live in industrial areas because of the noise, smells and lack of other leisure-time infrastructure available there.

The real reason for not imposing zoning laws in my opinion is that there is no need to legislate common sense.

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