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Legal foundation for public decency, lewdness, nudity

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I wanted to create a thread to discuss what objective standards, if any, exist for laws codifying public decency. Specifically, I think it would be most interesting to focus on situations where:

* Certain "offensive" behavior is not explicitly forbidden. For example, when one rents a home, it does not state in the lease that one cannot masturbate on one's front lawn during daylight hours or display a menagerie of visually shocking, mutilated animals on one's property.

* One is generally engaging in this offensive behavior on one's own property or in a public venue such as a street that is crowded with pedestrians. Thus, being unwelcome on private property is not an issue to this intended discussion.

* No clear physical bodily harm or property damage to any witnessing party is incurred.

Should such laws exist? How would they be justified? Should one be legally permitted to wander around a downtown area in nothing but an open bathrobe? Should one be allowed to just keep a rotting trash heap on one's front yard in a residential neighborhood? Should one be legally permitted to blast loud music in a downtown area?

I think the answer to all of these is no, but I am curious to how one should justify this answer.

Anyway, I apologize if this thread is redundant. I have quoted a pertinent post by Dan Edge's from a thread from current events below. Please note that he is being quoted in the context of whether parents should be permitted in having sex infront of their children.

I agree that objective standards are needed here. I haven’t reached a conclusion on this issue, but I lean towards the view that it is child abuse to force your children to watch pornography. I also think it would be abuse to force your child to watch scenes of torture or extreme violence. I’m trying to hash out what my gut is telling me. I think I need to understand the concept of legal consent more fully, and how it applies to children. In many contexts, it would be illegal to have sex in plain view of others without their consent. Children are not old enough to give that consent. Here's my reasoning:

In American law, it can be a punishable offense to play music so loud that it affects your neighbors (assuming you are in a residential neighborhood). Even though you are acting on your own property, your actions affect other people’s property. It is assumed that your neighbors do not consent to this noise unless consent is expressly given. Loud music (beyond a certain volume) is thought to be outside the realm of acceptable sounds coming from a house in a residential neighborhood.

The same principle applies to actions which affect senses other than hearing. If you move into a residential neighborhood and begin producing chemicals that create a god-awful smell, for instance, this could be considered a nuisance to your neighbors. Your neighbors could seek a court order forcing you to stop. If you hung a mutilated horse corpse in your front yard, this could be considered a visual nuisance, and the court could force you to move it. When you move into a residential neighborhood, there is an implicit consent that you will not do these sorts of things.

If you moved into an industrial neighborhood, then it would be assumed that you consent to the smells, sounds, and sights associated with that kind of neighborhood. You couldn’t move in to such a neighborhood and immediately report the chemical company next door as a nuisance. Your case would be thrown out of court. When you move into a residential neighborhood, however, it is understood that you must gain the neighbor’s consent before taking actions that would impact their sensory experience of their own property in a negative way. This, I believe, is the spirit of nuisance laws, and they are ethical laws.

By this principle, it could be considered a nuisance to have sex in your front yard in a residential neighborhood. Doing this is similar to playing excessively loud music; you must gain the consent of all surrounding property owners who could be affected by this kind of action. The same is true for other “public” places.

Consider a Burger King restaurant. It is implied that Burger King consents for you to walk onto their property during normal business hours, placing orders, using their bathrooms, and many other things. However, Burger King could prosecute you if you and your wife walked in and started having sex on the counter. It is implied that they do not consent to this kind of action, even if they fail to post a “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” sign. For this to be legal, you would have to gain the consent of the Burger King owner. Further, if you get a job at Burger King and agree to a one year employment contract at Burger King, you do not necessarily give your consent to work in the nude, or be exposed to nude co-workers or customers.

I have offered evidence for the case that in many contexts, it would be a punishable offense to have sex in plain view of others without their consent. It is clear that children are incapable of consent in the adult sense of the word. In some contexts, a child’s powers of consent are delegated to his parents (eg., a parent can legally “ground” a child). In other contexts, consent is considered to be withheld until the child is old enough to decide for himself (eg., neither the child nor the parent can consent to sex with the child). What is the difference between these two contexts? I don’t have the time to go into it right now. But consider: If a child’s consent is required in order in order to have sex in plain view of him, then is this a consent delegated to the parents? Or is this consent assumed to be withheld until the child is of appropriate age? My gut tells me the latter.

--Dan Edge

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See this thread: Bill Clinton's Impeachment--The legal aspects of abnormal behavior. It's quite a long one and full of pointless bickering, but there is about 10% or so of the posts where you will fin

I disagree with this in part; positive emotions (or any emotions, for that matter) are not the standard of value, but they are values.

See this thread: Bill Clinton's Impeachment--The legal aspects of abnormal behavior. It's quite a long one and full of pointless bickering, but there is about 10% or so of the posts where you will find some thoughts that may be helpful.

If you don't want to go through all that invective, then as a very brief summary, the philosophical basis for legal restraints on public displays was stated by Miss Rand as follows:

A corollary of the freedom to see and hear, is the freedom not to look or listen.
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Short and sweet: offending people does not violate anyone's rights, thus such rules must be contractual and not part of the legal code.

I am willing to discuss the issue with you, if reading the thread linked above does not give you the answers you are looking for. If you choose to discuss it, please do it here instead of there.

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Dark Waters,

Thanks for starting a new thread on this topic. It is a very interesting subject, and one that is not easy to untangle.

CapForever and Mrocktor:

I will look through that "Bill Clinton" thread when I have time. Until then, here are some initial questions: Am I right in thinking that you oppose all nuisance laws? For instance, do you believe that one has no legal recourse if a neighbor (in a residential neighborhood) plays excessively loud music, or mixes chemicals that create a horrible smell, or covers his front lawn in animal corpses? Do you believe that it is not a form of assault to scream obscenities in someone's face (assuming you are on neutral property)? Since when did the "physical" in physical force not include forcible impact on the other senses besides touch?

An inductive approach must be taken here. One cannot simply deduce an answer from the non-initiation of force principle. If you did that, you would have to make sure that you never affected another individual's property in any way whatsoever without the owner's consent. This includes forces such as sound waves, gases, and other perceptible objects. But gaining everyone's consent in this way would be a massive barrier to accomplishing anything. That's what legal precedence is for. It protects your right to walk on to Burger King's property during business hours without the owner's express consent. Or to start a fire in your fireplace without obtaining the permission of everyone within a 10 mile radius who may get soot on their property as a result. Or to kiss a woman on a date without first obtaining a signed consent form in triplicate. A legal system should be constructed in such a way as to ease the process of ensuring that one is not initiating force. Some common sense is in order here.

--Dan Edge

Edited by dan_edge
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I looked through that thread on Bill Clinton a while ago. I thought that it contained some particularly good arguments.

I think mrocktor has a very good point. Just because one is offended does not mean that one's rights have been violated. Therefore, taking actions to solely prevent people from being offended is outside of the nature of government. However, I still wish to chew on this just to enhance my understanding of these issues.

With regards to olfactory pollution such as foul stenches, I think that there can be some objective criteria since one can incur legitimate property damages by having one's home tainted with a malodorous smell that was generated by a neighbor.

With regards to noise pollution, there was an interesting thread here. I will re-read this before I ask any detailed questions.

With regards to visual offenses, I would like to temporarily limit the discussion to a non-threatening "visual offense" that is displayed on an individual's property that is adjacent to one's own property. By non-threatening, I mean something that is not threatening to one's life, loved ones or property unlike a sign that reads "I am coming over to your house to kill you after I finish my tea." Threats are obviously different as they are an initiation of force.

For the sake of me chewing, lets suppose that one lives in a suburb and is planning to sell one's house. Now suppose one has a neighbor who recently erects (on his own front lawn) a large display of pro-Nazi propaganda that both extols Hitler and flippantly trivializes the holocaust. Clearly this would offend many. This display will especially become an issue given one is trying to sell one's house, as residing next to a neo-Nazi will surely lower the retail value of a home. Nevertheless, it still sounds like the prospective seller of the home's rights were not violated, as one does not have the right to have neighbors who will not erect offensive displays. Do you guys agree with this?

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For the sake of me chewing, lets suppose that one lives in a suburb and is planning to sell one's house. Now suppose one has a neighbor who recently erects (on his own front lawn) a large display of pro-Nazi propaganda that both extols Hitler and flippantly trivializes the holocaust. Clearly this would offend many. This display will especially become an issue given one is trying to sell one's house, as residing next to a neo-Nazi will surely lower the retail value of a home. Nevertheless, it still sounds like the prospective seller of the home's rights were not violated, as one does not have the right to have neighbors who will not erect offensive displays. Do you guys agree with this?

(emphasis added)

One should distinguish between something being offensive and somebody being offended . The former is a statement of fact and is used to refer to various things in various contexts, ranging from innocent Danish cartoons to noxious fumes that can seriously damage people's health. The latter is a statement of emotion, and it means: "I don't like this and want you to stop doing it. I cannot give a rational explanation why you should stop it, but it hurts my feelings and therefore it is insensitive of you to do it."

Under objective law, there is absolutely no place whatsoever for any legal protection against being offended. You cannot ever go to a court and say "This and this has caused me to experience a negative emotion, therefore I demand compensation"--because there is no such thing as a right to positive emotions. Positive emotions are not values for a rational man but rather indicators of the achievement of his values (see my other lengthy discussion from last fall, where I argued that you shouldn't have sex just in order to feel good). So an objective court would throw out any arguments about your emotions being affected, and only consider arguments about your existential values being interfered with.

Now the word "offensive" may (or may not) be used to describe the thing that interferes with your existential values. If somebody paints a swastika on your car, you may refer to it as an "offensive symbol" in court, or you may simply call it an unauthorized decoration of your vehicle--it makes no difference, as long as your argument is that your property has been invaded upon and not that the swastika makes you feel bad.

In discussions regarding public behavior and displays, the word "offensive" is frequently used to describe the behavior or display in question--simply because it is the easiest way of referring to it. But, to the extent that there is any objective reason to put legal restraints on it, it always has to do with rights to existential values, not with some people being offended. So the fact that the Nazi propaganda would "offend many" is completely irrelevant for the purposes of any legal discussion.

(To answer your question: Propaganda in itself is not a violation of anyone's rights; it is up to you whether you believe the propaganda or not. People do have a right to express their ideas on their property, as long as they respect the rights of others while doing so--e.g. no loud noise that prevents the neighbor from sleeping at night, no copyright violations, etc. However, the neighbor might be able to "get" the neo-Nazi by arguing that specific items in the propaganda were threats against his life; this depends on what exactly the propaganda says.)

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Am I right in thinking that you oppose all nuisance laws? For instance, do you believe that one has no legal recourse if a neighbor (in a residential neighborhood) plays excessively loud music, or mixes chemicals that create a horrible smell, or covers his front lawn in animal corpses?

Assuming there is no preexisting contractual limitation on these activities, the burden falls on the "victim" to prove that each of those activities violates his rights. My view on property is such that if you build your house in a clean air, quiet neighborhood and then someone builds a noisy sewer treatment facility beside your house, the objective negative effects of that on your established use of your own property are a violation of your rights. This view is not a consensus, discussion can be seen here and here.

Do you believe that it is not a form of assault to scream obscenities in someone's face (assuming you are on neutral property)? Since when did the "physical" in physical force not include forcible impact on the other senses besides touch?

No, its not a form of assault except if it is a threat of using actual force. "Physical force" is not about gauging "impact" on one or more senses, it is about keeping you from acting according to your own judgment. Physical restraint, actual assault and the threat of them are instances when you are physically kept from acting in the way you choose. Screaming is not. If someone screams at you, you remain free to walk away, scream back, ask the owner of the property to remove the lunatic or simply ignore it. There is no restriction of your freedom of action, and no damage to your property. No rights have been violated.

If you did that, you would have to make sure that you never affected another individual's property in any way whatsoever without the owner's consent.

In my opinion, it is your responsibility to not affect another's property in any significant way without their consent. The burden of proof, however, is on them - should they claim that you did affect it.

The issue of implied consent you raised is certainly something to be discussed, but its another topic.

For the sake of me chewing, lets suppose that one lives in a suburb and is planning to sell one's house. Now suppose one has a neighbor who recently erects (on his own front lawn) a large display of pro-Nazi propaganda that both extols Hitler and flippantly trivializes the holocaust. Clearly this would offend many. This display will especially become an issue given one is trying to sell one's house, as residing next to a neo-Nazi will surely lower the retail value of a home. Nevertheless, it still sounds like the prospective seller of the home's rights were not violated, as one does not have the right to have neighbors who will not erect offensive displays. Do you guys agree with this?

Yes. You own your house, not a right to some arbitrary quantity of money it would be worth if you didn't have a Nazi neighbor.

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Now suppose one has a neighbor who recently erects (on his own front lawn) a large display of pro-Nazi propaganda that both extols Hitler and flippantly trivializes the holocaust. Clearly this would offend many. This display will especially become an issue given one is trying to sell one's house, as residing next to a neo-Nazi will surely lower the retail value of a home. Nevertheless, it still sounds like the prospective seller of the home's rights were not violated, as one does not have the right to have neighbors who will not erect offensive displays.
It would be very unfortunate if that happened to me (I don't care about others). But there are a lot of things I wouldn't like -- if someone built a high-rise down the hill so as to block my gorgeous view (that was another life), or the nice little old ladies with the roses moved out and were replaced by drunken ijits who burn stinky trash wood in a fire pit on weekend, and play really atrocious, whiney music. This is stuff that annoys me.

On the other hand, there is the stuff that makes life impossible. That includes the guy who runs a jet engine at 140 dB, or the guy who have this million candlepower spotlight that he likes to run between 1:00am and 5:00am. This goes beyond annoying me.

This is the relevant division, as far as I can see. This doesn't tell you what acts are annoying vs. make life qua man impossible, but at least it makes the first cut. Objectively speaking, some people might be annoyed if a neighbor brought a goat into their backyard and quietly slaughtered it for a party, but I think those people should grow some skin. I would not be so nice about it if they had slowly and noisily tortured the goat to death for hours. So while I know that it's hard to define in advance what violates a man's right to peaceful enjoyment of one's property, I am able to recognize violations of that right in some instances.

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This is the relevant division, as far as I can see. [...] annoying vs. make life qua man impossible

Here's a test for your division: Having to pay taxes (at a rate of, say, 15%) annoys the hell out of me, but it doesn't really make life qua man impossible. Therefore, taxation is not a violation of my rights?

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Here's a test for your division: Having to pay taxes (at a rate of, say, 15%) annoys the hell out of me, but it doesn't really make life qua man impossible. Therefore, taxation is not a violation of my rights?
Wull, this is a proposed test for the no-force-initiating acts that can reasonably be proscribed by law; and not a generic definition of "man's rights".
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Wull, this is a proposed test for the no-force-initiating acts that can reasonably be proscribed by law; and not a generic definition of "man's rights".

I thought Objectivism held that the law could only proscribe acts that initiated force. To do otherwise would make the lawmaker an initiator of force!

The meaning of "force" isn't restricted to hitting people or threatening them with a gun. Force includes any act of deliberately infringing on a person's rights. If you build yourself a home, you have earned the right to use it as your home, and the concept "home" implies the absence of a 140 dB noise. Therefore, if your neighbor begins to operate a jet engine right next to your window, he is most certainly in violation of your property right--i.e., he is using force against you.

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The meaning of "force" isn't restricted to hitting people or threatening them with a gun. Force includes any act of deliberately infringing on a person's rights. If you build yourself a home, you have earned the right to use it as your home, and the concept "home" implies the absence of a 140 dB noise. Therefore, if your neighbor begins to operate a jet engine right next to your window, he is most certainly in violation of your property right--i.e., he is using force against you.
Okay, so let's assume that I want to be a moral person and not violate another person's rights (because, in fact, I do want to be a moral person and I do not want to violate another person's rights). How do I know what the implied rights are? For example, I would have assumed that I have a right not to have to look at a disgusting pile of weeds on my neighbor's yard, or to have to watch his naked or under-covered butt while he's working in his yard. I thought I have the property right to not have to smell my neighbor's foul cooking. It seems to me that the concept "home" implies the absence of the stench of incompentently prepared biryani. And the concept of "home", which entails "my front yard" and the enjoyment thereof, implies the lack of nauseating political sentiments by the jackass across the way.

In other words, how can I objectively know what "home" implies, so that I can stop violating the rights of my picky neighbors and so that I can know what I may rightly call the cops on them for being, I dunno, too Nazi or too liberal? I think that Mr. Monkey has identified a really important philosophical question, and that it is not at all obvious how to deal with the problems that he has pointed to.

If nothing else, I think you ought to say what people's rights are, without mention the concept "force" (directly or indirectly), because you said that force includes any deliberate act of infringing on a person's rights. What are man's rights? Specifically. Do not refer to the concept of force, under penalty of being sentenced to petitio principii jail. I really think that this is a murky area that Objectivists need to come to better grips with.

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What are man's rights? Specifically.

Man has a right to pursue a rational life. That is the basis of it all, but how it is applied to each specific situation in life is a topic as vast as life itself--making it a subject much more suited for a book than for a post.

But the implications of "home" you posit are pretty easy to rebut if you think a little about the essential characteristics of the concept. What is it that makes a home a home?

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But the implications of "home" you posit are pretty easy to rebut if you think a little about the essential characteristics of the concept.
Still, I don't know the answer to the question about the weed, the barbecue, the trash heap, the goats, biryani and the pink and violet painted house. I've spent an awful lot of time thinking about the essential characteristics of rights, man's nature, the concept "home" and how "home" relates to "house" and "property". You've claimed that "If you build yourself a home, you have earned the right to use it as your home, and the concept 'home' implies the absence of a 140 dB noise." But you haven't explained why the absence of a trash heaps or barbecue smells isn't also implied by the concept "home". would be legally liable for I still have no clue what offenses I under your system of government. You've rejected by proposal, my moral code, and I want to know what rights concept should stand in its place.
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Still, I don't know the answer to the question about the weed, the barbecue, the trash heap, the goats, biryani and the pink and violet painted house. I've spent an awful lot of time thinking about the essential characteristics of rights, man's nature, the concept "home" and how "home" relates to "house" and "property". You've claimed that "If you build yourself a home, you have earned the right to use it as your home, and the concept 'home' implies the absence of a 140 dB noise." But you haven't explained why the absence of a trash heaps or barbecue smells isn't also implied by the concept "home". would be legally liable for I still have no clue what offenses I under your system of government. You've rejected by proposal, my moral code, and I want to know what rights concept should stand in its place.

David,

I don't think one can deduce a single, simple answer to your question. When it comes to nuisance law, for instance, there is a range of acceptable standards that would be equally ethical. I can imagine a (moral) legal precedence under which a the government could stop you from having a barbeque in your front yard, or making noise beyond 88 DB, or sunbathing naked on your front porch. An equally ethical government could have a legal precedence that did not restrict these things. There is an optional range here. You may need to be a professional legal historian to determine which would be the best option in a given case. So, don't feel bad for not immediately arriving at the answer, David!

--Dan Edge

Edited by dan_edge
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When it comes to nuisance law, for instance, there is a range of acceptable standards that would be equally ethical. I can imagine a (moral) legal precedence under which a the government could stop you from having a barbeque in your front yard, or making noise beyond 88 DB, or sunbathing naked on your front porch. An equally ethical government could have a legal precedence that did not restrict these things. There is an optional range here. You may need to be a professional legal historian to determine which would be the best option in a given case.
Let's pretend, for a moment, that I am a legal expert (did you really mean legal historian?). Then the question is, how does a legal expert determine -- how should I determine -- whether I ought to be prohibited from barbecuing on my front porch? What kind of facts and standards do you refer to? I've proposed that the difference lies in distinguishing annoyances, which you should just gain the maturity to live with, vs. acts that really do make life qua man impossible. C4 doesn't like that standard -- however, for the life of me (life qua man, of course) I can't figure out how anyone can make that decision by pointing to acts of "force" without having a theory of what "force" is.
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Then the question is, how does a legal expert determine -- how should I determine -- whether I ought to be prohibited from barbecuing on my front porch? What kind of facts and standards do you refer to? ... I can't figure out how anyone can make that decision by pointing to acts of "force" without having a theory of what "force" is.

You're right that we need a definition of "force" in a legal context. I propose that we start by using "force" in a literal sense. Any kind of force you exert on my person or property can constitute an initiation of force. This includes sound waves, smoke, ashes, chemicals, light, x-rays, and anything else that affects my property. Any initiation of any kind of force on my property is a civil infraction unless you have consent. Now, the question becomes: what constitutes consent? This is where a legal historian (or legal expert) could come in handy.

There are many American laws setting precedence for what constitutes consent. There are actually laws which protect you from prosecution for walking on Burger King's property, even though the owner has not given you express consent. The Burger King example is a good one, because there is no question that walking onto someone's property without consent constitutes an initiation of force. Obviously, you don't have the Burger King owner's express consent to step onto his property. But by American law, the Burger King owner could not sue you for doing so. This makes sense, but why? Ask your same questions about this situation: "[H]ow does a legal expert determine -- how should I determine -- whether I ought to be prohibited from [walking onto Burger King's property]? What kind of facts and standards do you refer to?"

There are many factors to consider. What would a rational person consent to in this context? What standards would help to ease trade? What factors would help you protect your investment in property? For instance, if you knew that a chemical company could move in next door at any time and start emitting noxious fumes and loud noise, it would make it extremely difficult to find an appropriately safe location for a home. Conversely, if you want to build a chemical company, it would be extremely difficult to find a safe location if, at any time, a person could build a residence right next to your factory and then shut you down because you are a nuisance to his property. The American legal system sets standards to ease these processes, particularly trade.

If you disagree with the standard that has been set, you can take your case to court. If enough people run into problems trying to conduct business under a poor or outdated standard, the precedence can be changed. This happens all the time, as the legal system tries to keep up with new technologies.

Finally, David: Stop asking interesting questions! I'm trying to get to work here! :D

--Dan Edge

Edited by dan_edge
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David,

I don't think one can deduce a single, simple answer to your question. When it comes to nuisance law, for instance, there is a range of acceptable standards that would be equally ethical. I can imagine a (moral) legal precedence under which a the government could stop you from having a barbeque in your front yard, or making noise beyond 88 DB, or sunbathing naked on your front porch. An equally ethical government could have a legal precedence that did not restrict these things. There is an optional range here. You may need to be a professional legal historian to determine which would be the best option in a given case. So, don't feel bad for not immediately arriving at the answer, David!

--Dan Edge

I agree with Dan Edge's common sense approach here. These issues are rationally decided in courthouses and city councils across the country. The answers are contextual and often decided on a case-by-case basis. For example, can a penthouse owner in New York start up a goat ranch on his roof? What is the answer to that? No answer, because the situation hasn't happened yet. When it does, and a neighbor feels he is being harmed by the penthouse owner's actions, he will sue that person, and the issue will be decided in court.

The sum of these lawsuits and municipal codes based on the same principles set up the rules of civilized conduct in any particular geographical region. Those rules are contextual to the particular region and, as Dan states, a range of outcomes is morally permissible. For example, the issue of goat ranching is quite different in Montana than it is on a Manhattan rooftop. The same applies for quarry mining with explosives, playing loud music, etc.

I am not a lawyer, but my impression is that the body of cases that have been decided over the centuries of sundry disputes among men has actually established good, common sense standards of behavior. The bulk of those cases appear to be settled using the moral principle of property rights. Property rights did not emerge in a vacuum, or only all at once when Ayn Rand so capably and completely defined them. The legal principle of property rights has been honed over the ages, not just in the formulations of philosophers, but in the resolution of thousands and thousands of disputes between people.

I have a lot of confidence in this approach, which is inductive and based on real life. Yes, it can go astray especially when philosophical principles become perverted. For example, zoning laws are an immoral violation of property rights, except insofar as they are used to restrict true violations of property rights. Unfortunately, that is not how they are principally used, and a superior method of protecting property rights is through the court system and municipal laws against objective rights violations.

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I propose that we start by using "force" in a literal sense. Any kind of force you exert on my person or property can constitute an initiation of force. This includes sound waves, smoke, ashes, chemicals, light, x-rays, and anything else that affects my property. Any initiation of any kind of force on my property is a civil infraction unless you have consent.
One thing about consent is that it can be withdrawn, so there may be some implicit consent principle that allows a person to enter your property under certain conditions (like, to deliver a pizza, with or without a tip), but that consent can be cancelled, in advance with a no-trespassing sign or post hoc with a "get out" announcement. So if you initiate force against me or my property, thinking that you have permission, then I can clarify matters by letting you know that you are not permitted to persist. Then I can call a cop or sue you if you continue.

So what in the world did you do that got me so annoyed? You sneezed. You created a sound wave, and the force of that sound wave struck my ear. I told you to stop it, and you persisted in creating sound waves (I guess it's allergy season) by sneezing again and again. And about those farts...

My position is that there are some kinds of acts where I don't need the consent of another person, and I can ignore his instructions to stop singing, farting, barbecuing or painting my house (thereby causing certain kinds of light wavelengths to strike his eyes). Even though certain acts of mine do impinge on the other person's body in some way, they do not also prevent the person from pursuing a rational life (I do these things, such as sing while barbecuing, as part of my rational pursuit of life and I'm sort of sorry for the guy who is so spiteful or self-hating that he can't stand my enjoyment of life. Sorry about the farts, but it's mostly air).

BTW, is there a statute somewhere that protects me from prosecution for trespassing if I enter a BK? I've never encountered such a thing, though I could imagine it being an actual law in Germany.

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To add a little more to my prior post, philosophy defines the nature of rights and that the purpose of government is to enforce them. It is up to the courts to enforce them in the myriad situations human life creates. The broad principle need be established, and relevant subsidiary principles, but it is in no way advisable nor practical to define in advance the myriad ways one human can harm another in order to outlaw each of those actions.

That, by the way, is the goal of regulation, which is so destructive because it proscribes human behavior in a context-less manner. Regulation forbids an action in advance in all contexts, whereas a courtroom resolving disputes using the principle of rights properly adjudicates disputes in a manner that reflects the specific facts of each situation.

At a certain point, the best answer in a debate like this thread is if you think your neighbor has harmed you and you can't resolve the matter man-to-man (through suasion only), take him to court. I don't see the value in overly-analyzing some of the situations being discussed in this thread from one's armchair. The only broader, abstract issue one need establish is the validity of properly defined individual rights. On that issue, I assume most of the readers of this forum are in agreement.

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Relevant legal precedence:

---------------------

Easement Law:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easement

"An easement is the right to do something or the right to prevent something over the real property of another. At common law, an easement came to be treated as a property right in itself and is still treated as a kind of property by most jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, another term for easement is equitable servitude, although easements do not have their origin in equity.

The right is often described as the right to use the land of another for a special purpose. Unlike a lease, an easement does not give the holder a right of "possession" of the property, only a right of use."

Some examples:

"Easement of lateral and subjacent support. Prohibits an adjoining land owner from digging too deep on his lot or in any manner depriving his neighbor of vertical or horizontal support on the latter's structures e.g. buildings, fences, etc."

"Solar easements. Prevents someone from blocking the sunlight."

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Nuisance Law:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuisance

Legal Definition: "Under the common law, persons in possession of real property (either land owners or tenants) are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their lands. If a neighbour interferes with that quiet enjoyment, either by creating smells, sounds, pollution or any other hazard that extends past the boundaries of the property, the affected party may make a claim in nuisance."

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And finally, the Burger King law! This was not easy to find. From the legal code of Silt, Colorado:

http://townofsilt.org/html/_data/TITLE09/C...__TRESPASS.html

"B. A place of business, open to the public and during business hours, is an implied consent of the owner or manager for any person to enter in or remain upon for the length of time required to consummate a transaction pertaining to the business. However, a person, who has been informed by the owner or manager of a business that he has been or is being ejected and banned, for a legitimate reason, shall not have the implied right of entry in or remaining on the property until said owner or manager cancels the ban against the person."

I'm sure that other towns have similar laws or legal definitions on the books.

--Dan Edge

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