Tag Archives: Zoning Laws

Libertarianism & Me, Part II

MrPooter Image
The Richest Man in Bedford Falls Owner of half of the town

One of the great pieces of poor logic of the rightist libertarian philosophy is it’s relationship with government power. To put it in it’s simplest form, they seem to want the government not to interfere with anything they are doing, or want to do, but they do want it to keep others from doing things they don’t want done. One of the first examples of this occurred to me in a conversation with a door-to-door canvaser for the American Libertarian Party about 30 years ago. I asked her just what the Party would do for me if they were elected and she told me they would get rid of zoning laws.

Intrigued I asked her just what that would do for me and she cheerfully responded that with out all those bothersome zoning laws I would be able to do anything I wanted with my property. Anything I asked, anything she said. Even starting my own in home business? She brighten even more and said yes, that is exactly what they were after. How about my own fireworks factory? She looked a bit troubled but nodded yes. Even though fireworks can not be sold in L.A. City? She asked if I would sell them out of my home and I said no, I’d transport them to where it was legal to sell. I smiled and said this sounds great as I have a storm drain just one house over where I can dispose of all the chemical wast I produce and if it explodes or catches fire I’ll wont need to worry about my home exploding. At this point she decided to move on to the next house.

The point here is she had no real idea of just what the zoning laws did, she just knew that they kept people from doing what they wanted to do and therefore were ‘bad’. Like most people, myself included, she had not given much thought to the why and wherefore of the laws. This is not a characteristic isolated to Libertarians, this is an all too human characteristic. It is why we have had leaders and wise men and women to take counsel together and make rules to live by. We trust them to consider the effects, the consequences, of actions of the group and not do things that will hurt more than they help. Sometimes they fail, rarely they fail spectacularly and we do suffer greatly.

A here is the problem faced by the Libertarian philosophy, it is just a collection of very simple maxims. The number and composition of the collection of maxims changes from time to time and wither it is right or left based but all in all it is a nice set. But that is the problem. They are simple in form but we now have to come up with rules on how to actually apply the maxims in real life. With real situations involving real people. Now things get complicated. If for no other reason you are going to have to deal with people who don’t like the maxims or want to use them in ways to their own advantage and not in the way intended.

Next time: Libertarianism and the Logical extreme.