Attempts To Remain Unfazed: Failing

I Just Can't Keep A Poker Face

By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in | Comments (35) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

I try my very best to keep the level of surprise, shock and astonishment I feel about certain issues of the day under control. I'd like to think that I have anticipated various arguments on certain issues. I'd like to believe that I've read enough, studied enough, learned enough about the controversies of the day to prevent myself from being taken aback that such controversies exist, that they are controversies to begin with. I do what I can to accommodate and respect the belief that my views are not the only game in town.

That having been said, there are certain controversies whose mere existence just leave me gobsmacked. One is that we should actually argue over the common sense belief that if government engages in a taking of land, the landowner ought to be compensated. To me, it is only natural that government should compensate in those situations. Quite shockingly, others see the matter differently.

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If you own land you cheated or commited a crime to get it, therefore you shouldnt be allowed to benefit from it.

Or Land ownership is just a means used by the bourgeois to oppress the proletariat.

Or Look at the cute squirrel. How could you put profit over its happiness, you mean mean man.

for the second time in two months. It is now no surprise to me that others see this topic differently and in the way described above.

I'm not sure I'll take on Ayn Rand's whole objectivist philosophy, but she sure hit the nail on the head when it comes to issues like property rights.

"But who get's the benefit of it? Nobody except it's owner. Would you say that's fair?"
"No," said Taggert, "it isn't fair"
"It seems to me that national policy ought to be aimed at the objective of giving everyone a chance at his own fair share..."
I read it first to get a feel for the plot and story. Now I'm reading it to see just what it was that held me during the first read. I think it was hearing the constant echo of today's liberal voices while reading their talking points as described by Rand....nearly 50 years ago. Talk about predicting the future.

Meanwhile, environmentalists and supporters of land-use planning are fighting to squelch what they see as a radical infringement on the rights of communities to protect property values and ecosystems and to shape growth.

I decided I had to microfisk this one paragraph, or I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight:

1. "environmentalists and supporters of land-use planning"

In other words they would be "big-government liberals". I guess some people think that since the world doesn't belong to anyone, it belongs to them.

2. "... are fighting to squelch what they see as a radical infringement"

Oh, it's "radical" now to insist that the government abide by its Constitution. The tone here just drips of smarming truth to power. But that was only a lead-in to

3. "[radical infringement] on the rights of communities"

Communities do not have rights. People have rights. Communities are just collections of people, each of whom has the right to own, and control, property. If what someone does with his property impacts your property or you directly, then you have something to say about it. But just knowing that he is using his stuff in a way that you wouldn't doesn't give you the right to direct him in his use of it.

This battle of world views is the biggest reason why Libertarians, if they are confronted with it, have no home with the Democrats.

4. "on the rights of communities to protect property values"

Chortle, guffaw, and chortle again. They aren't interested in protecting property values, or at least nothing like the level of interest that the owner of the property has. They are interested in controlling property use, limiting such use, which clearly means limiting value. If I tell you "No, you can't build a subdivision on that land, you may only farm it", that is not protecting your property values.

5. "on the rights of communities to protect ... ecosystems"

OK, now we're at least approaching an issue. If the ecosystems in question are ever defined precisely, and not constantly shifted around, with butterflies in China causing hurricanes in Orlando, then perhaps there might be something to talk about. Since my land and yours may form part of the same interconnected system supporting critters and plants, your land use can affect mine.

But it isn't the ecosystem the community should be trying to protect, it's the property of the individuals involved. The ecosystem is just one way harm gets transmitted from one person to the next. Setting up the ecosystem as something to be protected in and of itself creates a common community property. It is exceedingly difficult to distinguish between damage done to a person's property and damage done to the ecosystem that property helps define. The end result is a taking of property, a hidden taxation that can amount to confiscation -- except for the taxes that will continue to be levied on useless property.

6. "on the rights of communities ... to shape growth."

OK, my head exploded. The socialists want control, that's all, and they're willing to use any play in the book to get it.

Communities don't have rights. Communities have force.

Evil men hide from the truth, but good men stand upon it.

lefties like their "planning" euphemisms, don't they?

"land use planning" = steal your property
"family planning" = murder the unborn
"I have a plan" = just don't ask me about it

Can I infer, based on your opposition to land use planning, that you think that municipal zoning laws are wrong and should be abolished?

I highly recommend the book Collapse by Jared Diamond. He goes into detail about the plight of the Montana rancher and farmer. It is quite interesting to see what happens when land use restrictions aren't put in place.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not." George Bernard Shaw

Maybe, I'm not sure. I know it's good to keep mototcycle shops out of residential neighborhoods, and the like. But that gets used for covering all kinds of supervision of the economy, almost all of which is foolhardy.

Evil men hide from the truth, but good men stand upon it.

People often don't govern wisely but that doesn't mean that no governance is the better option.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not." George Bernard Shaw

only in rare occurrences do zoning laws effect properties which are already developed. And in those cases there are usually grandfather clauses. What we are talking about is that someone buys unincorporated property and then tries to develop it and is hit with restrictions from environmentalists ex post facto thus denying the full use of the property.

BTW Jared Diamond had some interesting ideas in his previous book, But I would be careful not to O.D. on him. Take him with a big grain of salt.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"

So you don't have a problem with land use planning as long as it isn't used to change EXISTING property use. Ok.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not." George Bernard Shaw

You are being exceedinly misleading, Pejman.

There is no taking of land involved in the link you provided.

Do you think that a land owner should be allowed to dump toxic waste on their property?

Do you think that a municipality can change the zoning of a land parcel to help the community even if it hurts the commercial interests of the land owner? Let's say that a community has changed from a industrial town to a thriving cosmopolitan town? Should a municipality be allowed to change the zoning laws of their town so that no further industrial business can be built in town? Should they be required to provide money to a land owner because they might want to build a factory on that land?

I'm not suggesting that property owners should never be compensated for significant changes in zoning laws. But I have a hard time accepting that a land owner should be given compensation because more stringent environmental laws have been put in place. Should a land owner being given compensation because the city decided to put power lines next to his property? Should he be given compensation when the city decides to put a water treatment plant down the street?

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not." George Bernard Shaw

If I have purchased a tract of land. It is my land. If I want to dig a big hole or hunt the critters off my land, it is my choice to do so. If the broader community decides that they should limit my ability to do that, then yes, I should be compensated for the loss of my ability to dispose of my property as I see fit.

Can I dump toxic waste on my property? Of course I can. But I have a responsibility to do it in a way that protects the rights of others' property. If I cannot do that, then I am faced with the same choice as in any other endeavor: proceed and face an appropriate penalty for negligence or restrain my own behaviour.

I'd agree with the Randian view if there was a way to ensure that my neighbor's land-use never left their property line, but that's just impossible. My land would be nearly worthless if someone could put a toxic waste dump next door. Or a strip club.

There's a certain lifestyle that people aspire to: the certainty of not living in a toxic swamp of chemicals and debauchery. And that lifestyle is worth something.

But wait, there's more! By setting the expected range of usage, zoning laws also ensure that I can use my property within that range, without my neighbors demanding compensation.

If I add a properly zoned addition onto my house that blocks my neighbor's view of the lake, they cannot demand money.

Zoning laws are an attempt at balancing my rights and my neighbors' rights. They're a good thing. They restrict the use of the land, but they also limit my obligations so long as I don't violate the zoning laws.

You seem to think it is just fine for you to damage the value of your neighbour's property, provided the council says so, and wrong for them to impact the value of your property because the council said no.

Try turning these examples on their head. Does it seem quite so just now?

There are established torts to deal with situations such as putting toxic waste on your land in conditions that do not restrict its impact on others. The municipal authorities should not have the right either to suspend those torts or exaggerate them.

Let these issues be settled on their individual merits, and not have whole areas 'zoned' for this or that.

Quentin Langley
Editor of

Gav's example of a strip club? If I buy a parcel of land next to a school should I be allowed to build a strip club next to it?

I don't think it's "fine" to damage the value of your neighbor's property but I fail to see how you propose we go about preventing people from doing that other than municipal zoning laws.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not." George Bernard Shaw

>>but I fail to see how you propose we go about preventing people from doing that other than municipal zoning laws.

What is required is a system whereby actual damage is compensated.

BTW, zoning laws do not have the effect of preventing damage but of preventing some damage and encouraging other damage. In other words damage of the politically weak by the politically powerful is fine.

Quentin Langley
Editor of

again, we are not talking about zoning ordnances. Let me give you an example. My Brother in law owns property in Louisiana, it is farm property. He farmed on it all his life, Two years ago he wanted to convert it to crawfish pond. He received an injunction and had to appear in court, to be able to proceed with converting his own land into a crawfish pond because, get this:
His farm was considered a "wetlands". That is just asinine.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"

is in how corrupible the zoning process often is; my buddies and I can get together, pass around a little money, and either make our property more valuable, yours less valuable, or both.

I'm having to deal with this now in a small town in Georgia. I have some land that has been in my family for a couple of centuries. It was a family farm until the '60s when the area all around it began to evolve towards low-density, relatively high-value residential and when it was incorporated into the city, it was zoned as single family residential. I've ignored it for years, paid the taxes and a little upkeep, and let my sister watch over things. Shouldn't have done that! Now I want to do something with it as both a winter retirement home and some income property. I find that the boys who currently own the City Hall and have a lot of residential property on the other side of town have by dark of night rezoned all my road-fronting property to commercial. There is NO commercial potential in this area, which fact renders my property both essentially worthless and out of competition with their property. Now I have to go down there and see how many hundred dollar bills I have to pass out to get it rezoned. And it works that way everywhere in the country.

In Vino Veritas

Idealistically, we like to talk about "communities gathering together to protect property values", but the reality is that it's always a few well-connected folks who have their value protected.

I don't like zoning laws. It's just a way to get people to conform when peer pressure isn't enough.

Evil men hide from the truth, but good men stand upon it.

to take you case - the placement of toxic waste creates a RISK of harm to a neighbor. That behavior clearly damages the value of the properties nearby. It is entirely appropriate for government to regulate that behavior and not compensate the land owner.

All that has happened is that someone has raised an argument you find persuasive.

>>It is entirely appropriate for government to regulate that behavior and not compensate the land owner.

Far from it. Regulation is merely intervention in the process of free exchange so that some parties can be benefited at the expense of others. Procedures for suitable compensation maximise the overall benefit, rather than merely redistributing benefit to the politically favoured.

Risk of harm, by the way, IS harm. Risk has a specific cost which can be quantified.

However, when the risk is not of toxic leaks but of toxic municipal policies, property owners have no entitlement to compensation.

Only last year I withdrew an offer on a property when I discovered it was at risk of being damaged by political decision making. They were planning to 'make safe' a former waste site containing 'toxic waste'. There were mature trees growing on the plot of land adjacent to the house I wanted to buy, but it had been used as a municipal waste disposal site in the first half of the twentieth century. It is possible there were 60 year old car batteries on the site, so it was designated 'contaminated land'. The process was sure to take years and houses in the vicinity were likely to be unsaleable in the meantime.

Quentin Langley
Editor of

The absolutist position is ridiculous. For example, while wennejunk above admits he would be responsible for any damage done to others' properties by his dumping toxic wastes on his own, he fails to consider that the total value of his property and other assets might not suffice to repay the damage he might cause if he makes a mistake.

Zoning laws are usually intended to maximize the value of the properties affected. Your "right" to start an auto junkyard in a residential community damages the property value of everyone else. This isn't a "property right," it is an exercise in egocentric thought.

This is the sort of "property rights" envisioned by libertarians and morons. But, I repeat myself . . .

>>Zoning laws are usually intended to maximize the value of the properties affected.

Zoning laws are designed - like most examples of protectionism, including tarrifs and minimum wage laws - are designed to protect those who have at the expense of those who aspire. Keep property prices high, and you will keep new buyers out of the market. Zoning laws are just another rationing system.

Quentin Langley
Editor of

and then blew it at the end with a wisecrack.

The absolutist position is not ridiculous, it is merely not realistically achievable in the short term. That doesn't mean it isn't a worthy goal, it just means people aren't used to it, and are more apt to accept regulation than freedom with responsibility.

And what zoning laws are intended to do can be sharply contrasted with what they often actually do, such as forcing a farmer to continue farming for $30k/year, when he'd rather retire and sell the farm to that nice land developer for a few hundred thousand.

But I like zoning laws -- they keep the poor people out of Republican neighborhoods. <-- snark.

Evil men hide from the truth, but good men stand upon it.

or auto junkyards. The reach and ambition of the enviros and politicians goes far beyond that.

Extreme and usually irelevant examples used to buttress one's position ia a technique used by statists and morons. I didn't repeat myself.

"a man's admiration for absolute government is proportinate to the contempt he feels for those around him". Tocqueville

But this diary isn't about Kelo. This diary is about people not receiving just compensation for a change in zoning laws. In Kelo the land owners were compensated.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not." George Bernard Shaw

It's about limiting use of Undeveloped and/or outright seizure of land (a la Kelo) based on environmental or planned growth reasons and not compensating the owner for it.

"Always be honest with yourself even if you are honest with no one else...
...It helps you keep track of your lies..."

I thought this diary was about state trying to pass amendments in which people would be compensated if zoning laws changed their land use rights. Is that not the case?

I certainly didn't see anything about land seizures in the opening diary or the link provided.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not." George Bernard Shaw

you wouldn't be seeing these ballot iniatives.

The property rights movement for the past few years has been trying to argue that the encroachment of environmental laws is a type of taking, under which the government owes the landowner some sort of compensation for what it has taken. Because Kelo effectively eviscerated any control the local citizens have over what justifications governments need to give to exercise eminent domain, the jusicial path is no longer viable. Instead we will need to follow a ballot iniative path until we restore equilbrium in the law.

The amount of misinformation regarding Kelo is astounding.

The only thing that Kelo did was further clarify and slightly broaden the scope of public use.

"There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were and ask why not." George Bernard Shaw


My understanding of Kelo is that the state designated an unblighted area as blighted so they could roust those pesky peasants, I mean seize citizens land and transfer the land to their politically connected friends who stood to make millions on the basis that it would increase the tax revenue of the city, which the local politicos deemed a "public good" which in turn is necessary for government to execute eminent domain.

But perhaps I am misinformed.

is bandied about, alarm bells should immediately go-off in one's head. Careful attention should be paid to what follows the utterance of those words. "Sustainable Development", as interpreted by an ever-increasing number of local and state governments and agencies, has become the standard requirement of any land use planning.

Unfortunately, that "interpretation" has been adapted from language contained within Agenda 21 and continues its dangerous evolution. It should be noted that this "stealth-attack" on private property rights and national sovereignty was spawned and codified at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United Nations.


"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so." - Ronald Reagan

ever having to utter the words, I am compelled by the circumstances of the present case to declare: Flyerhawk is right, at least with respect to the implications of the ballot measures under consideration. (Kelo is another matter altogether.) Assuming the construction paced upon the measures by the author of the linked piece to be an accurate representation of the intent behind them, the measures would essentially limit the ability of communities and municipalities to take into consideration in the weighing of zoning proposals any values or interests either noneconomic in nature, or not immediately fungible in terms of economic values. Even property ownership is here reduced to a purely financial, speculative value, a reduction that would have been foreign and sophistical in the minds of many older conservatives. One needen't even conjure the specter of an activist judiciary in order to derive these likely consequences; they seem to be contemplated, by clear and distinct implication, in the initiatives themselves.

This will not lead - at least not outside of a few bizarro instances - to the siting of strip clubs in view of schools, although that illustration is certainly a valid argument against the theoretical expression of the opinion that zoning regulations, of themselves, are somehow inherently suspect as "takings". Rather, such legislation will be employed to protect the interests of developers from the judgments of local communities that their interests necessitate restrictions upon certain forms of development - ie., sprawl - and to inhibit locally-enacted protections of the environment and the values associated therewith. My objection is not that all of these regulations are virtuous - that is better argued on a case-by-case basis, and by the locals themselves - but that these initiatives will likely usurpative, on a statewide basis, of the rights of communities to shape their destinies in accordance with values and judgments that may not be reducible to the product of some economic calculus. I thought we reserved our approbation for local government; I suppose, however, that larger institutions of governance are to be lauded for their interference with local institutions when we approve the consequences.

And no, conservative political philosophy does no exclude 'communal rights', but rather presupposes them, inasmuch as it is impossible to conceive of a normative status for prescriptive traditions save on the basis of a 'right' of the community to preserve itself by judging deviations from those norms, even to the degree of stigmatizing, or in certain instances, proscribing, such perturbations of the social fabric. If, for example, the community is not a bearer of rights, then the community may not define, say, marriage, or determine that all human life, and not merely that which realizes a certain unspecified level of sentience, is worthy of the protection of the law. This is poliphil 101, folks.

My harp is turned to mourning, and my organ shall speak with the voice of them that weep. Spare me, O Lord, for my days are truly as nothing.

because they are falling into the lawyerist trap. They are looking for laws to determine the outcome, rather than depending on good judgment. I suppose of course, if we saw more instances of good judgment, we'd be less likely to look for laws to bind people.

The problem is that we need to find balances between the rights of individuals asserting their rights as a collective and individuals asserting individual rights. Assuming that collectives have no rights leads to an unstable ideology. Assuming that individuals have no rights leads to an unstable ideology. You must assume that both have rights that wax and wane depending on relative claims, and that only good, solid, politic judgment is required to weigh those competing claims.

I consider many initiative of this type to be efforts, however well-intentioned, to short-circuit the necessary process of public deliberation which is itself constitutive of self-government. To permanantly enshrine in law one set of interests and values, to the logical exclusion of others, leads only to mischief. I do not care for this when Democrats do it; neither do I care for it when Republicans do it. This is not marriage; this concerns the balancing of property rights and other goods, public and private - a prudential matter which admits of no definitive resolution.

My harp is turned to mourning, and my organ shall speak with the voice of them that weep. Spare me, O Lord, for my days are truly as nothing.

Much electronic ink has been spilled on initiatives which seek to stop the state from takings, and I think the debate comes down to a philosophical one.

We allow ourselves to be governed, but how much do we allow?
Locke wrote what I think is the right way to think about the issue. We the people allow the state to do some things, but not others, in the case of Kelo it may be the proverbial "bridge too far". Unfortunately, the Supreme Court in Kelo allowed too much domination of the state over the individuals rights. Initiatives seek to redraw the line.

"Consent of the governed is a political theory that says a government's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is, or ought to be, derived from the people or society over which that power is exercised. This theory of "consent" is historically contrasted to the divine right of kings and has often been invoked against the legitimacy of colonialism. Following John Locke's notion of a nation of "free and equal" citizens, the Founders of the United States believed that consent of the governed was the only legitimate basis upon which one "free and equal" citizen could exercise legal authority over another -- otherwise neither equal could overcome the other"

Another South Park Republican spouting off !

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