Saturday, May 24, 2003

on local libertarianism and property rights

Yesterday's (local) Confessions of an Ideologue by Robert Chrisman, laying out the historical background/general philosophy of the author's libertarian worldview with respect to property rights - "I adhere to a systematic body of concepts about human life, and so do my political opponents. I am an individualist; my opponents are collectivists..."

Unlike some past writings from libertarians in this county, it was refreshingly accessible, level-headed in tone, not paranoid or hostile or ranting. You get the feeling that this is a person you could communicate with...or nearly so, as the stereotypical libertarian tone does sometimes seep through: "The moderate, accustomed to bailing on issues that require much thought, accepts this, and will countenance almost any restrictions that have the blessing of the majority...OK, fence-sitter, where do you come down, now that you can see the distinctions in stark contrast?"
- and he does make it clear that he's not talking to the likes of me: "I advocate personal liberty and self-government; my opponents advocate social and economic controls...It is [not to them] that I address my remarks..."

["stuff to skip" deleted]

stuff to skip if you have high standards

I am not particularly well qualified to address the substance of Mr. Chrisman's arguments, but this is a weblog.

some of article's points, and my responses thereto:
  1. C: it's bad to judge political candidates on character since the only thing that matters is whether they share our ideology.
    A: I don't think so. There are other issues that govt must deal with besides property rights. For example, corruption in govt is not good. And if you elect people without consideration of their personal character, corruption is what you are likely to get. A strong libertarian ideology is no guarantee of character: read Brad DeLong's Anarchy, State, and Rent Control on the not very libertarian money-making ploys of Robert Nozick, "the intellectual hero of libertarians": "Nozick mocked the economic interventionism of contemporary liberals who, he said, are 'willing to tolerate every kind of behavior except capitalistic acts between consenting adults.' Alas, it now appears that like so many other advocates of the free market, Nozick is willing to make one small exception --himself..."
    There's an interesting pro-and-con discussion at bottom of page.
  2. C: "without economic (read property-related ) freedom, no other freedoms are possible."
    A: If my property can be made valueless by what you choose to do with yours, ultimate freedom to do what you want with your property will deprive me of my economic freedom.
  3. C: Because without property we have no freedoms, property rights must be completely unrestricted
    A: How does this follow? Other freedoms are restricted (eg yelling Fire in theater, swinging my arm where your face begins, standing at the property line screaming at 2am)
  4. C: "The collectivist/authoritarians, however, have managed to move us to the point where the approval of building projects is subject to the whims of the planners and elected politicians.
    A: in-town Nevada City, probably yes (I am no expert, but I do not think you could be a happy libertarian in this town --although this (via mmg) might do it). In Lake Wildwood, perhaps yes (or at least my understanding is that there are onerous-to-some restrictions). Elsewhere in the county, my impression is that you can pretty much build whatever you want as long as the land is zoned for it.
  5. C: "OK, fence-sitter, where do you come down, now that you can see the distinctions in stark contrast?"
    A: Here's hoping "Fence-Sitter" understands that there are two sides to every story, and that F.S. should read a decent rebuttal (like this) before jumping to opinions.
One final question- in Mr. Chrisman's article there are tantalizing hints that he might like to do away with zoning altogether ("...a strict return to [only limiting property rights via zoning] would be a first step..."). Is this interpretation correct?

the nice thing about a weblog is there is no finality - so here's more:

A disadvantage of idealogueism:
You vote for an idealogue, you may find that democracy (as in decisions made by the people) is not high on his priorities, so if the easiest way he sees to get what he wants involves subterfuge and sleight of hand, well, that's what you'll get. See Financial Times on the purpose of the tax cuts, Joshua Marshall on the purpose of the war in Iraq...

The disadvantage of libertarianism:
The public interest suffers. Think billboards; am told big fight over them back in the 1930s(?) when they started popping up along freeways, to prevent roads from becoming horizon-to-horizon advertising. [Great (as in appalling) Ayn Rand quote to go here later if I find it]. What would driving be like now if the libertarians had won?

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