Individual Liberties

Building Codes and Zoning Laws Strike Again: “Battle for the California Desert”

I’ve spilled a lot of digital ink over the years writing about national politics and sea changes in public policy. If it wasn’t for some great professors, I probably would’ve never taken an interest in urban development policy — at least not until I acquired some property of my own and attempted to do something with it (I’m not a homeowner).

I argued at The Dangerous Servant earlier this year that


This is a game of concentrated benefits with diffused costs, and it takes the form — in this case — of zoning laws, but it also includes building codes.

City planners use zoning laws to create geospatial distinctions in an urban jurisdiction by restricting the ways in which property owners can use their land or buildings. When regulations help crowd economic activity out of a residential area, home prices rise artificially because the zone becomes less noisy, less polluted, and less congested. As a result, existing homeowners wind up paying a higher amount of property taxes each year the zoning rules are in effect. Any new developments designed to attract new residents to a jurisdiction also take on a disproportionate share of property taxes.

BREAKING: 11th Circuit Rules against Individual Mandate in Obamacare

It’s a great day for liberty — the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta has ruled against the government in Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

WASHINGTON - An appeals court ruled on Friday that President Barack Obama’s healthcare law requiring Americans to buy healthcare insurance or face a penalty was unconstitutional, a blow to the White House.

The Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, found that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to buy coverage, but also ruled that the rest of the wide-ranging law could remain in effect.

The legality of the so-called individual mandate, a cornerstone of the healthcare law, is widely expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Obama administration has defended the provision as constitutional.

There are a couple of things of important note packed into this ruling:

Law vs. Justice: Mother charged for jaywalking after child killed

Every day, there’s another lesson in why the government must be limited, restrained, put on a leash and forced to go on a massive diet. But some times, those lessons are more twisted and sick than others. Radley Balko fills us in:

On April 10, 2010, Raquel Nelson lost her 4-year-old son. Nelson was crossing a busy Marietta, Georgia, street with her son and his two siblings when they were struck by a hit-and-run driver. Police were able to track down the driver, Jerry Guy, who later admitted he had been drinking and had taken painkillers the night of the accident. He was also mostly blind in one eye. Guy had already been convicted of two prior hit-and-runs. He pleaded guilty, served six months of his five-year sentence, and was released last October.

If it ended there, this story would merely be tragic. But it gets worse. Last week Nelson herself was convicted on three charges related to her son’s death: reckless conduct, improperly crossing a roadway and second-degree homicide by vehicle. Each is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in prison. Nelson could spend up to six times as many months in jail as the man who struck her son and then fled the scene. Nelson’s crime: jaywalking.

That’s right, folks: a poor woman just lost her son, and now she’s going to jail because they weren’t in the crosswalk when they were hit. Three years in jail, to be exact. This brings up an important point: the distinction between law vs. justice.

Chris Christie, NOOOOO!

Fudgeknuckles. You can never be happy with politicians as a libertarian—just when they look like they’re on the path to true limited government, free markets, and individual liberty, they come out with something stupid like this:

“I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman,” Christie said. “I wouldn’t sign a bill like the one that was in New York.”

That sound you are hearing is my head slamming into my desk at Warp Six.

I admit, I was becoming a fan of Chris Christie. The way he was socking it to the parasitical public unions in New Jersey was inspiring. Sure, he was not perfect—he probably could have cut back more in some areas—but considering political inertia, he was doing a tremendous job.

Naturally, while I’m feeling really great about this guy, he throws a social conservative curveball just to keep me a grumbling libertarian.

The article does state that he will push for civil unions in New Jersey, as if, “Well, he’s not so bad.” But it is, in fact, horrific: what Christie is saying is that he supports discrimination based on sexual orientation, a boundary that says “You are not like us, you cannot be like us, you cannot have the same rights and privileges as us.” That’s a very disturbing thought. What I don’t understand is how it meshes with the small government ethos of most conservatives. Let’s end regulation and meddling in the economy, let’s make government smaller, cheaper, and more efficient—but then try and wedge it into the bedroom?

It Depends on What the Meaning of ‘Is’ Is

Understanding the underlying meaning of a politician’s words is an art. It is a skill that must be cultivated, because all too often the words they speak are nothing more than deceptive marketing. You have the high-energy sales pitch…and thirty seconds of fine print read at high speed. Most of the time, the loud claims are completely negated by the fine print.

Nowhere is this deceptive nuance more prevalent than when politicians talk about money. To those of us in the real world, we go out and work hard to earn money to provide for the needs of ourselves and our families. We have gross earnings, and then we have “take-home pay”, which is the gross earnings minus the litany of state and federal taxes, insurance premiums, etc. If we take a pay cut, it means that our gross earnings are reduced from the previous level. This is how normal people speak.

The political world has its own Orwellian lexicon, where nothing means what it sounds like it means. Before we can even address the lexicon though, we have to address the larger underlying problem; namely, the philosophical differences between government and the average citizen. Since I believe the words of the Declaration and the Constitution, which says that I am a son of my Creator, endowed with unalienable rights, and that government derives its powers from the consent of the governed, I naturally believe that the fruits of my labor belong to me and me alone. As a citizen, I have agreed to take a portion of my earnings and contribute it to the funding of the cost of government, which is there, in theory, to protect my rights.

Liberty Locally: Playgrounds

I know what you’re thinking. You’re asking yourself why a liberty-themed site that hits on tough national issues like the 2nd Amendment, Eminent Domain, Civil Liberties, and the like now has a post talking about playgrounds. So let me explain:

This is my first (second) post on this illustrious forum. I created another site about a year and a half ago, where UL-writer Tom Knighton is my business partner. I also wrote “The Cult of Christianity”, which appeared here as a guest post this past Easter. My own philosophy for promoting Liberty is to work from the ground up building support locally and then spreading from there. Hence the reason I wanted to start off by exploring various ways to promote Liberty Locally and show people that we who value Liberty are not crazy anarchists who don’t want government to exist at all.

So let’s talk about playgrounds, shall we?

Nearly all of us played on various playgrounds as kids. Whether it be swinging, sliding, climbing monkey bars, or simply playing tag on an open field, play is an important part of childhood and one many of us look back on fondly.

The problem for local governments is that these days, playgrounds can be expensive. Depending on exactly what you want, they can easily cost upwards of $20K for a small one, and in the six figures for larger ones. Even for larger towns, this is a lot of money - and my town only has a population of around 3,000 people!

So how do we as a community promote small government while also providing ample play space for our community’s children?

One way is to get a single rich donor to donate the money to both buy the equipment and have it installed. No government expense at all, but sufficiently rich donors can be hard to come by in small towns like mine.

Remembering Kelo

On June 23, 2005, the United State Supreme Court dealt a fatal blow to private property rights with the decision issued in Kelo v. New London. chinaThis landmark ruling allows state and local governments to use the previously redefined meaning of “public use” from the Fifth Amendment (also known as the Takings Clause) to use eminent domain to essentially steal property from one private entity and transfer it to another.

In case you’re not familiar with Kelo, here is some background. The City of New London, Connecticut sought to redevelop the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in hopes of increasing the city’s tax base (“economic development”). Several property owners refused to sell to the city, including Susette Kelo, and condemnation proceedings were started by New London Development Corporation, a private body acting on behalf of the city. Ms. Kelo received her condemnation notice the day before Thanksgiving in 2000. The case worked its way through the courts and as we know, it was unsuccessful.

Freedom means freedom for things you don’t like

Freedom.  It’s the most precious thing a human being can have.  We all crave it.  Wars are fought to achieve it.  Oaths are sworn to defend it.  Songs and poems are made to describe it.  It is truly the most precious thing in this world.  It’s more precious than gold, oil, or anything else.

Why then is it so hard to protect?

Freedom, as a concept, is nearly universal.  Freedom, in practice, is quite a bit harder.  In practice, actual freedom means that we all do as we wish, bearing the full brunt of responsibilities of our actions.  Unfortunately, that’s to hard for some folks.

Far to many Americans say they want freedom, but have no problem asking the government to step in and regulate or eliminate practices that they find distasteful.  Laws forbidding homosexuality, drugs, alcohol, firearm ownership, and any number of other things have all falled into the cross hairs of someone who thought that another’s freedom needed to blocked.

So why is it that people who love freedom are so eager to take it away?

The answer lies in the people who seek to regulate others.  Rarely does a crusader seek to block a freedom they hold dear.  Racists never seek to block hate speech, gun buffs never seek out gun control regulations.  In the mind of those who want to take away these things, they will still be just as free with the new laws as they were without it.

The vast majority of Americans are blind to one inescapable fact: If you attack one freedom, you ultimately attack all freedoms.  Any abridgement of freedom, even the proverbial “you can’t yell fire in a movie theater” abridgement, will eventually be used to justify another attempt to take away your freedom.  The argument has always been “but we already do X”, as if that justifies the whole thing.  It’s a classic example of the camel’s nose soon leading to the whole camel being inside the tend.

On Drugs And Immigrants, We Either Believe In Freedom Or We Don’t

Those who affiliate themselves, either casually or intensely, with the right wing of the political spectrum need to seriously look themselves in the mirror as regards our policies toward our southern neighbors.

On immigration and the War on Drugs, nativism and paternalism seem to be the dominant fundamentalisms of those who most frequently espouse a fondness for freedom and liberty. On immigration especially, nativism goes directly against not only what America is, a nation of immigrants, but against the beacon of liberty that conservative icon Ronald Reagan characterized America as:

Robinson correctly observes that Reagan would have had nothing to do with the anger and inflamed rhetoric that so often marks the immigration debate today. “Ronald Reagan was no kind of nativist,” he concludes, noting that Reagan was always reaching out to voters beyond the traditional Republican base, including the fast-growing Hispanic population.

It’s worth remembering that Reagan signed the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which opened the door to citizenship for nearly 3 million people who had been living in the country illegally. Robinson is confident Reagan would have supported the kind of comprehensive immigration reform championed by President George W. Bush and approved by the Senate in 2006.

This will seem quite harsh, but I will say it frankly and succinctly: If you think that a child born in this country but the parents of illegal immigrants should be deported, you don’t believe in freedom. You believe in something else; something antithetical to the beautiful message which adorns the Statue of Liberty:

Reactionary Politics

A friend of mine, who is staff for a prominent modern West Coast Republican congressman, told me that on April 29, a plethora of voters called in opposition to the Puerto Rico Democracy Act. An ocean of misinformation had engulfed these voters and caused them to drown out their rationality.

When experiencing one of these angry (white) voters that day, the emotion and hate was on full display. Getting red in the face as he talked, one conservative screamed at me, “This is a push by the Democrats to make Puerto Rico a state so they can have a filibuster proof majority!”

When I told him that he apparently knew absolutely nothing about the bill, he replied, “I know that the Obama administration cares nothing about the American people or the American people.” When I pointed out that the current status of Puerto Rico, as little more than a territory that is not fully included in our country yet not a country of their own, is a relic of a colonial past, he said, “They need to learn english! If they don’t learn english, they’ll just be second class citizens.” I told him that he was obviously looking at things he didn’t comprehend with little more than his prior prejudices, to which he said, “It’s not prejudice! It’s principle.” I pointed out to him that he was confusing his prejudices with “principles.”

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