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    America Alone {Post 3}

    March 8, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It
    by Mark Steyn

    I was going to write a separate post on city zoning ordinances, since I recently read almost our entire city code and was struck by the peculiar presuppositions involved in zoning laws, but then I realized that all of this really fits quite neatly with Mark Steyn’s discussion on the legally required {in some states; in other states the government merely harasses raw dairymen} pasteurization of dairy products, so I’m going to give it a go at talking about these separate issues as part of one Big Issue.

    I remember hearing adults complain about zoning laws as I was growing up. I knew there was some sort of negativity surrounding them. What I didn’t realize was how ironic it is that the purported “land of the free” would allow such nonsense.

    You see, I thought that zoning laws were probably quite reasonable in the underlying philosophy. I assumed that even though I can buy a property and have it be my real property, privately held, that if said property is in a neighborhood where all the houses are close together, it might be necessary, or at least sensible, to have a few limitations on the “freedom” to use my property as I please. What I mean is, maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to build a skyscraper on my residential property. Maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to run a feed lot on my residential property.

    Do you see what I mean?

    I always thought that zoning laws assumed that I had absolute freedom over my property, but then put a few boundaries on said freedom because I’m living in close quarters and need to extend courtesy to those around me.

    Oh, no. That is not it at all.

    Zoning laws, I recently learned, are built on an entirely different set of assumptions, and Assumption Number One is that my “private property” is not mine with which to dispose of as I choose.

    Are you familiar with the concept of “permitted uses?” According to the code of my own city, a use is:

    the purpose for which land or a building is arranged, designed or intended, or for which either land or a building is or may be occupied or maintained.

    A permitted use, therefore, is:

    a use listed as such and allowed by right which only requires compliance with the zoning ordinance.

    If you pull back all the legalese, the idea behind zoning laws is that the owner of the property is allowed to do nothing with his property outside of what his city government has determined is a “permitted use.”

    In other words, I had it entirely backward in my mind. While I thought that I was allowed to do anything other than a handful of forbidden uses which were forbidden only for the sake of courtesy toward my neighbors, it is actually that everything is forbidden except a short list of “uses” decided upon by a bunch of folks who do not know me nor do they know my neighbors.

    In 1995, Gary M. Pecquet wrote an article for The Freeman entitled Private Property and Government Under the Constitution. He wrote:

    The economic concept of private property refers to the rights owners have to the exclusive use and disposal of a physical object. Property is not a table, a chair, or an acre of land. It is the bundle of rights which the owner is entitled to employ those objects. The alternative {collectivist} view is that private property consists merely of a legal deed to an object with the use and disposal of the object subject to the whims and mercies of the state. Under this latter view, the state retains ownership and may at any time regulate or even repossess the property it temporarily cedes to individuals.

    The Founding Fathers upheld the economic view of property. They believed that private property ownership, as defined under common law, pre-existed government. The state and federal governments were the mere contractual agents of the people, not sovereign lords over them. {emphasis mine}

    Folks, if you have zoning laws regulating your property, you likely have a fairly sovereign lord reigning over you. This is why the position of those running for local government on the idea of zoning laws is so important.

    Collectivism begins at home.

    Zoning laws, because of the philosophy which underlies them, are an affront to free men everywhere.

    There are other ways in which America is run by “sovereign lords,” dictating how people should be living their lives. Steyn touches on one near the end of his book:

    The softening and feminization of the Western world isn’t merely a matter of gun confiscation…[snip] I yield to no one in my contempt for the French, but that said, cheese-wise I feel they have the edge…[C]heese is not the battleground on which to demonstrate the superiority of the American way. In America, unpasteurized un-aged raw cheese that would be standard in any Continental fromagerie is banned. Americans, so zealous in defense of their liberties when it comes to guns, are happy to roll over for the nanny state when it comes to the cheese board.

    Personally, I want it all: assault weapons and Camembert, guns and butter and all the other dairy products that U.S. big-government federal regulation has destroyed the taste of. The French may be surrender monkeys on the battlefield, but they don’t throw their hands up and flee in terror just because the Brie’s a bit ripe. It’s the Americans who are the cheese-surrendering eating-monkeys, who insist that the only way to deal with this sliver of Roquefort is to set up a rigorous ongoing Hans Blix-type inspections regime. France, for all its faults, has genuinely federalized food: a distinctive cheese every twenty miles down the road. In America, meanwhile, the food nannies are lobbying to pass something called the National Uniformity for Food Act…

    …[T]ake almost any area of American life: what’s the more common approach nowadays? The excessive government regulation exemplified by American cheese or the spirit of self-reliance embodied in the Second Amendment? On a whole raft of issues from health care to education the United States is trending in an alarmingly fromage-like direction…Americans should understand that the softening of a state happens incrementally. You can reach the same point as the Europeans by routes other than gun confiscation.

    Do you see? We cling to our guns, but we give up our cheese? Raw dairymen the country over are treated like criminals.

    And so are private citizens who wish to build a patio on their own property their own way without asking their government officials for permission.

    Patio? Yes, we tried to avoid permitting, but found there was no way around it, so we had the honor of dishing out extra money to the city for their kindness in assuring us that the competent folks we know personally are, in fact, competent.

    Zoning laws. Food laws. They really go together. For instance, if I grow an orange in my backyard, and you want to buy it from me, and I want to sell it to you, well, did you know that none of that matters because the government at almost every single level–city on up to federal–has an opinion about whether or not you can buy that orange from me?

    Do you want to know how we ended up with politicians running this country who have no concept of the citizenry as a bunch of grown ups who are perfectly capable of running their own lives?

    It starts at home.

    Who we vote for on the local level matters. Zoning laws preceded the nanny state, and are actually emblematic of it.

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Rahime March 9, 2010 at 5:59 am

    You see, I thought that zoning laws were probably quite reasonable in the underlying philosophy…

    You are an idealist. 😉

    You’re right, these are all parts of one Big Issue…I, for one, want my guns, my milk and cheese, and control over my private property.

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