Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I Don’t Like It

Many zoning advocates are confusing their dislike of a property’s use with an infringement of their rights. They believe that their dislike is sufficient justification to restrict the use of that property. They confuse their alleged psychological harm with an actual physical harm, and in response seek to use the power of government to exact real harm on others.

Consider the Ashby High Rise for example. Home owners in the area don’t like the proposed project. Despite the other arguments they have presented, this is the essence of their position. They have claimed that the high rise will ruin their “quality of life” and that it is “out of character with the neighborhood”.

But they fail to tell us what standard of “quality” and “character” they are using. They assert these claims as if their standards are known and accepted by all Houstonians. The fact that the high rise—or the use of any other parcel of land—is controversial demonstrates the fallacy of this position. Their standards are not universally accepted.

This does not diminish their ire. Acting like little children, they stomp their feet all the way to City Hall, demanding that Councilmembers do something. And City Hall has been all too happy to accommodate this noisy gang.

Freedom means the right to pursue our values without intervention from others. It also means that we must respect the mutual rights of others to do likewise. Sometimes we will do things that others don’t like, and sometimes they will do things that we don’t like. But in neither case is it morally justifiable to use force to stop actions simply because we don’t like them.

If this were a morally legitimate standard, virtually every Houstonian could make a claim against every other Houstonian. There would literally be no end to the demands made upon government to stop actions that someone finds offensive.

An individual’s rights can only be violated through the initiation of force. Those who seek to use government coercion because they don’t like something are no different from those who use private force to seize something that they do like. Both are thugs. And when a bunch of like-minded people act together, they become a gang. Frankly, I don’t like that.

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