Those in favor of zoning present numerous arguments for their position. Land use restrictions are necessary they say, to protect neighborhoods, improve our quality of life, create stability in land use, etc. Regardless of the arguments used, zoning advocates seek to impose certain standards upon the entire community.
Zoning advocates attempt to justify their coercive plans by arguing that the “public good” requires such measures. What this means is that the welfare of the group is more important than the welfare of any individual. In other words, the individual must sacrifice for the good of the “public”.
The “public” however, is nothing more than a group of individuals. Consequently, when someone demands that the individual sacrifice for some “public good”, he really means that some individuals must sacrifice for the benefit of other individuals.
Many bromides are used to support this belief. Each must do his "fair share" for the "common good". Those who refuse are regarded as "selfish", "rugged individualists", etc. and may be forced to sacrifice their values. This is the true meaning of “public good”—some individuals may force others to sacrifice their values.
This is not mere hyperbole. An individual who refuses to obey the dictates of zoning officials is subject to fines and/ or imprisonment. He becomes a criminal whose money or freedom will be forcibly removed. Ostensibly his crime is a violation of the zoning code; in truth, his crime is to refuse to voluntarily sacrifice his values.
The cult of sacrifice is not content with self-immolation. They believe that they have a right to impose their views and the accompanying sacrifice on others. This speaks volumes about their self-image, as well as their view of other individuals.
The cult of sacrifice believes that you should live your life for the benefit of others—your neighbors, your community, your city, your ethnic group, etc. They believe that self-sacrifice is moral and noble. They are wrong—it is neither. They believe that they are justified to impose sacrifice upon others. They are wrong—it is noting more than thuggery.
Every individual has a moral right to pursue his own values without intervention from others, so long as he respects their mutual right to do so. Individuals are not sacrificial animals whose lives can be disposed of by others, no matter their number, their cause, or their intentions. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, every individual has “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.
Every individual has a moral right to use his property in the pursuit of his values, his happiness, and his life. And your neighbor has the same right.
© J. Brian Phillips 2008