Monday, September 22, 2008

Texas Open Beaches Act, Part 2

Sunday's Chronicle addresses the Texas Open Beaches Act and its possible application to areas devastated by Hurricane Ike. The debate has already begun as to what will and will not be allowed, though it may be a year before a final decision is made.

In the Chronicle article, Jim Blackburn, an environmental attorney and coastal expert based in Houston is quoted:

"We have to protect people from themselves and certainly from developers."

According to Mr. Blackburn, development should be restricted or prohibited because people might make bad decisions. The same could be said about consuming alcohol, eating red meat, driving, using the Internet, or come to think of it, any human activity. If protecting people from themselves is justification for prohibiting them from building on their property, then there is no limit as to which activities could be regulated.

Freedom means the right to act without coercion, so long as you respect the mutual rights of others. Freedom means the right to make bad, or even stupid, decisions.

Some argue that such restrictions are justified because these bad decisions impact others. But this is also true of virtually every decision we make. Again, those who posit such an argument are endorsing unrestricted government regulation of individual activities.

Jerry Patterson, the state's land commissioner
said his intent is not to trample on property rights, but to confront what he considers a crucial problem. In addition to the eroding shoreline, he is concerned that the high cost of rebuilding highways and pipelines and restoring beaches on barrier lands will become a perpetual burden on state taxpayers.

This entire issue would go away if the government got out of the infrastructure business. Simply privatize the land and the entire issue goes away. Those who own the land should pay for the infrastructure needed to support those areas.

This is the type of problem that arises when government acts beyond its legitimate functions. Each illegitimate action creates unforeseen problems, which lead to the need for further interventions.

The real issue is not whether anyone should build in areas impacted by hurricanes. The issue is the legitimate function of government. Government's proper function is the protection of individual rights, including property rights.

A right is a sanction to act without restriction. A right sanctions you to act according to your judgment, so long as you respect the mutual rights of others to act according to their judgment. You cannot force others to act in accordance with your judgment, just as they cannot force you to act in accordance with theirs. Government's sole function is the protection of this right.

When government moves beyond this function, it invariably imposes the judgments of some upon others. Such actions require some individuals to act contrary to their judgment, or as Mr. Blackburn puts it, "to protect people from themselves". Not only is this arrogant, it is immoral.

Mr. Blackburn, and others who support the Texas Open Beaches Act may not like the decisions many people make. He has every right to disagree, but he has no right to impose his views on others. That is the meaning of freedom.


Daniel said...

There was a radio interview this morning with a man who seemed to be an expert on the Texas Open Beaches Act. The interviewer asked the man if some of the affected homeowners might truck in sand to put the beach back where it was before the storm. The man's reply was something like, "they might try, but we know the folly of competing with nature." It is amazing to me that his statement could go unchallenged in a state whose folk hero was Pecos Bill, a man whose dominance over nature was so complete that he rode a tornado.

This website has a quick bio of Pecos Bill:

Ad Hoc Committee for Property Rights said...


Great point. All they had to do was look around them to see how well man has conquered nature. The seawall (which greatly reduced the devastation),the automobile, computers,abundant food, and on and on-- there are countless examples of man "competing" with nature and winning.

A Girl From Texas said...

2 points:

1) Until such time that the government is not expected to provide support such as, postal, streets, fire, police, FEMA, Red Cross, etc. then I would agree that the government should not be involved in this. But they do provide these things and they do have a say. We know that there is the possibility that should this area be rebuilt that it could very well be destroyed by another storm. When that storm will strike is anyone's guess.

2) I am a realtor and I can tell you that a lot of developers are creatures for the now. Meaning, they build, they sell, they move on. Some hold onto their properties and continue to lease them out. Residential developers have a tendency to move on. I think, to assume a private developer is going to move into the area, develop a strong enduring project, and stick around to maintain it is naive. We have a lot of crap right now being built in Houston and the 10 yr warranty mandated by the state is a joke.

Redevelopment of the area must include an investment in the private sector and the government sector. No one is going to develop their property and then turn around and say to the government, "don't provide us with fire service, police, mail, FEMA, etc." They are going to want the government services they are entitled to. So, in this case, as it stands, I am of the opinion that the Government has the right to decide if they want to play.

Ad Hoc Committee for Property Rights said...

Your argument amounts to: since the government is currently violating the rights of citizens, it is justified to enact further violations. This is akin to saying that if a burglar can rob a store and not get caught, he is justified to rob more stores. One wrong does not justify further wrongs.

A Girl From Texas said...

But the theif who robs the store contributes nothing to the ongoing concern of the store. The city is very much interested in the development of it's tax base.

Are the people who want to develop the property in question willing to waive their entitlement to government services such as, but not limited to, the postal service, EMT, road service, FEMA, fire service, etc?

If not, then why should government have to agree to allow the private sector to develop the properties not only at their own risk but at the government's financial risk as well?

Are you then proposing that in the stroke of a pen that the government do two things: 1) allow the owners to keep their properties and do what they wish with them and then 2) cease and desist from all entitlements the government has no business providing?

If that is indeed what you propose, then you need to address all sides and not just one. You must also in these arguments state that A) the people of Galveston should be able to keep their properties and B) The City needs to stop providing entitled services to the properties in question and C) stop taxing the property.

Address all angles, not just one. Because right now, it sounds like you want your cake and eat it, too.

Ad Hoc Committee for Property Rights said...

You are dropping context. It is impossible to address every angle in a single post. I addressed one specific issue. My goal was not to re-write Atlas Shrugged.

To be clear, I am opposed to the government initiating force, in any form, in regard to any issue. I have stated that many times in this blog. I do not think it necessary to state it in every post.

A Girl From Texas said...

So then is your argument this:

Allow the people to keep their property, use it as the choose and receive entitlements including , fire service, road repair,and the coast guard if they don't evacuate during a storm?


Allow the people to keep their property and do what they want but NOT tax them and provide them with entitlements.

I'm 100% for the second argument but I don't support the first. If the property owners expect their entitlements then they cannot force the city to let them develop on a property that can place people (like the police, coast guard, fire dept.) in danger during a stormand/or cost tax payers money to re-establish support only to watch it get washed away again.

Ad Hoc Committee for Property Rights said...

I have thought that I've made my position clear. I support property rights without exception. This means no taxes, and no tax supported projects in any form.

This means that individuals may use their property as they choose. They may not initiate force upon others to achieve their values, and others may not initiate force upon them.

A Girl From Texas said...

Unfortunately in order for them to use their property as they wish, the City of Galveston has to share some of the risk.

I don't think it's an easy decision for any government official to make. They have a responsibility to their employees and to their taxpayers.