Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Fool and His Rights are Soon Parted

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle addressed the Texas Open Beaches Act (TOBA) which may be used to seize the property of land owners along the coast. (See my previous posts Texas Open Beaches Act, Part 2 and The Pen is Mightier than the Storm Surge for more details.) Reader comments to the article were overwhelming in favor of TOBA and expressed little sympathy for the property owners. A few excerpts:
Without the Texas Open Beaches Act, there would be virtually no access to beaches on Galveston's West End or other Texas barrier islands. It infuriates me that people who build on the beach believe they OWN the beach, and nobody else gets to use it.

It most likely also infuriates this person that someone OWNS a BMW or a home in River Oaks. How dare someone think that others can't use their automobile or their home. How dare someone work to achieve anything in life and then think that he has exclusive rights to it. It was precisely this prima donna attitude towards achievement and property rights that has created all of America's "ills"-- such as economic prosperity and individual freedom.
You have to draw a line somewheres. Vegetation line seems to be right.

The property line seems like a good place to me. That is much more objective and not subject to the whim of bureaucrats in Austin or the vagarities of nature. But we wouldn't want objectivity to enter into the discussion, because that would interfere with the desires of these beach lovers.
As it is, Texas does little enough to protect the right of the people of Texas to access to Gulf beaches. As has been said, anyone who builds close to the vegetation line knows what the risks are. It is much harder to be sorry for them than for all the people who took out loans they could not afford. The rights of the people of Texas are far greater than protecting a few from the consequences of their foolish choices.

I have posted before that statist policies that violate property rights are founded on the premise that the individual must sacrifice to the group. The above is more evidence of this. More interesting to me is the perverse attitude expressed. The writer feels sorry for people who were irresponsible and took out loans that they could not afford, but feels no sympathy for those whose property was destroyed by a storm. Further, the "people of Texas" is really nothing more than the individuals who live in the state. If the rights of individuals-- all individuals-- can be violated, then who is going to benefit?
The Open Beaches Act was originally drafted by wise men with foresight when old man Schlumberger built a home right on the beach in Galveston (if memory serves me right) impeding beach traffic and access. It was unconstitutional that beach access is ever denied to anyone.

I've read the Constitution lots of times and I can't find a clause that says anything about beach access. Perhaps it was in the 11th Amendment proposed after the ratification of the Constitution: "Congress shall make no laws restricting the free access to beaches, sun tans, and to the internet." I could see why that Amendment was not ratified, as undoubtedly the Founders were confused as to the meaning of "internet". But perhaps more importantly, they were principled defenders of property rights.

I must admit that I was a little surprised at the animosity and absolute lack of sympathy for the property owners. I am uncertain if that attitude is caused by ignorance of property rights or envy, but I suspect is a combination.

TOBA is what keeps Texas beaches from becoming like Cape Cod. We've got the Bush's, lord knows we don't need Kennedy's as well!

I agree that Texas doesn't need the Kennedy's, but I seriously doubt that the comment was aimed at their socialistic policies. It was aimed at the wealthy, and the Bush's and Kennedy's just happened to be easy names to attach.

The reader comments, almost without exception, missed the entire point. They opposed using tax dollars to rebuild the destroyed homes. I am opposed to that as well. The comments repeatedly stated that the property owners were fools and got what they deserved. In other words, since it is foolish to build on the beach, the state has a right to seize the property.

Building on the beach may be foolish-- I don't think it is, but that isn't the issue. The issue is the propriety of the State seizing property simply because the vegetation line moved. The issue is property rights.

Foolishness is not illegal, nor should it be. If it were, most people would be deemed criminals at some point in their lives. I think it is foolish to drive without a seat belt, drink to excess, or embrace socialistic ideas. But I would not begin to think to deprive someone of the right to make decisions for himself. I would not begin to think to force my values upon another person. I don't want it done to me.

Further, there is no right to beach access. A right pertains to action. It is a sanction to act without interference from others, so long as you respect their mutual right. To claim that one has a right to beach access is to demand that others provide that access, and if force is required so be it. To demand a "right" that is exercised at the point of a gun is worse than a contradiction-- it is a complete inversion of rights.

Those who would so willingly (and gleefully) sacrifice the rights of others seldom seem to realize that they are endorsing their own enslavement. If they do not defend individual rights (including property rights) as a matter of principle, they have no valid argument when someone else demands a violation of their rights. And this is precisely what modern politics has become.

It takes little more than a cursory examination of virtually any political issue to see that one group is demanding that the rights of others be violated. At the same time, others are seeking to violate the first group's rights. The political process is little more than a battle to violate the rights of others, all in the name of some alleged public good. In the end, nobody's rights are secure. In the end, a fool and his rights are soon parted.

No comments: