Thursday, June 4, 2009

Texas Beaches and Property Rights, Part 3

Those who defend the Texas Open Beaches Act (TOBA) offer several arguments to justify controlling or seizing private property. I have addressed the most common in the previous two days. The last argument I will address is nothing more than blatant paternalism.

When beachfront property owners questioned the justice of TOBA in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the author of TOBA--A.R. "Babe" Schwartz--told the Dallas Morning News:
We're talking about damn fools that have built houses on the edge of the sea for as long as man could remember and against every advice anyone has given.

Jim Blackburn, an environmental attorney and coastal expert based in Houston, echoed this sentiment:

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

Both "Babe" and Blackburn believe that individuals should be prohibited from acting on their own judgment. Neither likes the decisions that others make, and they believe that they are justified to use force to prevent individuals from acting on those decisions.

If one accepts this premise, then every human activity is subject to government regulation and control. For example, sex can lead to unwanted pregnancies, which is certainly not good for those involved. Would "Babe" and Blackburn suggest that the government regulate sex to protect individuals from themselves?

The fact is, each individual has a moral right to act according to his own judgment, so long as he respects the mutual rights of others. He cannot compel others to act contrary to their judgment, just as they cannot compel him to act contrary to his.

But nannies like "Babe" and Blackburn do not like this. They provide any number of arguments to justify their position--such as public spending on infrastructure. But underlying their arguments is one motivation--power. They seek the power to control the lives of other individuals. They do not believe that individuals have a right to their own lives, liberty, property, or pursuit of happiness.

Morally, "Babe" and Blackburn believe that individuals should place the "public good" before their own interests and desires. More fundamentally, they believe that individuals should acquiesce to the judgment of others. They believe that the individual must be subservient to the group--both physically and intellectually. They believe that those who do not do so "voluntarily" may properly be forced to do so.

This November Texans will have an opportunity to reject these ideas when they vote to make TOBA a part of the state Constitution. Texans will have an opportunity to reject the idea that their lives belong to the state. It will be a small step, but it will be an important step.

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