Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Mob versus Ashby

In its seemingly endless quest to bring more government control over our lives, on Wednesday the Chronicle chimed in on the city's approval of the latest plans for the Ashby High Rise. In a ploy typical of statists, they cloud the issue with an absurd claim:
The Ashby Street high-rise has become the latest test case in a town without
zoning pitting the rights of single-family homeowners and their civic groups
against condominium developers.

The paper fails to tell us what "rights" are in conflict, though the editorial does state that the high rise is "an out-of-scale project that will significantly impact the residential neighborhoods around it." We can only conclude that, since the homeowners in the surrounding neighborhoods don't like the project, their "rights" are somehow being violated.

This equates rights with desires, and destroys the entire concept of rights. The frustration of the homeowners desires, we are to believe, is a violation of their rights.

In truth, a right is a sanction to freedom of action in a social setting. A right places boundaries on the actions of others--they may not use force to interfere with your actions, just as you may not use force to interfere with their actions. Rights apply only to individuals, and they apply to all individual equally.

Absent a proper definition of rights, the political process is thrown open to pressure groups, each competing to influence the decisions of politicians and bureaucrats. Not surprisingly, the Chronicle does not question this:
For a while it seemed a potent alliance of civic groups representing affluent
and influential residents of Southhampton and other tony Rice University area
neighborhoods might be able to thwart the planned construction of the
residential tower and associated commercial complex. Indeed, if this powerful
interest group could not effectively combat what it perceived as inappropriate
redevelopment on the border of its neighborhoods, what chance would poorer and
less politically connected residents in other parts of the city have?

In other words, if the rich and powerful could not throw their weight around, what hope is there for the "common man"? If those with political influence aren't able to use government coercion, then who can? The Chronicle provides the answer--"financial, real estate and developer interests". In other words, a group with even more political clout. Having tossed individual rights under the bus, the paper can only whine about which group is more effective in influencing politicians.

Despite the Chronicle's claims, there is no conflict between the rights of the developers and the rights of the homeowners. Each has a moral right to use his property as he chooses, so long as he does not use force against others. But the Chronicle and the homeowners do not like the choices being made by the developers. They cannot tolerate the idea that someone might make a decision that they dislike. And they are more than willing to use the power of government to impose their views on others. Like school-yard bullies, they believe that might makes right.

The size of the gang does not determine the propriety of its actions. Civil society is not a contest to see who can amass the largest arsenal of political capital and influence.

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