Thursday, May 13, 2010

Property Rights and Flooding, Part 4

Anyone who has lived in Houston for long knows that flooding can be a problem. Heavy rains can quickly fill bayous, causing them to spill into neighborhoods and flood homes. The principle of “first come, first served” provides with guidelines for protecting property rights in regard to new development, but what of existing development. How do we address flooding in existing neighborhoods while also respecting property rights?

We must begin by recognizing the sanctity of property rights--property rights may not be violated no matter the number of alleged beneficiaries. The "common good" does not supersede the good of any individual. Never. This includes recognizing and respecting the property rights of taxpayers.

Second, we must recognize that individuals who own or purchase homes in an area prone to flooding must take responsibility for their decisions. Their misfortune does not justify robbing taxpayers to pay for repairs to their home, subsidize their insurance, or take measures to reduce flooding. The responsibility lies with the home owners, not the taxpayers of the city or county.

Third, we must get the government out of the flood control business. Government's proper purpose is the protection of our rights, not protection from floods. Floods do not violate our rights; government taking our money does.

Fourth, the idea that bayous and streams are "public property" should be rejected. These waterways should be privatized, either through auction or by other means.

If individuals want flood control, they should be willing to pay for it. As we can easily observe in countless examples, individuals voluntarily pay for security services, arbitration, education, and a multitude of other other services provided by government for "free". If they regard flood control as a value, they will pay for it as well.

Some may want me to provide specific, concrete details as to how this might work. As I have said previously, I would not attempt to speculate how free men might solve a particular problem. Motivated by the desire for profit, free men find innovative solutions that would never occur to me. This is true in every field, from agriculture to medicine, from transportation to computers, from energy to education. And it will be true in flood control as well.

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