Zoning is Theft

Posted to Mises.org 03/21/2006

Zoning is theft, pure and simple. In his fantastic introduction to the Austrian School, Economics for Real People, Gene Callahan correctly identifies eminent domain as a form of property theft, especially noting the use of government condemnation in order to secure rightfully owned property for commercial development.

It is easy to see government as the crowbar that influence-seekers use to jimmy locks and force private property owners from their land. Here we have the clear picture of Ma and Pa Kettle and clan fighting the law and “progress” armed only with shotguns, corn squeezing, chewing tobacco and shear grit. The flip side to eminent domain, zoning, is not so easily seen. But as Bastiat revealed, the unseen is as important as the seen.

Zoning is typically defined along the lines of a government-regulated system of land-usage imposed in order to ensure orderly development. Zoning is usually a component of the larger conceptual ideal called regional planning. Of course, planned development is really the name of the road toward planned chaos.

Zoning uses all the standard interventionist lines of thought, most notably the concepts of externalities and utility. Those who advocate zoning really believe that acting man does not have the ability to create communities that are functional and prosperous. Without plans and maps drafted and drawn by the local elected elite, developers with knowledge and foresight, and a whole lot of money to gain or lose, would purposively layout communities that are sterile and functionless. Only the marginal vote-getters — those elected — and their appointed allies are omniscient enough to peer into the crystal ball and define the perfect setting for future life and leisure. The rest of us can only marvel at their visions.

Just as the developer can use government to roll over the rights of property owners, property owners — community members — can use government to roll over the rights of developers and fellow property owners.

In Ohio, townships create zoning maps and comprehensive plans that overlay development regulations on top of current properties. Prior to the establishment of zoning regulations, a farmer could simply sell his land to the highest bidder. No one had a voice in the proposed use of the exchanged land. The sale to a new property owner incorporated full development rights, including continued farming, residential and commercial development, or parceling off pieces for home sites. Land was a commodity similar to the crops grown on it. Just as no one had a right to control the final use of the corn and soybeans reaped from the soil, no one had the right to control the next use of the land. Property rights were secure.

Zoning changed everything. The future use of existing farmland will, with the stroke of a pen, be limited in some manner by zoning regulations. The regulations could restrict future land usage to its current use — farming in this instance — or it could restrict land usage to some other form of activity.

The free market has a tool that allows a property owner to align the future use of his property with his vision, the restrictive covenant. A property owner could, for example, create a legacy by selling his land contingent on the development carrying his family name. Should the property owner be too restrictive, the value of his property will fall. He will be exchanging a psychic good, a family legacy, for cash.

Zoning is another matter altogether. Zoning restricts current landowners based on the local power brokers. In the zoning process, someone gets hurt. Had the farmers of a township wanted to keep the area as farmland, they could have signed restrictive covenants guaranteeing crops instead of homes. Property rights, and the laws that purport to protect those rights, allow individuals to act in their own best interest. Zoning, collective decision-making, use the coercive power of government to restrict usage based on the whims of those in power.

The farmer who owns this land now has his potential property rights bounded within a specific range; future use is restricted to residential developments that have no more than one house per acre. The farmer may vote, and may have voted for some of those elected, but he never agreed to the change in proposed land usage. He was robbed, and there is no means for him to restore his rights and land value; they are gone with the stroke of a pen.

I know some of those in the Chicago School will claim that the farmer implicitly agreed to the loss of land-usage rights by being born in the United States, or of naturalized American parents, or by becoming a citizen through oath. By owning property in the United States, the farmer granted majority ownership in his property to those elected and appointed, the omniscient and omnipotent. This is no way to build and run a system of secure property rights, and no way to create a free market. Rothbard is correct when he constructs his political economy on secure rights to property; anything less is the beginning of the Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

Now we have a developer who is trying to satisfy the urgent wants of consumers, his development could include new homes, new stores, new factories, etc. The developer is a keen entrepreneur who sees a chance to turn a profit by creating a development that will be desired, and therefore profitable to him. The developer settles on a residential development and approaches the farmer from above offering to purchase his land, contingent on final zoning approval of course.

You see, the developer has been here before. He knows the ways of the local officials who approve and disapprove zoning changes on whim and fancy — or even the smallest of political pressure. The developer is not going to consummate the deal with the farmer until he knows that his proposed development is a go.

The farmer, old and worn-out, wants to retire and enjoy, along with his wife, his remaining years in leisure and comfort. This is certainly a reasonable request from someone who has worked the dirt in snow, rain, and blistering heat for decades. Who could reasonably question his desire? Commissioners and board members; those omniscient by vote and omnipotent by law.

Remember that the land was designated to be developed at only one home per acre, but the developer does not think he can make a go of it at that yield. Given the market in the area, there is no way for him to turn a profit due to the myriad of other regulatory hoops he will have to jump through in order to get approval for his development. A host of green-eyed bureaucrats see the proposed development as a tax revenue generator. The developer will have to build off-site roads and sewer improvements, donate a park or school site, and give away money to all those governments with their hands out. In addition, regional officials will balk at the proposal since it does not agree with their vision of the future.

So the developer, a Don Quixote at heart, decides to take on the zoning commission by proposing a variance to the zoning code and comprehensive plan. Mr. Developer needs to build one and a half homes per acre, a change that will require months of hearings where he will be badgered and attacked from the zoning commission and community members alike. The commissioners will request petty changes to the development’s conceptual plan based on vague building standards that they most likely do not understand. Is stucco created from natural and man-made materials a natural or artificial exterior? Does 50 microns of aluminum create a better look than 49 microns? Should sidewalks be required? How high should the entrance sign stand? Is fire-red a natural color? Is a 30-foot setback sufficient for future property values? The answers depend on which commissioner has the mike at the time.

Residents with property adjoining the development will complain loudly of supposed lost property values, traffic, and crime. In addition, they will attack the developer as evil incarnate bent on destroying the community. But those same voices will lose the rhetoric as soon as the developer offers all adjacent homeowners landscaping allowances. A few thousand in new trees planted in their backyard is enough to forgive any supposed loss in value, additional traffic, and hypothetical break-in.

This land is your land: $28

So the developer now agrees to build roads, upgrade sewer lines, donate parks with equipment, set aside a school site, and improve residential landscape. What is gently termed exaction is really extortion by another name. After zoning comes township trustees meetings and the process begins all over again. More exactions and more regulations, but trustee approval can be had if the developer does the dollar-dance long enough. Had the developer simply slid a rumpled paper bag of twenty’s across the table, a law would have been broken. Instead, the process occurs in the sunshine for all to see, and all to agree that more should have been given — or taken.

All agreed, with the exception of the developer and the forgotten farmer. You see, lost in all this is the simple desire of a farmer and his wife to retire and enjoy life, and maybe leave a little for their grandchildren. Every hand looking for a piece of the development pie is not robbing the developer and redistributing supposed unearned profits; those hands are robbing the farmer and his wife of their property value.

The risk of not passing zoning, the exactions, and readily available alternatives for investment are all reductions to the value the farmer could have obtained for his land absent zoning. The loss of value is recognized at the time the developer makes an offer for the land; the theft, on the other hand, occurs in front of the community that the farm family lived in for generations. It shows what damage a little money and power can cause in a community. Zoning is indeed theft.

Reprinted with kind permission from original source.

Posted to Mises.org 03/21/2006

Nowadays, Health Insurance Isn’t Really Insurance

Posted to Mises.org 07/30/2015

Due to Obamacare, my health plan has become something other than insurance. It is now, for the most part, nothing other than a wealth transfer scheme to benefit the politically connected over others.

In order to identify the difference between health insurance and government-mandated health care coverage, we can look to Human Action, in which Ludwig von Mises splits probability into class probability and case probability:

Class probability means: We know or assume to know, with regard to the problem concerned, everything about the behavior of a whole class of events or phenomena; but about the actual singular events or phenomena we know nothing but that they are elements of this class.

Case probability means: We know, with regard to a particular event, some of the factors which determine its outcome; but there are other determining factors about which we know nothing.

David Howden explains that events such as football matches and wars are events that fall under case probability. But those events do not lend themselves to insurance.

Indeed, Mises claims that only risk associated with class probability can be remediated by insurance. This is true because the number of payoffs is relatively predictable within a class, allowing premiums to be set that benefit both the insurer and the insured.

This is the way in which life insurance works, for example, as Howden explains:

Life insurance works because insurance companies can play the averages. Some people who own a life insurance policy will die before the insurance company earns enough money on the premiums to pay the death benefit. In this case the company loses money. It offsets these losses with the gains it makes on those who die long past the point where they have broken even on the premiums they have paid relative to the death benefit they will receive.

Discrimination in the life insurance market is not only a fact of life; it is fair. Every policy holder pays according to his odds of death. People are free to undertake risky activities, but they must pay the price. People who choose to live less risky lives — that is to say, avoiding those activities that increase one’s probability of death such as skydiving or smoking — lose out on the enjoyment these activities may provide, but they gain by paying less for life insurance.

Broken arms and certain diseases would also fall under class probability, and would also lend themselves toward being profitably insured in a functioning market.

But, due to changes resulting from Obamacare (as well as decades of government meddling), distortions in the market have thrown the health insurance market out of whack, and my health plan, and the plans of many others, now have high deductibles for “class probability” events such as broken arms, while providing “free” access to goodies that are only unpredictable in so far as I may or may not choose to use them, such as a “free” annual physical, birth control, and more.

As Mises knew, “insurance” that covers an event such as a voluntary checkup, bears little resemblance to what we would consider to be insurance in the proper sense. Nevertheless, the freebies (i.e., “insured” events) are numerous, not because insurance companies can calculate a way to profitably insure them, but because they are mandated, thanks to interest groups with access to legislators.

The Politics Behind Mandates

Nevertheless, because the distributed costs are minimal and unseen, while the benefits are concentrated and substantial, little opposition arises from voters to fight such transfers of wealth.

As an example, I pay an extra, say, $1 in monthly premiums so that someone else can reap $50 in benefits per month. Stack up those $1 premium increases among all payers and we begin talking real money. However, I have neither the time nor energy to oppose each $1 increase.

This process becomes obvious when, because of my high deductible, the infrequent and unpredictable accident that falls under class probability — my son breaks an arm — costs me thousands out of pocket, without any monetary benefit from my plan, while others celebrate access to goodies they should be purchasing on their own as uninsurable events.

It is as if, because of government interventions, my car insurance pays for upgrades to Sirius Satellite Radio (which I do not have), but, because of high deductibles, only pays a few thousand dollars should I have an accident that totals my car.

Insurance does still exist with regard to life, home, and auto. But it does not exist with regard to health in our present regulated economy. Health plans are wealth transfers that bestow known and predicable benefits on the few while leaving all at risk of the vagaries of life. So, let’s not claim that our system of government-regulated health care system is insurance.

Reprinted with kind permission from original source.

Posted to Mises.org 07/30/2015

Sorry we missed you flyers

Join Franklin County Libertarians canvasing for Ballot Access petition in neighborhoods around Columbus, Worthington, Gahanna and other communities!

Here are the “Sorry we missed you” flyers, front and back.

Franklin County – sorry_we missed_you

Franklin County – sorry_we_missed_you2

Warren County – warren-sorry_we_missed_you-front

Warren County – warren-sorry_we_missed_you-back

Want a flyer for your county? Leave a comment, and we’ll get that made!

How Many Signatures to Get on the Ballot?

If you want to run for US Congress in Ohio District 15, how many validated signatures do you need to collect?

Any Ohioan that wants to run for political office must circulate petitions in their communities to collect signatures from valid registered Ohio voters.
Whether running for Governor, US Congress or local dog catcher, the petitions are a legally binding assertion that those voters agree that the candidate must be allowed on the ballot.

Major Party Candidate
50
Minor Party Candidate
25
Independent Candidate
1% of 336,807 = 3368 [1]

While voters signing a petition face no consequence for filling one out wrong, or not signing their name exactly the same as their voter card, candidates for office are regularly threatened with jail time and excessive fines for what amount to minor clerical errors and voter confusion about using cursive or printing their names.
Validating 50 or 25 voters is of no burden. Validating
several thousand voter signatures is significant burden.
This has left many law abiding and civic minded Ohioans cautious and discouraged from participating in the much needed political discourse that keeps this great state alive at its heart.

Get involved, sign the ballot access petition, donate, run for office, attend meetings, show up and make it happen.



Required*
Name: *
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How Much for Just the Election?

After 4 years of changing the rules, ignoring the Ohio Constitution, dragging their feet, spending an estimated $575,000 on lawyers and legal shenanigans, the Ohio Republican Party has succeeded in thwarting choice at the ballot and discouraging competition.
Ohio voters deserve better than political dynasties and empty promises.
Get the Libertarian Party back on the ballot!
Sign the Minor Party Petition Today!

Why Johnny Can’t Debate.

In 2014 the Republican controlled Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 193 (amending ORC 3501.38). This bill was designed and timed to prevent the Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) from appearing on the ballot in 2014. At the same time, the Ohio Republican Party (GOP) spent an estimated $575,000 to represent a “guileless dupe” in challenging the candidate petitions for the Libertarian Governor Candidate. With both avenues for ballot access denied the Libertarian Party of Ohio moved forward with placing our candidate for United States President on the 2016 ballot. Even after achieving better than the required 3% of the general vote the Secretary of State denied LPO Minor Party Status on the grounds that the POTUS candidate did not appear on the ballot as a Libertarian. Taking the matter to the Ohio Supreme Court the LPO was denied justice again, with the dissenting justice, William O’Neill observing that the ruling was “circular reasoning.”
The Libertarian Party of Ohio must now collect 50,000 validated signatures from registered Ohio voters to qualify for Minor Party status and place our candidates on the ballot.

Get involved, sign the ballot access petition, donate, run for office, attend meetings, show up and make it happen. 


Required*
Name: *
Phone:
Email: * Providing a phone number allows us to contact you quicker.
I would like to : * Volunteer for Ballot Access Petitions Circulation
Recruit Volunteers
Run for Office
Get Experience Helping On Campaigns


Johnny Miller answers the Candidate Forum Questions.

Planned Questions for Candidates – Johnny Miller

Ohio Congressional District 15 Candidates Forum this Sunday, March 18th, from 2pm to 4pm.

  1. What do you think can be done realistically to address the epidemic of gun violence in America?
    1. In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides. Maybe we should focus on mental health a little more
    2. Ostracize media outlets for unscrupulously using bad poll results as accurate depictions of public opinions to push a political agenda
    3. Murder is horrible plain and simple. Let’s stop romanticizing it and start looking at how to actually make people safer instead of just focusing on gun control
  2. What do you think would be the optimal healthcare system for the country?
    1. Free Market
  3. Over 3 million women marched on January 2018 for various reasons. What do you think are the top 3 issues concerning women’s rights? What do you plan to accomplish to address these issues?
    1. The feminist movement as it is today is a blight on women’s rights in America
      1. Education should be a priority here instead of governmental interference
    2. The mental health issues go widely untalked about despite women taking more than twice as many suicide attempts as men with a much lower success rate
      1. Education reform
    3. The concept that wearing a costume shaped like female genitalia is somehow empowering
      1. Let us educate our children to be functioning members of society instead of crying foul every time our feeling get hurt by something someone said
  4. According to some sources, parts of District 15 are being devastated by the opioid addiction epidemic. Do you believe that drugs, particularly opioids, are a problem in the district? If so, should it be addressed at the federal level? If not, what is your perspective?
    1. I don’t believe drugs to be the root of the problem
    2. I do believe that the lack of a regulated drug supply to be A problem but still not THE problem
    3. The descheduling of cannabis at the federal level is the first step in combating the opioid crisis
  5. If your party is in the minority, what can you do to be an effective member of Congress? What issues do you think are available for cooperation between Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, and Green Party representatives?
    1. Present legislation designed to make life better instead of trying to push a political agenda
  6. Do you believe that humans are causing climate change? If so, how would you balance the increasingly imminent concerns of climate change against the energy needs of the economy? What would you be able to accomplish that would move the country toward that policy?
    1. Are we causing it? No…but I would like to get politics out of the scientific community and let them do their thing and find out if we are influencing it
    2. The bias in this question is noteworthy
  7. With competition from natural gas, solar and other forms of energy, the Coal industry is on the decline.  As a significant employer in southern Ohio, including some counties in this District, what is your strategy for addressing the coal industry and employment?  Do you support the expanded subsidies for the coal industry?
    1. I do not support subsidies to push political agendas nor do I support intervention from the government to manipulate the market
  8. Healthcare facilities and providers are difficult to maintain in rural areas. Does the government have a role in shoring up rural healthcare and, if so, what would you advocate?
    1. No, I do not believe the government has a significant place in our healthcare
    2. Yes, I do believe that many if not all of our healthcare woes can be attributed to failed government intervention
  9. What are your three biggest priorities and what tangible ways will this impact the district?
    1. Deschedule cannabis
      1. This would let us create a legitimate business out of an already booming industry
    2. Abolish the IRS
      1. Eliminating the income tax would allow local money to stay local instead of the federal government siphoning money out of small, local, separated economies
    3. Bring the troops home
      1. We are a proud district and bring our troops home would be a great benefit to the morale of the people within the district
  10. What specific methods will you commit to for acquiring input from your constituents? Describe specifically how you will obtain input and provide information on an ongoing basis as well as how you will do so for major legislation that is before the Congress.
    1. Beings that this is the tech age I will have a much more connected approach and while the specifics are not set in stone I will do MUCH more than our current representative
  11. How big of a problem do you think the deficit, and the debt that is growing out of it is? What, if anything, should we do to bring this under control and how would you accomplish that?
    1. The deficit is a huge problem and the $21T in debt will be my generation’s problem…we are spending away our children’s futures for our political fortune and fame
    2. We need to cut spending by more than just a couple percent…
  12. Do you believe we need to strength the Social Security program?  If so, how would you do so? If not, what is the alternative for elderly and disabled Americans?
    1. Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme and needs to be abolished in a manner as to not jeopardize the lives of our elderly and disabled
  13. If your party is the majority in the House, what will your priorities be for legislative action?
    1. Corruption and transparency, ending the ongoing wars, auditing the governmental agencies, enforcing constitutional limitations, etc
  14. The great recession has not ended for the rural areas of our district.  Is it appropriate that Congress help the rural economy recover?  If so, what goals would you have for that effort? If not, what other things would you do as a representative to help these areas?
    1. I would support efforts by local organizations to improve the area…I do not believe federal intervention is necessary or beneficial
  15. What is your position on the minimum wage (and upon what is it based)?
    1. End it…allow people to decide for themselves how much they want to pay employees
  16. What, if anything, do you think that Congress can do about gerrymandering across the country? Would ending partisan gerrymandering help voters? Help other political parties than Democrats and Republicans?
    1. The gerrymandering is a more relevant issue in election manipulation than the incessant Russian probe…but because the DNC is equally at fault, the amount of media coverage it gets is limited to independent outlets or in reports not usually viewed by normal voters
    2. Most voters have no idea what gerrymandering even means
  17. What, if anything, do you like about the new income tax law that was passed at the end of last year? What, if anything, would you change and how would you accomplish that?
    1. I like that it reduced taxes a bit
    2. I would’ve reduced taxes further and along with that defunded many aspects of the federal government
  18. Do you believe that there is a problem with voter fraud in the US? In Ohio? If so, what steps should be implemented to address it? If not, what of the current anti-voter fraud actions do you believe are the most damaging to access to voting?
    1. I have a skeleton plan for implementing a comprehensive voting procedure reform that I will release at a later time
    2. Yes I do believe there is voter fraud and vote manipulation
  19. How will you balance priorities of the different demographics of the rural, suburban, and urban areas in the district? What ties them together and what is unique for specific areas?
    1. We are all Americans, most of us want to have a successful life and are constantly bombarded with legal red tape and the fear of fines
  20. What is your opinion of farm subsidies in their current form? If you think that changes should be made, how would you accomplish them?
    1. I do not support subsidies
  21. What do you think is the best approach to dealing with marijuana in the United States? What would you be able to accomplish that would move the country toward that policy?
    1. I think the most reasonable answer to this is to deschedule it and allow the states and individuals to exercise their 10th amendment rights

Johnny Miller will attend Ohio Congressional District 15 Candidates Forum this Sunday, March 18th

UPDATE: Libertarian candidate Johnny Miller will be attending the Ohio Congressional District 15 Candidates Forum this Sunday, March 18th, from 2pm to 4pm.
Mr Miller will making a short speech and then be available at an event provided table to listen to your concerns and discuss our opportunities in moving Ohio toward liberty.
The organizers of the forum are still declining to allow Mr Miller to participate in the moderated forum. We are disappointed with this and continue to press for inclusion.
Please join us at the event and show Ohio we stand together for a brighter tomorrow.
https://www.facebook.com/events/452759418471622/

LP Updates!

By way of Michelle MacCutcheon,

During the past month:

– we got our first Libertarian statewide officeholder, who is now running for U.S. Senate

– the New Mexico Libertarian Party was recognized as an official major party

– an ex-Democratic state legislator joined the party to run as a Libertarian for Secretary of State

– the Nevada party is on the cusp of achieving official status by exceeding 1% of all registered voters

– our Libertarian state legislators in New Hampshire introduced a bipartisan marijuana legalization bill, and other bills relating to ballot access

– our Libertarian state senator in Nebraska got her occupational licensing bill through committee with the enthusiastic support of both the ACLU & the state’s biggest conservative think tank

– Libertarians in Oxnard, California successfully gathered enough signatures to recall the mayor and three city council members

– the Libertarian mayor of Calimesa, CA attracted national press attention for the massive savings, and butting heads with the unions, over his fire department reforms

– the Ohio Libertarian Party passed over 81,000 signatures on its party petition, working toward the ~55,000 valid signatures needed, and according to Richard Winger, the most gathered by any third-party in any state since 2008. ( currently at 48K+)

Good job, guys.

– Michelle MacCutcheon

Two epiphanies that can change the world!

An epiphany is “an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking.” Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Bruce Jaynes shared with me two epiphanies that could radically change our understanding of politics.

The first came from talking with a friend who is a Republican elected official. The friend was saying that he ran against a Libertarian who just “stole” votes from him. Bruce corrected him, saying that Libertarians don’t steal votes, they just earn them. On reflection, his friend agreed that he was right, but that Republicans train their candidates and officials to believe that.

The second came from Bruce learning from a psychologist that Americans are politically dysfunctional. In our natural desire to avoid pain, we have allowed ourselves to be conditioned in two dysfunctional beliefs. Changing those beliefs is painful for us. They are: “American government can never change” and “All politicians are corrupt once elected.”

We Libertarians cannot get our message across until we make others aware that all three beliefs are false. Here is the truth:

  • Libertarians cannot steal votes. The only way to steal a vote is through some highly sophisticated election fraud – and the systems in place make that almost impossible. Libertarians earn votes with strong candidates and sound beliefs.
  • Governments at all levels can and do change when enough people believe that change is needed. In the last fifty years, we have ensured that people of both sexes, and all races and sexual orientations, can enjoy basic civil and voting rights; increased transparency in government through information access (“sunshine”) laws; taken the first steps to end the drug wars; and ensured districts are equal in size for legislative and congressional offices. Change is hard, but it is not impossible. We ended one war (Vietnam) and greatly cut back the scope of two others (Afghanistan and Iraq) through protests and political action.
  • Too many politicians do look after their own interests once elected, but not all. Some refund all or part of their salaries to government – others work tirelessly for the people at a time in life when they could enrich themselves far more in the private sector. Some even make good on promises to serve only one term in office.

Political change sounds like a lot of work. And it is. But we can make that work easier once we show people how their preconceived notions are untrue, and how our ideas will lead to better lives for all of us.

 

  • Harold Thomas