A Ku Indeed!

Libertarianism and Building Your House

Posted in Politics by Chris on September 13, 2007

We’ve been talking in Values Analysis about Hobbes and the conception of the social contract. I mentioned some connections here between it and libertarianism (in general: the rules of the society should not extend beyond restricting actions that would allow people to direct harm one another). As a result of this, many libertarians tend to be obviously anti-“big government”. The bigger it is, they think, the more it is likely extending its power beyond that which the social contract was set up to accomplish (maximize individuals rational self interest while preventing direct harm).

Beyond this, libertarians tend to think that big-government is also incredibly messy and inefficient. Over at Professor Bainbridge he talks a bit about this, telling a story about trying to build an edition on his house in Los Angeles, and why the experience contributes to his affinity for libertarianism (of the small “l” variety, anyway — the small “l”s think the Libertarian party is ineffective and so share its beliefs but don’t join it, whereas the big “L” ones are members of the party).

He and I don’t often see eye to eye on many things, and whatever you may think about libertarianism or the role of government, this is a funny story. It’s right out of a 19th century Russian novel. If you’ve ever read one, you know what I’m talking about.

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2 Responses

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  1. Adam said, on September 13, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    That is a funny story and the worst of governmental bureaucracy, but I imagine that he might regret doing away with too many of those laws if the stories you’re telling about China are true. Bainbridge might have some second thoughts when one of his neighbors’ more ill-conceived additions sank into the sandy soil or invited their realtives to install a little shack for Cousin Eddie four feet from the property line. Voluntary agreements might go some of the way towards solving the problem, but I imagine after a while people would clamor for zoning laws to protect their property.

    So why is it that the last nominal communist country, China, has no real restrictions on the little things but the U.S., champion of free markets, has zoning laws that make your eyes bleed? I guess affluence has to keep up appearances.

  2. Chris said, on September 13, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    I wish I had a photo of what having no zoning laws in China (or at least in some of the cities I saw) produces. I thought I had taken a picture of two from a height, but I’m not sure where I put it.

    Some of what I saw was just enough to blow the mind. I’m pretty sure Bainbridge doesn’t want a nuclear power plant at one end of his road and a hog farm on the other end.


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