Monday, October 17, 2005


Initiative, that is...

Measure 37, Oregon's latest attempt to deal with the just compensation issue over land use and regulations was struck down Friday by the Circuit Court for Oregon in Marion County. OrbusMax carries the ongoing story, and the ruling:

Over at NW Republican, this is just a land grab...

Dang those greedy people who stand in the way of paving paradise... There are profits to be made out there! Trees to fell! Houses to be built! Freeways! WalMarts!

Seriously, this is a good example of how not to write an initiative. M-37 was struck down on five separate grounds.

Watching from the middle of the road, the larger issue presented is proof that "fair" is where you go to look at roosters and bunnies. There is no fairness in land use. "Land use" is by it's nature an issue where some people's rights, percieved or codified, are suborned to the larger interest. Land is a finite good, a zero-sum situation. Everyone can't be a winner.

Owner "A" bought his land years ago, hoping to subdivide someday and retire on the proceeds. Owner "B" bought the ajacent property because he didn't want a subdivision for a neighbor. Owner "C" of the next parcel wanted a tree farm. Now she's sick, and the only out is clearcutting.

If "A" subdivides, "B's" quality of life is ruined. If "A" doesn't, he's stuck with ??? And if "C" clearcuts, the area will be degraded for ten years.

And what about the people who would have been delighted to live in that subdivision?

Make your own story. It's real, somewhere. One man's dream destroying another's.

Man is mortal and rights belong to men. Land is forever. Land rights are therefore transitory. It is unrealistic to "freeze" land rights at an arbitray point in time because such rights then vanish with the generations. Yet it is equally unrealistic to expect the State to either forego regulations, and the protections they afford, or pay each landowner from the State's coffers for every lost profit or diminished value.

Every lost dream...

Still, Americans want the laws of their land to be fair. So people sign onto ideas like M-37, hoping against all experience, that this is at last the way out.

Oh well. Issues like this used to be settled with Winchesters, so I suppose this is progress.

Actually, it comes down to a simple principle: Either the Individual owns property, or the State does. If the Individual owns property, then they are due compensation, when their use of that property is impacted by state action. If the State owns the property, then we are all just tenants, and no better than Serfs, at the mercy of Bureaucrats and Special Interests.
Property ownership is one of the basic foundations of our economic system, and a good part of the reason for its success.
Thank you, aurelius, for your participation in my page.

If only it were that simple. If only "property" really started and stopped at the property line.

Here is the reality. Example:

Odds are if you own property, your ownership stops at the dirt. You probably don't "own" water, you probably don't "own" minerals. If this was oil country, odds are one of your neighbors would own the drilling rights, and you would be tresspassing if you drilled.

The list goes on. Covenants, ancillary rights, taxing districts. Do you "own" your land? Yes and no. As I noted above, we no longer usually settle property disputes with winchesters, although it happens. The reason winchesters are less common as tools of dispute is because government has interceeded, arrogating some of those "rights" in order to facilitate the greater good. So it isn't strictly true that "Property ownership is one of the basic foundations of our economic system, and a good part of the reason for its success." Ownership is part of it, but the legal system that makes ownership "real" is at least as significant. Legally enforced compromises, curbs on use, preserve every stakeholder's value.

And as a person who has been chased off his own development in progress by armed neighbors, I can appreciate the compromises.

So what it really comes down to is density and affluence. More people means more varied uses, and more opportunity for dispute. Bigger, more affluent communities make a bigger "footprint" on their surrounds. At some point, the individual, willing or no, has to give.
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