green union terrace chair wrote:Before zoning laws, you could build anything anywhere. Say somebody bought a few houses next to mine in the city, knocked them down and opened up a pig farm. I would be impacted by noise, smell and probably detrimental health issues. The city's sewers would probably not be able to handle all the waste. Maybe our groundwater would be contaminated. That's why we have zoning laws against raising livestock within the city limits.
Same goes for building a factory in a residential area. Or a number of other examples. Neighboring properties impact each other and your property rights cannot be upheld at the cost of mine.
All of the issues you've defined are a result of improper or incomplete designation of property rights. I understand the motivations for zoning laws, but I think that the same results with fewer negative externalities (in the long run) could be achieved by treating more things as protected by property rights.
For instance, consider the objection that a city sewer could not handle the waste effluent of a pig farm. This is a valid point. But isn't this problem based on the implicit obligation of the city to provide sewer services? In a scenario of hard property rights, the pig farmer would be either denied access to the sewer system or held liable when his property (pig shit) caused damage to the private property of the sewer operator.
And don't single me out for talking about theoretical situations here - do you think it is realistic that an pig farm of significant scale (enough to threaten the sewer system) is likely to pop up within city limits? Or is this just a theoretical exercise to prove a point?
Finally, while you are praising zoning laws for preventing absurd cases like urban pig farms or neighborhood oil refineries, don't forget about the low-level everyday harm that they do in more mundane cases. For instance, the supply and affordability of housing
. Or the single-use land development patterns that have created asphalt wastelands like West Towne Mall, meanwhile in my suburban neighborhood there is nowhere in walking distance to buy milk or beer. Granted, these problems might be addressed by revising zoning laws instead of repealing them entirely, but the direction of change needs to move toward freedom of choice, not more control for bureaucrats.