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Thread: Balancing planning with libertarian or semi-libertarian views

  1. #26
    I just hate to see people like ourselves (or anyone, actually) subscribe to a mob mentality - just because we work in a field that essentially involves government regulation, then we should automatically support any and all government regulation. No, it shouldn't be that way. We should still think crtitically about things. But this is what I see among some colleagues, peers, friends, etc.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    I just hate to see people like ourselves (or anyone, actually) subscribe to a mob mentality - just because we work in a field that essentially involves government regulation, then we should automatically support any and all government regulation. No, it shouldn't be that way. We should still think crtitically about things. But this is what I see among some colleagues, peers, friends, etc.
    I agree. The longer I work in this field, the more libertarian I feel about certain regulatory schemes.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  3. #28
    Cyburbian
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    The enforcement of regulations is another dynamic that I don't think gets discussed enough. People's perceptions aren't necessarily shaped by the regulation itself but how it is enforced. With lax enforcement people often feel (understandably) like they're being persecuted by the government since they're the only ones the hammer has fallen on. Then in conjunction with the media, this unsurprisingly can help fuel some anti-government sentiment.

    By contrast, places that are well known for strict regulations and enforcement, I don't feel too much sympathy for people who have run ins with them. It seems asinine to me for someone to move into a city such as Charleston, SC and then complain about the uber strict design standards. For many of these places, it should be obvious what you're getting into before you even move there.

  4. #29
    Cyburbian notabigcitygirl's avatar
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    Why I love planners

    I've been out of touch for a long time, and I don't have much to add. However, in reading this thread this evening, I realize how much I love planners, as well as how much I love being a planner. We all are just so rational.
    I'm not cute enough to have a tag line. :r:

  5. #30
    Quote Originally posted by notabigcitygirl View post
    I've been out of touch for a long time, and I don't have much to add. However, in reading this thread this evening, I realize how much I love planners, as well as how much I love being a planner. We all are just so rational.

    This has got to be sarcastic.

  6. #31
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    "Freedom-lovers"? Really? What I see when I look at your supposed "freedom lovers" are a bunch of greedy, selfish, reactionary bullies who want to impose their ideas on everybody else, at the point of a gun if necessary, in total disregard for the rules of representative government. They're pissed at "the government" because their ideas no longer hold credence with the majority of their fellow Americans. Since they can't win elections, they glorify violence as an alternative to elections.
    I have been lurking this forum for a while, but this post prompted me to sign up.

    Writing like yours cannot go without comment. You truly do not appreciate the scope and size of how wrong you are.

    That you would put something like freedom in scarequotes is contemptible. Not only this, you're strawmanning libertarians; not all libertarians are Paulites, or Randians, or hardline free-marketers. They exist in a variety of flavors and positions; someone like Gary Johnson is a more moderate variety of libertarian, and someone like Glenn Greenwald or Noam Chomsky are examples of left-libertarians. Greenwald's writeup for the Guardian about French's speech laws are an example of a libertarian position that clashes with progressive positions, even though he is labeled "progressive" by some circles. Many of the policies of those circles, by the way, use arbitrary goalposts and movement toward those posts as indicative of some sort of progress even though that may not be the case. Freedom is a comparably more objective definition: if you are not legally prohibited to do something, that is a legal freedom, and so on. It's certainly not something that mandates the use of scarequotes, and libertarians cannot be generalized in the way you've done it.

    You are right to say that the French have an opportunity to change their government. That is not, however, the point. Pointing to France's high tax rate is a useful exercise to show how this policy would affect the US markets, not to say that France is doing something wrong for their society.

    Effective tax rates are not some kind of talking point or political propaganda device. It is a standard metric in accounting. Here is a Stern NYU page on the calculation of effective tax rates.

    There are anti-smoking laws because it is a proven public health hazard that most people don't want around them or their families.
    This position is epistemically lacking because it fails to take into consideration degrees. To what extent is smoking a public health hazard? I'm sure you are jumping for the "quote" button right at this second, but it's a legitimate question you should reflect on somewhat. There is an enormous difference between regulation mandating that one must smoke outside, 10 feet from a building, and 50 feet from a building. A public space where 100 out of 1000 people smoke is probably going to be a health hazard. How does the health-hazardousness change if this is reduced to 1 out of 1000?

    If the answer to this is "even a small hazard is still a hazard," this neglects to take into consideration factors like enforcement and budgeting. There spectrum of hazards ranges from high-level to low-level. Predictably, the number of low-level risks vastly outnumbers the high-level risks. Hindsight bias makes low-level risks seem more obviously dangerous when they are in fact, not. Stopping or regulating every low-level risk is not only an issue of infrastructure -- the laws may create more problems than they cause, such as a ban on pornography making pornography more salacious and desirable.

    The purpose of mentioning smoking regulation is to make the point that there is a degree of difference between sensible smoking policy, which largely creates the desired effect, and totalitarian smoking policy which does not take into consideration the return on investment, so to speak.

    I don't have anything to say about your opinion on agricultural practices. I will add, however, that when discussing policies of animal cruelty, humans tend to favor cute animals over the non-cute and let emotions/subjectivity get in the way of establishing their claims as true.

    Regulation is the price that individuals have to pay to live in ordered societies, and the more crowded our country and planet become, the more regulation we will all face. That's reality, and some delusional wingnuts waving assault weapons aren't going to change that.
    This is a simplification. Regulation is a tool, not a necessary event, nor is there a cause --> effect relationship with regulation and order. To use an extreme example, drug cartels and mafias have a surprising amount of order despite operating completely outside regulation and the law in general. Regulation can even create disorder, if a particular policy is bad or ineffective.

    By the way, the purpose of gun ownership is not some revolution-against-the-government fantasy, but rather for self-defense and recreation, particular of one's home and property from burglars/intruders/whatever, such as in situations like this one or this one or this one.

    You are not entirely wrong about everything you say, but you are entirely wrong about everything you have said regarding libertarianism. There is not a one-true-libertarian ideology; it is possible for someone to be a moderate libertarian, and many are.

  7. #32
    Cyburbian
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    A key consideration highlighting the need for some type of regulatory planning is that space, given constant or at least constrained transport accessibility (in short, any scenario prior to the invention of instantaneous teleportation as a primary means of mobility), is always a depleting resource for any given time interval. It is renewable only by tearing town and replacing what is there with something else, which must, for obvious financial and political reasons, occur over rather extended periods of time. In other words, if you quickly fill up your available (and commutable) space with single family homes and strip malls - which, in many places and in the short term, are the most economically accessible forms, then, after a while, you won't be able to support more growth.

    Thus, as is the case for many other depleting resources, some type of rationing mechanism is necessary. The bid-rent curve is one such mechanism (cities are densest on the most valuable land - typically at a city's geographical center, and become less dense as one moves out to cheaper land form that center). Zoning and other land-use control systems can be aligned to exploit the curve. There may be other rationing requirements - infrastructure (one needs to reserve land for an airport), public realm (you need room for city hall or for parks), health and safety (separating heavy industry from residential), etc, that make the spatialization of the production of built form more efficient.

    This being said, I generally support the view that the free market is the best way to regulate the use of land, subject to some type of fair rationing mechanism and land-use control regime. It may be the only way to do so, over the long-term. Mechanisms that overly distort that free market (such as a massive public subsidization of road construction and of suburban mortgages by the central government) tend to produce inefficient land-use allocation patterns and thus inefficient distributions of built form, and thus should be avoided where possible.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Very well-put, AlfredM.

    That said, I must recognise that I am personally conflicted on the issue of historical preservation and libertarianism.

    Logically, one would have to be a veeeery 'moderate' libertarian to believe that a building's owner should not be able to tear it down or modify it radically; in fact you'd have to not be libertaran at all,,,

    That's a tough one for me, personally.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  9. #34
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    That said, I must recognise that I am personally conflicted on the issue of historical preservation and libertarianism.
    The sense that i've gotten is that the main purpose of historical preservation is to protect property owners from state demands by creating a paradox behind which the owners can hide from the need to radically demolish or change their property to meet urbanism-hostile code requirements. Places I see where historical properties have fared best and which are indeed liveliest and healthiest seem to result not from "historical preservation" but by the government of the area adopting a hands-off approach to the code. It's relatively uncommon for a property owner to want to demolish an existing structure in order to build a new one.

  10. #35
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JusticeZero View post
    The sense that i've gotten is that the main purpose of historical preservation is to protect property owners from state demands by creating a paradox behind which the owners can hide from the need to radically demolish or change their property to meet urbanism-hostile code requirements. .
    Interesting. The sense I have is that the main purpose of historical preservation is to protect buildings from being demolished. I'm not a hysterical preservationist either.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

  11. #36
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Interesting. The sense I have is that the main purpose of historical preservation is to protect buildings from being demolished. I'm not a hysterical preservationist either.
    I also agree with JZ's comment - a lot of today's codes (zoning, fire, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, the ADA, etc) are outright hostile to historic older buildings and many would otherwise be unusable - beyond economic repair - unless they received some sort of historic designation exemptions, without which the owners would likely demolish them in order for the properties to be usable. And in agreement with you, this indeed 'protects' historic buildings from being demolished.

    Mike

  12. #37
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    I also agree with JZ's comment - a lot of today's codes (zoning, fire, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, the ADA, etc) are outright hostile to historic older buildings and many would otherwise be unusable - beyond economic repair - unless they received some sort of historic designation exemptions, without which the owners would likely demolish them in order for the properties to be usable. And in agreement with you, this indeed 'protects' historic buildings from being demolished.

    Mike
    I live in an historic preservation district, but it really only governs aspects of the facade (windows, roofing material, siding, enclosing porches, etc.) and only things visible from the street. You can essentially do what you want (within reason) inside and off the back of the homes. Which is to say these alterations go through the regular permitting process and not the LUCC for a "certificate of appropriateness."

    Personally, as one who lives with his children in an old house, I would much rather my electrical and plumbing be up-to-code in lieu of some exemption that allowed me to have cloth covered wiring and lead pipes! As to these other issues, I am not aware of any ADA requirements that would force the owner of any home to change anything unless it was being altered to some kind of public-use facility. ADA standards govern the construction and alteration of places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities, not private homes. HVAC-wise, we still have an in-floor heater for half the house and a fireplace for the other half. The same as when it was originally built in 1907 (heater is newer, but still in the same place) Zoning for my property is the same as across the street where there is no historic overlay (same setback and height requirements, same R-1 status, etc.). Not sure what other issues you are talking about beyond the façade improvements.

    I don't find it onerous or infringing on my personal rights, though I recognize that my agreement to altered the facade within a specified range of options is about retaining the value of the other homes in the historic district and not just mine (and for that matter, all homes in the area). I guess that's "communalistic" or something, but I support it, personally. Not infringing on my personal rights should not be opposed to the power of collective impact.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  13. #38
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I was thinking more of commercial properties instead of residential.

    Mike

  14. #39
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    Common lament

    I think this is a common sentiment for planners. Planners are probably right down the middle in many respects - politically, economically, etc. But the leaders of planning are 1960's utopians that love, love, love government involvement in every aspect of life. Deep down, they believe that the perfect walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented city is just around the corner if only Fox News could be taken off the air. Everyone would move to a high-density city if they just knew the benefits. This suburban exodus of the last 100 years is just a fad soon to be reversed by co-ops with green roofs.
    You'll need to reconcile the APA mind control with common sense. It's a lot of lip service. Sooner or later the baby-boomer planners will die off.

  15. #40
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BurntPlanner View post
    I think this is a common sentiment for planners. Planners are probably right down the middle in many respects - politically, economically, etc. But the leaders of planning are 1960's utopians that love, love, love government involvement in every aspect of life. Deep down, they believe that the perfect walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented city is just around the corner if only Fox News could be taken off the air. Everyone would move to a high-density city if they just knew the benefits. This suburban exodus of the last 100 years is just a fad soon to be reversed by co-ops with green roofs.
    You'll need to reconcile the APA mind control with common sense. It's a lot of lip service. Sooner or later the baby-boomer planners will die off.
    Well said. The APA is really out of touch, I agree.

  16. #41
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    The libertarian political view is the one that I associate with the most. I am also a professional AICP planner that works as a private consultant and some of my client communities include working the local historic districts. I am also on my City's Historic Preservation Commission.

    I don't believe that libertarian is an absence of regulation, but a better balance of regulation, primarily at a local level but with regional cooperation and collaboration. The absence of regulation is chaos and excessive regulation is slavery. The balance between the two provides for location specific principles and regulations to protect the health, safety, and welfare of those who live, work, or own land in that particular location.

    I think that my local and metro leaders are in a better position to tell me what I can and can't do with my property than the State. The State is in a better position than the Federal, and the Federal is in a better position than the UN.

    With that all being said, I think that part of it is we are given a choice and that choice helps to create competition between places. However, when blanket regulations are applied, competition is eliminated and part of the drive to provide better opportunities and services goes with it. As an example, I live in a historic district because I choose to. I know that none of the homes around me are going to get redeveloped into high-rise condos. But if I did not agree with the regulations, I have the option to move to a place that has different regulations. Some people don't want that level of protection, some people do. It is all personal preference and giving people the opportunity to choose a range of options only enhances a community.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  17. #42
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I've always seen planning as providing a range of options. For those that want downtown, historic, suburb, or rural, we have a place in our community for that with rules that should be more specific to those environments. The hard part for me is getting people to accept a higher standard. As an example I'm watching the local city go through starting up property maintenance codes. You'd think they're putting you in jail, not asking you to mow your lawn - which is something most people already do anyway, they just don't want to be regulated into doing it. Then again they still want to complain about the one neighbor who doesn't do it. The libertarians in my community will say you can just move, but in some cases I think a regulation might just be the answer. Then again, people in my area are very anti regulation, even when it makes sense.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  18. #43
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I think governmental planning is pretty antithetical to even a moderate libertarian notion of an ideal society. Even a "semi- libertarian", however defined, probably cannot reconcile libertarian ideology with things like zoning controls and government planning initiatives which purport to establish "smart growth" and basically pick winners and losers in terms of who gets to develop their property for the highest value. I don't think we should underestimate how vital private property rights are to the libertarian notion of individual freedom.
    Last edited by hilldweller; 23 Sep 2013 at 10:12 AM.

  19. #44
    Cyburbian jwhitty's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller View post
    I think governmental planning is pretty antithetical to even a moderate libertarian notion of an ideal society. Even a "semi- libertarian", however defined, probably cannot reconcile libertarian ideology with things like zoning controls and government planning initiatives which purport to establish "smart growth" and basically pick winners and losers in terms of who gets to develop their property for the highest value. I don't think we should underestimate how vital private property rights are to the libertarian notion of individual freedom.
    A person cannot exist without infringing on their neighbor's or someone else's property rights. My mere existence changes my neighbors' property values, and when I traverse over any spatial plane I am changing the value of all areas affected by my presence, and those affected by those areas, and so on, and so on. Practiced libertarianism seems paradoxical to me.

  20. #45
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    I work in the West, a land with a reputation for independence and self-reliance. Granted much of this perception is faulty. Farmers and ranchers in the West receive subsidies and benefit from BLM and Forest Service grazing leases and government irrigation systems. Industries benefit from cheap power generated from government dam projects. Industries and residents benefit from federal and state highway systems. Etc.

    But there is an attitude that you leave me alone and I will leave you alone. Private property rights are very strong here, as strong, if not stronger than elsewhere in this country.

    While the libertarian philosophy sounds great in theory, it doesn't work so well in practice. While many will do the right thing and not let their impacts affect their neighbors, many will not. That is why we need government and planners. Someone has to make sure that people developing their land mitigate impacts, manage their weeds, properly install and maintain their septic systems, keep their stock out of the riparian areas, manage their stormwater onsite, not build in the floodway, etc.

    The longer I do my job the less likely I am to condition development with intrusive regulations and requirements. But at the same time, I feel it is my job and duty to make sure impacts are mitigated to be best of the ability of the government

    Where to draw the line is always tough. While Joe Sixpack may be a fine man, who loves his dog and will keep him from harrassing his neighbors and wildlife, I am going to recommend that the subdivision covenants notify Joe that everyone must keep their dog under control or inside a fence, in accordance with the county ordinance. Joe chose to build a house in an area where the deer and the antelope play. Joe may be an earnest libertarian, but his dog may be a barbarian.

    Joe may feel the guv'mint should stay out of his business, but the guv'mint wants to be sure that Joe's onsite wastewater treatment system is propertly installed and maintained so the neighbor downgradient keeps pumping clean water from his well.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

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  21. #46
    Cyburbian Doberman's avatar
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    I consider myself be libertarian on almost all social issues. However, when it come to my economic views I realize I am borderline command control/technocrat (probably a discussion for a separate thread). Many "hardcore" libertarians have extended beyond the national arena to local government issues like we are talking about now. For instance, The Von Mises Institute openly opposes all zoning. However, I feel that zoning done correctly preserves the environment in ensures we don't see something like low income people sandwiched in-between factories.

  22. #47
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    My personal philosophy is a sort of dichotomy, as I am a follower of Libertarian principals but also a firm believer in The Tragedy of the Commons (Hardin, Garret, 1968. Tragedy of the Commons, Science, New Series, Vol. 162, No. 3859, pp. 1243-1248). Being Libertarian or having Libertarian beliefs means that you need to understand the inherent flaws that make up the theoretical bases for Libertarianism. Libertarianism has a positive outlook on humanity, in that it is based on the premise that an individual will maximize the good of the community before that individual will maximize their own. Under this theoretical viewpoint, there is no need for regulation because you are already maximizing the good for the whole of the community. Unfortunately few if none at all take this approach in society (nor do businesses/corporations). That is why we need planning laws, because people will maximize for their own self-interest with little or no thought on the impacts to the community (the basic tenet of The Tragedy of the Commons).

    That said, with all laws, they should guide not bludgeon.

  23. #48
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Outside of preservation districts with rational standards, I could not work in a community where my job was to control the color of paint or to stop people from backing into a driveway. There better be real challenges for a planner.

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