Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Property standards another control

Property standards another control

(My Clovis News Journal column for August 1, 2014.)

One topic being raised in almost all the communities in this area is that of keeping your property to particular standards which other people prefer, under threat of government action.

Maybe it concerns weeds, "junk", prairie dogs, or "public property" you have been assigned responsibility for. People are being told they need to make their property pleasing to others "voluntarily", or it will be forced on them by "law".

The big problem, besides the atrocity of wielding "laws" to violate property rights, is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I have to admit- I don't care for lawns. Never have. Sure, they have their place, and I wouldn't forbid anyone from maintaining one, but I think they are ugly and plain. Around these parts, they are also terribly wasteful and precarious.

If I had my choice I would cultivate a native area around my house, which around here would mean wild grasses, yucca, prickly pear, mesquite, and other interesting, useful (and edible) plants the uninformed might call "weeds". Yes, I know some of those may not be exactly native, but they are historical, and adapted to survive the local conditions without wasting water to keep them clinging to life.

I would also welcome prairie dogs, jackrabbits, cottontails, and whatever else chose to live there. Except mosquitoes.

If I had this yard, and I lived in town, I would be willing to put up a privacy fence to protect my neighbors' delicate sensibilities from having to gaze upon what I consider the most beautiful yard possible for this area.

In this way I also wouldn't have to look at the neighbors' lawns.

On the other hand, I hate junk and litter. Yet, I know what I see as "junk", others might see as treasures, or useful materials for projects. Their stuff is beautiful in their eyes, and it's none of my business. I would never dream of using the blunt instrument of government to force them to make their property look the way I would prefer it to look. My business ends at my property lines.

I can't relate to the withered souls who somehow believe controlling other people's property is their right. It's a sickness in desperate need of a cure.

Once you enshrine the belief that the majority can enforce "community standards" against how others must maintain their property, you give others permission to do the same to you in the future, when the community changes and the standards have become something you dislike.

You are selling your future liberty for immediate gratification, using whatever justification you can invent. It will come back to bite you.



  1. C.S. Lewis comes to mind (a lot these days):
    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

  2. Your larger point is correct. If it doesn't effect others, it's not their business. There is the question about what if a neighbor's actions put your own land or dwelling space in danger? For example, if he or she doesn't clear out highly flamable underbrush or if the neighbor keeps animals which could attack your crops or home? There might even be a case of what if he or she imports wood from an area which has termites? The threat might not be immediate, but it could easily happen when you're not looking.

    1. That's not the place for "law", since there are so many possible scenarios, but between you and your neighbor. (It also exposes the flaw in allowing government to pretend to be the final arbiter in all things.)

      If flammable underbrush is around his house, mine is still not in danger if I cleaned it all off of my property. If things are that much a tinderbox, I probably need to take other actions to protect my house anyway, regardless of what my neighbor does.

      If the neighbor's animals are eating my crops, then he is damaging my property. If he gets animals which I fear might damage my crops, I could express my concerns and tell him I will defend my crops from any threats.

      Imported termites might be a danger, but it's still your responsibility to shield your house from termites. They may not have really come from your neighbors imported wood- maybe they came from that new shrub you planted.

      If you want to justify violating your neighbors' property rights, you'll always be able to find some "what if" scenario to justify it. In other words you are violating his property now, on the assumption he will violate yours later.