Political society

The open society and its enemies

I am currently reading an excellent book on zoning written by Mr. Nolan Gray called Arbitrary lines: how zoning broke the American city and how to fix it. It may seem like a bland topic, but it’s a surprisingly easy and enjoyable read.

Most Americans have never thought much about residential zoning and have no idea what it is. Gray busts many myths about zoning. For example, zoning rules were not established to prevent polluting factories from setting up near residential neighborhoods – there were already public nuisance rules against this sort of thing before the first zoning laws in 1916. On the contrary, zoning rules aim to make cities less dense. than they would be in a free market, and imposing strict economic segregation – essentially keeping the poor as far away as possible. Studies suggest that zoning regulations dramatically reduce US GDP by sharply raising housing prices in our most productive areas, making the country significantly poorer than it would be with a free housing market.

So where do libertarians stand on this important issue? Here is Reason Reviewdiscussing a proposal by Leo Pustilnikov to build 2,300 housing units on the site of a former power plant in Redondo Beach, California:

“Leo is a pure speculator and it’s laughable that he buys property and tries to impose his will on this community,” Nehrenheim says.

A registered libertarian, Nehrenheim has now won elections twice on a platform to stop overdevelopment and prevent the “santa monica-ization” of the city.

It proved to be a popular post in Redondo Beach among an eclectic mix of supporters. His 2021 re-election campaign received donations from the local Sierra Club and the enthusiastic endorsement of the Libertarian Party Mises Caucus.

The Mises Caucus and the Sierra Club? It’s not quite “Baptists and Smugglers”, more like the South and West Coast Baptists.

It seems to be part of a larger movement within the Caucus Mises:

Along with Rothbard, one of the biggest influences on prominent members of the Mises Caucus is political theorist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who disagreed with the pro-immigration views of Ludwig von Mises. He wrote that politicians have a perverse incentive to let in “parasites, bums and unproductive criminals” and that “the power to admit or exclude should be taken out of the hands of the central government and reallocated to the states, provinces, cities, towns, villages, residential areas, and finally to private owners and their voluntary associations. Hoppe defends “the Swiss model, where local assemblies, not the central government, determine who can and who cannot become Swiss citizens”. Hoppe has also suggested that “democrats and communists” should be “physically separated and expelled” from a libertarian society.

In fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native Americans.

Progressives often have more inclusive rhetoric than the far right, but in practice their communities are among the worst offenders. Gray suggests that the most extreme examples of government-enforced economic segregation (which leads to de facto racial segregation) occur in the progressive areas of the Northeastern United States and California.

PS. This photo shows the location of the energy complex in Redondo Beach where the proposed residential development would occur. In the past, this proposal would almost certainly have been rejected. Today, it at least has a fighting chance, due to recent deregulation making it a bit easier to build multi-family buildings in California.