Quick Roundup 129

Monday, December 18, 2006

United Nations Irredeemable

Elan Journo writes in the Hawaii Reporter:

That the UN benefits evil regimes is a necessary consequence of its avowed ideal of neutrality. The willful refusal to discriminate between good and evil, between freedom and slavery, can benefit only the vicious. It is only an evil regime that fears moral scrutiny, that needs to conceal its crimes, and that struggles for a veneer of moral legitimacy. The UN's policy of moral neutrality is precisely what evil desperately craves: a license to commit any depravity, and escape with a reputation for being decent.
Read the whole thing. (HT: The Charlotte Capitalist)

Even More Clarity on Pinochet and Capitalism Needed

With the recent death of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet have come the predictable attempts by the left to smear capitalism by noting that this right-wing dictator adopted a few free-market reforms during his rule. Unfortunately, conservatives have had mixed success in answering these trumped-up charges. Consider the following example, excerpted from The Weekly Standard:
[Pinochet's] embrace of economic reform seems unlikely to have sprung from a commitment to freedom, given the overarching contempt for liberty that characterized the rest of his government. Rather, in order to insulate himself from the consequences of his murderous seizure of power, Pinochet sought out political allies, and his free market reforms helped him to garner support domestically on the right, and also among members of the international community. One must be careful not to fall into Pinochet's trap--accepting his brutal seizure of power and tyrannical rule as a natural accompaniment of free market reforms. Propagandists on the left lost no time in seeking to discredit economic freedom by associating it with Pinochet. To this day, we hear from Moscow that it takes a Pinochet to implement economic reforms successfully; Vladimir Putin seems all too willing to have Pinochet's uniform taken in a few sizes so he can try it on. [bold added]
This starts out well enough -- quite well, in fact. But the moment John Londegren brings up Putin, it falls apart. Given Putin's recent jawboning of foreign petroleum companies and his abridgment of free trade in order to bully nearby countries, it is ludicrous to imply that Putin is attempting anything like free market reforms!

If we're going to be clear that free market reforms at the point of a gun are not capitalism, then we should at least be clear about what constitutes a "free market reform"!

Zoning in Future Houston Backwater?

Houston, the largest American city without zoning, has a small neighborhood that reportedly has zoning and may have just employed it to violate the property rights of a developer.

What's really interesting is that the news story, which has a definite pro-zoning slant, reports on how this enclave ended up with zoning in the first place. In doing so, it unwittingly comes to within a hair's breadth of explaining why zoning is bad.
The story of how zoning came to this small piece of Houston starts with developer Robert Silvers, who in the late 1980s started buying property in Lamar Terrace, a post-World War II subdivision that was succumbing to urban blight.

Residents had voted out the neighborhood's deed restrictions, in part because they expected the Galleria to expand westward and create a hot market for commercial property, said David Hawes, the executive director of the St. George Place zone.

As Silvers began planning to develop the property, a lawyer told him about tax increment reinvestment zones, districts where tax revenue from increased property values is reinvested in neighborhood improvements.

The lawyer advised Silvers that state law gave the districts created by petition the authority to adopt their own zoning rules.

"All of a sudden," Silvers recalled, "sugar plums were dancing in my head."
The very same objective Silvers decided to achieve through government force -- a consistent, wholly residential subdivision -- should be and could have been (in a truly free economy) achieved through deed restrictions. Note that this is exactly what Lamar Terrace had before its decline. Note also that as obsolescence made Lamar Terrace less desirable, its own residents voted to remove their deed restrictions in order to take advantage of the higher value they thought their property would have to commercial developers!

I am not that familiar with the Texas law on Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones. At best, they are practically the same thing as deed restrictions, in the sense that they can just as easily be voted away by the land owners. In such a case, the article is dishonest to equate the arrangement in Lamar Terrace/St. George Place to actual zoning.

At worst, the article is right. Except in the first case, property owners in St. George Place have less control over their own property than they would otherwise have had under deed restrictions and will be unable to avail themselves as easily (if at all) of the opportunity to use or sell their land for commercial redevelopment if the area declines again. Given the direction I see some nearby residential areas taking, the residents of St. George may in a few years' time regret their decision to use government force to restrict what their neighbors can do with their own property.

Houston is as vibrant as it is in large part because it is so easy to tear down buildings on dilapidated (and therefore inexpensive) properties and rebuild for a more appropriate purpose.

-- CAV


Vigilis said...

Gus, re: Irredeemable

While it is tempting to agree, two very familiar quotations may explain the only surviving, U.S. rationale for the U.N.:

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
- Barry Goldwater

“Keep your friends close - hold your enemies closer” - Arabian Proverb


Gus Van Horn said...

Your second quote first: I think that the Arabs (and everyone else for that matter) are following its advice WRT the UN better than the United States. And even if we applied it correctly, we would be best able to by disbanding/leaving the UN.

And as to extremism in the service of liberty, I prefer the type of "extremism" we used in World War II against Germany and Japan.

Our membership in the UN, aside from allowing tyrants to pretend they are civilized, makes America into the world's milch cow.