I have a progressive heart and a Conservative mind. I like to think that given time, our society becomes a better place. I believe that innovations in the marketplace have and will continue to lift the common man from having to struggle through life just to survive. I believe that in the Free World, where we allow each man to pursue his own happiness, that it has the fringe benefits of producing a greater standard of living for the common man. Not that some still don’t struggle, or that men will ever get to a point where they don’t struggle. Just that there is such abundance in a system such as ours, that struggle is no longer a matter of life and death. That in America, even a man living off the scraps does not have to worry about starvation. No one is desputing that there are no problems in America. Poverty, unemployment, High School dropouts, the ghettoezation of our urban centers, everyone would like to see these problems surmounted. But the problem enters in when we use blame, instead of thankfulness.
The problem is that those who see Big Government as a means of correcting social issues, usually end up causing more problems than they solve.
For instance, rural electrification was originally intended as a means of helping the poor in rural areas. But the result has been very different than what was intended. Rural electrification, along with another Big Government project, The Interstate Highway System, has opened up vast tracts of land for development. The people moving to these areas are usually upper-middle class and the wealthy. Whereas before, where people needed the cities, now they move away, leaving a city without the resources to maintain itself. But worse yet, leaving the poor behind to fend for themselves.
In the cities of the early 1900s, rich and poor lived side by side, they knew each other, and that interaction was to the benefit of both. Now Big Government has artificially took the product of cities, and spread it out into the countryside.Instead ofroads and electrification following expansion, now expansion follows the roads and electrification. Into every nook and cranny of the countryside.
And Big Government doesn’t always mean Federal Government either. Big Government is also Government which seeks to control the behavior of it’s citizens.
Something which local governments do which actually has widespread public support is Zoning Laws. Zoning Laws have almost become something holy to most people, and they forget a time when they didn’t exist. They are something holy in the sense that people feel that if you were to abolish them, that it would lead to our damnation. But far fromleading to our damnation, the abolition of Zoning Laws may actually be the Salvation of many of the forgotten segments of society.
Zoning Laws artificially inflate the prices of property. Both through lot sizes and “Use Zoning”. It makes land scarce through lot sizes, making homes more expensive, and it makes owning your own business extremely expensive by making commercial land very scarce and expensive. And also, it makes it very difficult to help your poorer neighbors and relatives, when the Single Family Residential Zoning Labelis slapped on apiece of property. Because then, the only way for the well to do to help the poor with a cheap place to stay, is to allow them to live with them as roommates. And not too many people with families and children would be willing to do that.
The fear that people feel at lifting the Zoning Laws stem from much propaganda given over the years by proponents of Big Government. False arguments that on the surface seem valid, have been repeated so many times that people accept them without considering their truthfulness. The reasons given to enforce zoning laws don’t really hold up under scrutiny, however.
We’ve all heard how Zoning Laws protect us from noise, smog, unattractive buildings, and unwanted elements wandering into “our safe neighborhoods”. On the surface, these arguments seem to make sense. It stands to reason that having a store in your neighborhood may lead to someone building a monserous structure on the street corner. But is this really an argument. Someone may just as much build an ugly house in your neighborhood, as an ugly store. And the same mechanisms for discouraging ugly housing, can be applied to stores and businesses. Noise concerns are irrelevant also, when we already have noise ordinances in many municipalities. What is the difference between machinery noise and lawnmower noise. And most noise ordinances don’t allow noise past a certain time of day. The argument of Strangers in the Neighborhood holds even less weight than these, for if everyone is gone to work in the neighborhood, then it is actually more suseptable to criminal activity. People being allowed to work at home in their neighborhoods keeps extra sets of eyes and ears in the neighborhood, and makes them safer. And the original reason for Zoning Laws, smog and pollution, are actually delt with in a different way altogether now, and can be delt with in the same ways as noise ordinances deal with noise.
And the benefits derived from easing Zoning Laws are many. Shorter commutes and less dependence automobiles has the side benefit of less overhead devoted to roads and auto repair. More small businesses create more competition and innovation, as these benefits are already realized in homebased businesses of a less conspicuous nature (such as ebay which started in a garage, as well as construction contractors). More housing can be fit into a given area, and stores are closer and within walking distance. All these benefits are already realized in the older urban and suburban communities. And many middle class Americans choose to live in them. In those areas people enjoy the benefits of dynamic and vibrant communities.