Thomas Sowell

 Such laws help preserve the existing character of the community, at the expense of farmers and others who would gladly sell their land to builders if they had a chance to do so. Because they can't, their value of their land is reduced drastically.

 The biggest losers are those families who are deprived of housing and those families who are deprived of the standard of living they could have if they did not have to pay for sky-high rents or home prices due to an artificial scarcity of housing.

 The biggest winners are existing homeowners, who see the value of their property go up by leaps and bounds. Also benefitting are environmentalist groups who are able to buy up farmland at a fraction of its value because there are so few alternatives for the farmers.

 One of the rationales for such land use restrictions is the "preservation" of agricultural land. But nothing is easier than to dream up a rationale to put a fig leaf on naked self-interest. Far from being in danger of losing our food supply, we have had chronic agricultural surpluses for more than half a century.

 Another rationale for laws restricting land use is that "open space" is a good thing, that it prevents "overcrowding" for example. But preventing people from building homes in one place only makes the crowding greater in other places. This is just another fig leaf for the self-interest of those who want other people to be forced to live somewhere else.

 Whatever their rhetoric or rationales, environmentalists have no more rights under the Constitution than anyone else -- at least not until liberal judges began "interpreting" property rights away.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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