Thomas Sowell

And just how many of those voters -- "the people" with jobs, homes and families to look after -- are going to have time to carry out this "careful and attentive stewardship"? Does anyone seriously believe that most people have time to be poring over maps, reports and statistics about the San Francisco waterfront?

Is not the whole point of representative government that you cannot run a city, much less a state or a nation, as if you were having "town meeting democracy" in some little New England village, where virtually everybody knows everything that is important to that village?

Nothing is easier than to rhapsodize about the waterfront as "a public resource beyond compare." But, however impressive the San Francisco waterfront may be, no resource is "beyond compare."

Comparing -- weighing one thing against another -- is what rational decision-making is all about. Exempting what some segment of the population wants from the process of weighing alternatives is what rhetoric-driven political stampedes are all about.

Ms. Renne's assertion that those who own the waterfront should be the ones to make decisions about it is an argument for a policy the opposite of what she advocates.

Constitutionally protected property rights, which have been seriously eroded by judicial "interpretation," were meant to keep many decisions out of the political arena.

It is not that individual waterfront property owners will get together to make such decisions. Instead, market processes can make property owners "an offer they can't refuse," based on how much other people want their property, in order to build whatever there is a real demand for by others. And we will be spared rhetorical flourishes.


Thomas Sowell

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

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