Freedom Rings Libertarian Radio with Kenneth John.
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Land Use and the Water Park Issue

The Downers Grove Park District Water Park controversy has brought to surface a chronic problem, that of land-use regulation and its costs. The problem is chronic because our country has strayed from the very values (backed by Constitutional mandate) which solved land-use problems on a quiet day-to-day basis in the past.

The U.S. Constitution is based on natural rights first articulated by philosopher John Locke. These rights include life, liberty and property. Under a system of REAL property rights, a person has the right to do whatever he wants with his property as long as he doesn’t infringe on the equal rights of others to do the same with their property. Eminent domain notwithstanding, our Constitution was designed to protect these rights.

This design engineered a system of market regulation for land-use which operated sucessfully until the twentieth century. If a person opened a tavern in an area the community disapproved, the individual consumers of that community would vote with their pocket book by not patronizing the establishment. The tavern would go out of business or move to another locale that had a more favorable economic climate. The marketplace efficiently regulated land-use according to the wants and needs of consumers in the community. True democracy in action without the graft, special interest groups, extortion, and unequal protection under the law...

In the marketplace, both buyers and sellers are winners. And society wins because no one has been forced to support something of which he or she doesn’t believe. This system creates an atmosphere of mutual respect. Thus, a reduction in crime is a wonderful by-product of this arrangement. The only “losers” in a market system are those who lose the power to determine how other people use their own property. But should those people have that right in the first place?  Not in a land which is supposed to be free. Freedom without property rights is a shallow freedom indeed.

The market system isn’t perfect. Not all wants, needs, or desires can be met by any political or economic system. But sadly, in the pursuit for a more perfect world, our nation has taken a quantum leap away from perfection in choosing a system of political regulation. As this system has taken hold, more land-use problems have evolved. The unfortunate response to the increased problems was even more political regulation and more subsequent problems as the vicious circle continued.

Today, the cumbersome, inefficient, and corrupt business of politics rules. The existence of park districts funded by political means (read taxes), instead of recreational companies funded by voluntary consumer votes, assures an endless battle among park district constituents concerning what kind of recreation to buy, in what quantity, where to buy land to provide recreation, who to provide the recreation, and countless other questions that only consumer votes in a marketplace can solve efficiently.  There is no person or voting body the world intelligent enough to determine these questions as efficiently and as fairly as the marketplace does. Eastern Europe has now learned their lessons well, and is moving away from this “command” economy and towards a more free-market.

The Open Land Association (OLA), raises some valid objections concerning the proposed water park project. Do most people really want this type of recreation, and are they willing to pay for it through tax dollars? Submitting these questions to a referendum may help decide how some people feel about the issue, but this political solution is still an inefficient and inequitable one. When 51% of the people vote one way, 49% of the people are unhappy.

The water park should not be built — not in anybody’s back yard, unless there is a willing seller and a willing buyer in the marketplace. If the water park is such a great idea, let a private developer proceed with his own money, and buy his own land without using the threat of eminent domain. Families with children who enjoy outdoor recreation should not be subsidized by the rest of the taxpayers — especially the senior citizens who have a hard enough time paying an increasingly confiscatory amount from a decreasingly inflation-drained income base... Oh, and by the way, I am neither a senior citizen, a member of OLA, nor a resident close to the Ebersold Property, but am a 38 year-old sports nut who plays basketball and swims frequently, and would “benefit” from such a project. Principles matter.

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