Lee Friday – August 9, 2017
His name is Muayad Abualhayja, according to the London Free Press (LFP). His name is Mike Abualhayja, according to City Hall. I will call him Mike, because the government never makes mistakes, right? Mike owns the property at 8076 Longwoods Road in southwest London. The LFP reports that Mike “has been charged for keeping animals on site when it’s not zoned for that use”.
Mike’s illegal activity produced negative consequences for his neighbours. His property was not secure, and his animals strayed, eating hay and corn from neighbouring properties – and the owners were not compensated. According to Rick Burt, who lost some hay to the animals, carcasses were clearly visible and would lay on Mike’s property for 3 – 4 weeks for everyone to see. Large manure piles were visible and would also remain in place for a considerable time. The evidence can be seen on a YouTube video, but it is not pleasant to watch. As a result of the carcasses and manure, neighbouring property owners were subjected to a revolting odour and a massive infestation of flies.
Burt says he complained to City Hall in the summer of 2015, which means the ‘authorities’ knew Mike was in violation of the law a year before they finally decided to charge him in August, 2016. Why the delay? (Court date set for August, 2017) Also, City Hall did not confiscate the animals – sheep and goats – which Mike was illegally keeping on his property. Why not? So, Mike continued to break the law in 2017. Why wouldn’t he? The government was not enforcing the law. To top it all off, Mike submitted an application for rezoning to City Hall which would allow him to legally keep animals and operate an abattoir on his property. On July 25th, City Council unanimously approved Mike’s application.
Mike’s neighbours are stunned. For two years, they had complained about the consequences they were forced to endure as a result of his illegal activity. But the government allowed the activity to continue. They also campaigned aggressively against approval of the rezoning application, only to be bitterly disappointed. In their eyes, Mike broke the law, and instead of being punished, he has been rewarded.
The approval of the rezoning application includes various regulations for Mike to follow. His neighbours doubt the effectiveness of these regulations, but more importantly, they have serious doubts that Mike will suddenly become a law-abiding citizen. Their fear is well founded, because recent history has taught them that the government is not a dependable law enforcement institution. Therefore, Mike has no incentive to follow the law.
How is it that a person can break the law, violate the rights of other property owners, and face no consequences for his actions? To properly answer this question, we need to discuss law, property rights, and zoning.
We are taught that elected politicians are representatives of the people, so that when the government makes laws, it is really the people who are making the laws. Nonsense. Regular citizens have no influence over the process of lawmaking and law enforcement, while special interest groups have considerable influence. As Bruce Benson wrote in The Enterprise of Law:
Political pressure groups play a significant role in determining legal policy emanating from the legislative process. In fact, as Rhodes pointed out, “as far as crime policy and legislation are concerned, public opinion and attitudes are generally irrelevant. The same is not true, however, of specifically interested criminal justice publics, particularly in the politics of legislation.” What gets defined as criminal behaviour by statute, for instance, is the result of a political process. One must understand this political process in order to understand crime.
Interest group pressure influences more than the legislative definition of criminal activities and sanctions. All areas of law are subject to interest group manipulation through the legislative process. Furthermore, once laws are passed, the administration of justice is also influenced by interest groups. After all, the mere legislative passage of rules does not provide any guidance or incentive for enforcement. Attempts will be made to influence the courts, the police, the prosecutors, and the rest of the administrative system to assure that the laws each group desires are enforced.
. . . Public law enforcement bureaucrats also have tremendous discretion in the allocation of bureau resources. As Bent noted:
. . . the overload of statutes has made impractical the mechanical application of law by police. Instead, this overload invites the influence of prejudices of individual police officers . . . resulting in the law being administered unevenly and selectively.
With such discretion, police can choose which laws to enforce strictly and which not to enforce at all. In fact, this discretion is an important ingredient for meeting the demands of powerful special interests; police can not only choose which laws to enforce, but which laws to enforce for whom. A person’s chances of police protection correspond closely to his position in the “geography of political power.” Much more attention is paid to the robbery of an important political figure than to the murder of an out-of-work, uneducated member of a racial minority.
This is what we must understand:
Government lawmaking is arbitrary lawmaking
Government law enforcement is arbitrary law enforcement
When the government involves itself in anything, its decisions are always arbitrary. There is no getting around this. It is unavoidable. You can say that politicians and bureaucrats are often corrupt, but you would be missing the point. I am not excusing the actions of the politicians and bureaucrats involved in the story of 8076 Longwoods Road. I am simply saying that their actions are facilitated by the system within which they operate. It is the system, the system of government that is corrupt, but it is corrupt by design. As such, it cannot be reformed. The reason it cannot be reformed is because there is a disconnect between the manner in which the government collects its revenue (coercive taxation) and the manner in which it delivers services (arbitrary decision making). Thus, there is always a conflict of interest between the rulers and the ruled.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Within government, a conflict of interest is always present. Not so in the private sector. Private businesses do not have legal authority to seize my money, as the government does with taxation. Therefore, these businesses must find a way to persuade me to hand over some of my money. If I don’t like the product in one store, I can visit other retailers. When I find a product that satisfies me, I voluntarily hand over my money, and the store clerk voluntarily relinquishes the product. This exchange occurs because I value the product more than the money, and the store owner values the money more than the product. We are both better off. It is a win-win situation. Thus, the exchange is an outcome of a harmony of interests, not a conflict of interest.
In other words, exchanges on the free market occur only when each party is incentivized to satisfy the interests of the other party. The absence of coercion enables this harmony of interests. In contrast, forced taxation means the taxpayer is forced to satisfy the interests of government, while the government has no incentive to satisfy the interests of the taxpayer. Clearly a win-lose situation. Thus, we have a conflict of interest.
Residents in the Longwoods Road area had numerous interactions with politicians and bureaucrats at City Hall. Unfortunately, these residents have become painfully aware of the conflict of interest which characterized these interactions.
OPPOSING SYSTEMS OF LAW
Historically speaking, government-law-making and government-law-enforcement is a recent development. Think of laws made by the State (government) as being ‘top-down law-making’, or authoritarian law. Think of laws made by the people themselves as being ‘bottom-up law-making’, or customary law (law established in recognition of evolving customs). When people make custom-based laws they are more highly incentivized to abide by the laws, because these are norms to which they are already accustomed.
There is a world of difference between laws made directly by the people versus laws made by government. When people make laws directly, they only make laws they are prepared to enforce with their own resources (not taxes) when the occasion arises. Such societies tend to enjoy high levels of peace and prosperity. This is historical fact, but you won’t read about it in public school textbooks – government schools promote the superiority of government lawmaking.
It is beyond the scope of this article to explore this in greater detail, though I have written a thirteen- part-series of essays on the subject, which you can find here. You can read the first four essays in 20 – 30 minutes and get a very good sense of the distinction between Customary Law and Authoritarian Law. Here are the links:
At 8076 Longwoods Road, Mike’s illegal activity produced negative consequences for his neighbours:
– Animals trespassed onto neighbouring properties, causing damage
– Carcasses and manure produced a revolting odour
– Carcasses and manure produced a massive infestation of flies
These three effects of Mike’s illegal activity constitute an invasion of neighbours’ properties, or to use a different expression, a violation of the property rights of neighbours.
Under a system of Customary Law, personal property was respected and protected. Offenders were held accountable for their actions, and were forced to compensate their victims. Substantial incentives existed to abide by the law, and to enforce the law. Not so with Authoritarian Law, as Mike’s neighbours have discovered. Protection of property is not a priority for government lawmakers. In fact, the Canadian Constitution does not even recognize the right to own private property. In his book The Trouble With Canada . . . Still!, William Gairdner wrote:
. . . many Canadians were upset when this ancient and hallowed common law right to own private property was intentionally left out of Canada’s Charter in 1982 by Trudeau and all the first ministers. They left it out because the most socialist of them all, NDP leader Ed Broadbent, insisted they do so as his price for signing. He worried that a right to private property would hamper the government’s ability to expropriate private property. Precisely. If Trudeau had not been so socialist himself, he would never have agreed.
Mike’s illegal activity would also be considered illegal under a system of customary law. It is helpful to understand the reason for this. Simply put, Mike’s actions are ‘illegal’ because the affected neighbouring properties were owned and occupied prior to Mike’s actions. In contrast, if the land surrounding Mike’s property was not owned or occupied, there would be no complaints. In other words, Mike’s actions would be considered legal because they could not have produced negative consequences for neighbours that did not exist. And because he was there first, his actions would continue to be legal – future neighbouring land owners could certainly erect fences to prevent the trespass of animals, but they would likely have no legal recourse against Mike for odour and flies. The great 20th century historian/economist Murray Rothbard explains the homesteading concept:
Most of us think of homesteading unused resources in the old-fashioned sense of clearing a piece of unowned land and farming the soil. There are, however, more sophisticated and modern forms of homesteading, which should establish a property right. Suppose, for example, that an airport is established with a great deal of empty land around it. The airport exudes a noise level of, say, X decibels, with the sound waves traveling over the empty land. A housing development then buys land near the airport. Some time later, the homeowners sue the airport for excessive noise interfering with the use and quiet enjoyment of the houses.
Excessive noise can be considered a form of aggression but in this case the airport has already homesteaded X decibels worth of noise. By its prior claim, the airport now “owns the right” to emit X decibels of noise in the surrounding area. In legal terms, we can then say that the airport, through homesteading, has earned an easement right to creating X decibels of noise. This homesteaded easement is an example of the ancient legal concept of “prescription,” in which a certain activity earns a prescriptive property right to the person engaging in the action.
On the other hand, if the airport starts to increase noise levels, then the homeowners could sue or enjoin the airport from its noise aggression for the extra decibels, which had not been homesteaded. Of course, if a new airport is built and begins to send out noise of X decibels onto the existing surrounding homes, the airport becomes fully liable for the noise invasion.
It should be clear that the same theory should apply to air pollution. If A is causing pollution of B’s air, and this can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then this is aggression and it should be enjoined and damages paid in accordance with strict liability, unless A had been there first and had already been polluting the air before B’s property was developed. For example, if a factory owned by A polluted originally unused property, up to a certain amount of pollutant X, then A can be said to have homesteaded a pollution easement of a certain degree and type.
The homesteading concept has guided many legal decisions in the past, but not in our case. There is absolutely no doubt that Mike is guilty of violating the property rights of his neighbours. Yet, our system of authoritarian law does not require him to compensate his neighbours, nor does it force him to cease and desist. Citizens are at the mercy of arbitrary decision making by politicians and bureaucrats. As such, Mike’s illegal activity is just a symptom of a much bigger problem. The real problem is the government’s inaction, a complete failure to protect the property rights of citizens. With proper law enforcement, Mike’s illegal activity would have been short-lived.
Before we discuss zoning laws, we should briefly discuss planning, because zoning is a form of planning. We would be living in a far more prosperous society if people could do what they wanted with their own property, as long as their actions did not cause harm to other people, or the property of other people. Private property owners are incentivized to allocate their property to its most highly valued economic use. Furthermore, private owners have the moral right to plan their own affairs. They should not have to seek permission from anyone.
However, the government reduces our options by insisting that our plans must conform to its laws i.e. our plans must be consistent with the government’s plans. We are told these laws are essential for community planning because only the government possesses the required expertise to determine the best uses for land and other resources owned by private persons. It is with extreme arrogance that the government claims it can ‘plan your life better than you can’. George Reisman, economist and author, wrote about ‘planning’ in his book Capitalism:
The overwhelming majority of people have not realized that all the thinking and planning about their economic activities that they perform in their capacity as individuals actually is economic planning. By the same token, the term “planning” has been reserved for the feeble efforts of a comparative handful of government officials, who, having prohibited the planning of everyone else, presume to substitute their knowledge and intelligence for the knowledge and intelligence of tens of millions, and to call that planning. This is an incredible state of affairs, one which implies the most enormous ignorance on the part of the great majority of today’s intellectuals, from journalists to professors.
The profit motive – financial self-interest – makes everyone be concerned with the revenue or income he earns and the costs or expenses he incurs. As stated, precisely this is what harmonizes and integrates the economic plans and the economic activities of all the separate businesses and individuals who make up a division-of-labor society.
The private sector is subjected to the negative consequences of the government’s planning rules, while politicians and bureaucrats are not held accountable for these arbitrary decisions.
If you break your neighbour’s window, accident or not, you pay for the replacement. Whether you paid willingly, or were pressured to pay, the other neighbours are likely to agree this is an appropriate response. You have been held accountable for your actions. You caused the damage, and you paid money to reverse the damage. The compensation comes out of your own pocket.
When sitting politicians lose an election, there are many who will say they have been held accountable for their mistakes. In fact, this is what we are always told, “If you don’t like the government, then don’t forget to vote, because this is your opportunity to hold the bastards accountable.” Really? That’s how we define accountability in politics? Is it enough to see teary-eyed politicians deliver concession speeches on election night? Do we think a lost election delivers a significant blow to the lives of these losers?
If I walk around the neighbourhood and break all the windows in all the houses, then lose my job, do my neighbours say that I have been held accountable? Do they say I no longer have to pay for their new windows?
Jacqueline Caranci bought a property close to Mike in 2016. Mark Coulston, another neighbour, bought his property in 2014. They both said they specifically relied on the government’s zoning rules – no livestock! – which were in place at the time of their purchase. So, as Mike’s neighbours try to plan their own lives, they get blindsided by the arbitrary planning decisions of unaccountable bureaucrats and politicians.
Mike applied to City Hall to have his property rezoned. His neighbours opposed his application, but City Council approved it. Zoning was a big issue in this case, but it should not be an issue. The issue should be property rights. However, since zoning was an issue, we need to discuss it.
Government justifications for zoning laws are spurious. Zoning laws, as with all government activities, arise out of an arbitrary political process where the desires of special interest groups take precedence. As economist Walter Block wrote:
Zoning was conceived in order to preclude the close location of “incompatible land uses,” such as the proverbial glue factory and office tower. But even this noble-sounding mission is fraught with danger for the poor and minority group peoples, for under the guise of eliminating such obvious nuisances, zoning has made it more difficult for any commercial enterprises to infiltrate into the poorer neighborhoods.
This zoning prescription appears as an obvious benefit to those fortunate enough to live in high-quality suburbs. They most often do not work where they live, and usually have automobile access to the business districts, recreational, and shopping areas of their cities. But for many of the poor, prohibiting commercial development in their neighborhoods has meant greater unemployment, or a longer journey to work, and greater difficulties and inconvenience in purchasing amenities.
Less noble sounding are the aspects of the law which have come to be known as “exclusionary zoning.” These are the clauses which specify minimum lot size of dwellings, which demand high quality structures, which, for example, disallow mobile and prefabricated homes. Although they also scrupulously avoid mention of the poor or minorities, it does not take a long chain of reasoning to see that these groups actually bear the brunt of this law. Leon Louw says in this regard:
Zoning laws usually limit the number of people who may occupy, or the amount of housing which may be built on, a given piece of land. The effect is that the poor, who could compete with the rich for prime land by pooling their money and living in higher densities, are precluded from doing so.
Economist Thomas Sowell wrote:
Restrictions on the use of land forcibly prevents bidding for it by certain users – notably middlemen (“developers”) selling or renting to working-class people. The political impracticality of openly admitting that government force is being summoned to keep out the poor leads to much vague and lofty discussion in which people fade from the picture entirely and such impersonal entities as “valuable open space” and “fragile areas” dominate discussion about the need to “protect the environment” under “rational and comprehensive” allocation of the land through political processes. But the strong class bias is evident in such things as . . . strong working-class voter opposition to zoning and strong upper-class support for it . . . expensive home building “requirements” having nothing to do with the “environment” or “ecology” but having much to do with pricing the poor out of the market. . . 
Zoning law proponents likewise invoke fears of factories and gas stations in residential neighborhoods. But in cities without zoning – notably Houston – no such dire things happen. Middle-class neighborhoods there look like middle-class neighborhoods elsewhere. In lower income neighborhoods, there are sometimes auto repair shops and other such local conveniences – but it is precisely in these neighborhoods with automobile repair shops that zoning is overwhelmingly rejected by the voters. Apparently, the trade-off between convenience and aesthetics is different for those with less money and older cars. Looked at another way, zoning allows some people to impose their values and lifestyle on others who may not share the values or be able to afford the lifestyle.
Within a system of arbitrary-decision-making, there can be no other result – government zoning laws are discriminatory, providing benefits to a few groups at the expense of other groups. This breeds resentment from those who have been adversely affected.
Consider this: The City of London charged the property owner and manager of the Brydges Street Merchant Market for running a retail operation in a building that’s zoned for industrial use. Geoff Byrne, the market’s business owner, had never received a complaint from nearby businesses or residents. Now, his revenue has declined as some vendors have left the market because the government’s interference has created uncertainty surrounding the future viability of the business. Recently, further along Brydges Street, the Outlaws Motorcycle Club (biker gang) opened a new clubhouse. According to the LFP, “London’s bylaw boss was tight-lipped when asked whether the bikers are violating zoning rules. “We can neither confirm nor deny if we have any active zoning complaints at that address,” Orest Katolyk wrote in an email.” So much for government transparency. And so much for the supposed economic and social benefits of zoning laws.
Mike’s activities at 8076 Longwoods Road should be limited not by zoning laws, but by non-violation of the property rights of other people. Note that the government has failed to limit his activities by either method!
WILL MIKE CONTINUE TO VIOLATE THE PROPERTY RIGHTS OF HIS NEIGHBOURS?
Concerned citizens sent emails and letters to City Hall, complaining about Mike’s illegal activities. Many of these emails and letters are part of the public record. You will find them here, along with the report (Staff Report) prepared by John Fleming, City Planner, addressed to the councillors on the Planning and Environment Committee for their meeting on July 17, 2017, recommending approval of Mike’s rezoning application.
On page 1 of the staff report, we read this:
At Municipal Council on May 30, 2017, the matter was referred back to staff to report back with a revised by-law that would provide for a potential opportunity to ensure that the livestock operation is maintained appropriately.
In her letter to the Mayor and City Councillors, Jacqueline Caranci expressed her opinion about a revised by-law:
It would seem that is an impossible task, as the owner has flagrantly violated existing by-laws for years and there is no reason to assume he will not do likewise with ANY other by-law in future.
Caranci’s neighbours expressed similar views in their letters to City Hall. The Millars (of Millar Berry Farms) wrote:
. . . forgive us for being skeptical about all the rules and regulations being strictly adhered to, but Mr. Abualhayja demonstrates on a continual basis that he has absolutely zero regard for the law.
Mike and Liz Heggarty wrote:
The city is aware that the existing business operates illegally, has known infractions, such as carcasses left on the property, and yet it is still being considered for this rezoning application. We all know that giving further privilege and responsibility to an irresponsible operation begets further problems and will only make it even more complicated and difficult to resolve, and at the same time adversely impact this community and our property values.
Arlene Bulgin wrote:
The applicant has been in violation of the zoning bylaws for years. . . . He has been fined, and still not complied. . . . Regardless of what laws are put in place, why does anyone think he would start to comply now? Past behaviour is the best indication of future behaviour. If I were to apply for a bank loan, I would expect that they would look at my past financial behaviour. This should be no different.
Mark Coulston wrote:
It is also reasonable to expect that the owner’s inappropriate behavior would be exacerbated in the event that the Application was approved.
The neighbours could be wrong, but it seems unlikely. Perhaps Mike will never again violate their property rights, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They have valid concerns about Mike’s future behaviour, and their concerns are based on an intelligent assessment of Mike’s past behaviour. That seems like a perfectly logical thought process to me.
Yet, Rick Burt said that Councillor Anna Hopkins assured him that once all the regulations are in place, everything will be fine. However, she knows that City Hall has allowed Mike to ignore regulations in the past, so how can she say this? Dear reader, we know the answer. The entire institution of government rests on a ‘foundation of unaccountability’, which means attitudes of arrogant indifference are common among politicians. Such attitudes increase the level of anger among those who are adversely affected by the government’s arbitrary rules.
It appears Councillor Michael van Holst displayed a similar attitude. According to Jacqueline Caranci, after van Holst visited the Longwoods road area, he said the concerns of neighbours were exaggerated and unfounded. In her July 26th email to all the Councillors (and John Fleming), Caranci said she considered his comment to be “extremely disrespectful”, and she explained that the source of neighbours’ complaints would not have been apparent to van Holst on the day of his visit – because media exposure had prompted Mike to clean up his property, a situation she suspects will be temporary.
Knowing how events have unfolded, I asked Caranci, “If you could go back to 2016, would you still purchase your property?” Her answer was an emphatic “No”. She is concerned that Mike will continue to violate her property rights.
His neighbours feel that Mike’s history of flouting the law and the government’s history of not enforcing the law are good reasons to fear future violations of their property rights. As if to rub salt in the wound, on page 3 of the staff report we find another reason for neighbours to be concerned (emphasis added):
The Farming and Food Production Protection Act (FFPPA) was established to promote and protect agricultural uses and normal farm practices in agricultural areas in a way that balances the needs of the agricultural community with provincial health, safety and environmental concerns. It specifically protects agricultural operations from complaints about odour, noise, dust, flies, smoke, light and vibration disturbances, provided the disturbance is caused by a normal farm practice.
These agricultural operations are protected, not because they existed prior to the existence of neighbouring landowners, but because the government arbitrarily grants them protection. Who protects the pre-existing landowners? Certainly not the government, which pats itself on the back for balancing the needs of everyone.
On pages 24 and 23 (respectively) of the staff report, we read:
Planning should encourage, foster and support local food production, and strengthen the local food system to grow and consume more local food.
The abattoir facility will be located within a portion of the existing barn on the property which will not have any impact on the neighbouring farms or farming operations in the area.
So, unaccountable government ‘planning experts’ – who have no skin in the game – want more food to be grown and they assure us that the abattoir will not have any impact on neighbouring farms. Bill and Sylvia Millar have a different opinion. The Millar family started their farming operation over 50 years ago. Perhaps that qualifies them as experts. In their letter to the Mayor and Councillors, Bill and Sylvia – who do have skin in the game – wrote:
Should the proposed zoning request be allowed, a large parcel of our land would become unusable for berry crop production. We could not, in good conscience, plant berries in a field right beside an operational slaughterhouse or animal yard. . . . The spread of disease or ecoli onto our fruit could not be permitted. . . .
The operation of a slaughterhouse or the keeping of animals on 8076 Longwoods Road will have a direct and negative effect on the operation of our 3rd generation family farm.
The Millars expect Mike’s business to impose negative economic effects on their own business. Remember, Mike’s activities have already imposed negative economic effects on some of his neighbours – hay and corn eaten by Mike’s wandering animals. Additionally, it appears that a restaurant in the area has been negatively impacted. As the LFP reported:
“We are concerned about the smell, since we have a patio,” said Aniko Komaromi, manager of the eatery she declined to identify. The restaurant opened in November and added a patio this season, but when the wind blows, customers cannot sit outside. “People want to sit on the patio and can’t. We have noticed a smell in the restaurant too,” she added.
Arbitrary government rules usually impose negative effects on other people – unintended consequences, as they say. In this particular case, those who are suffering the effects are aware of the particular government policy which produced these effects. However, most people are unaware that there are thousands of government regulations which impose negative effects on every sector of the economy. In every case, a violation of property rights occurs. If people were aware of the extent to which they have been economically deprived, this would generate sufficient pressure on the government to repeal these regulations. The economic damage is substantial. It is reflected in higher prices for goods and services, as well as legally prohibited opportunities to earn higher incomes. I have summarized the detailed research on this topic elsewhere. The economic impact is expressed in dollars, on an annual per capita basis. You can read about it here, or here.
DO POLITICIANS REALLY LISTEN TO US?
Politicians are supposed to be representatives of the people, but are they? In the upper left corner of her website, Councillor Anna Hopkins tells us “Your voice counts – participate”. When we click on this link, we read “Your voice counts – get involved”.
When I read the letters from Mike’s neighbours, and spoke with a few of them, I was convinced that many of them do not believe their voices count at all. They are angry and frustrated with the process at City Hall. They feel their complaints about Mike’s illegal activities and their objections to the rezoning application have been ignored. It is hard to argue with their conclusion – the evidence appears to support it.
Many citizens addressed their letters to the entire City Council. If their voices really mattered, each letter would have elicited fifteen replies – one from the Mayor and one from each of the fourteen Ward councillors.
If their voices really mattered, each of these replies would have come directly from the politician, not from his or her assistant.
If their voices really mattered, each reply would have been a detailed reply, addressing each concern raised in each letter, without exception.
If their voices really mattered, each letter would have elicited the kind of replies I have described even if the citizen’s letter did not specifically request a reply.
The reality is that these letters elicited very few replies, often from the politicians’ assistants, and were usually some version of:
On behalf of “Name of politician”, thank you for your letter. Your comments are appreciated and will be considered.
Judy Madzia specifically requested a response from each politician, but not one has replied to her letter.
There were some interesting comments made at a community meeting attended by Councillor Hopkins, City planner John Fleming, and many of Mike’s neighbours. According to Jacqueline Caranci and Rick Burt, Fleming explained that his responsibility is to determine whether Mike’s rezoning application complies with government regulations. Fleming also explained that citizens must voice their concerns directly to City councillors, because it is the councillors who have the ability to respond to those concerns. However, Caranci and Burt said they were not confident that Hopkins would be responsive to their concerns because, during the same meeting, Hopkins said when she receives a recommendation from the planning staff, she has to trust in their expertise, and vote accordingly. This implies that politicians simply rubber stamp the decisions and recommendations of bureaucrats, and citizens have no influence in the process. The latter point is undeniable. As professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page wrote:
Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all . . .
Even if a bureaucrat believes a different course of action is desirable, he must follow the arbitrary rules established by previous bureaucrats and politicians. As the great 20th century economist Ludwig von Mises wrote in Bureaucracy:
Bureaucratic management is management bound to comply with detailed rules and regulations fixed by the authority of a superior body. The task of the bureaucrat is to perform what these rules and regulations order him to do. His discretion to act according to his own best conviction is seriously restricted by them.
Politicians and bureaucrats may occasionally display genuine sympathy for the plight of citizens, but citizens don’t want sympathy. They want action. They want results. When they don’t get results, they know their voice doesn’t count. This is the predictable outcome of government decision making, that is to say, arbitrary decision making.
Bureaucrats and politicians encourage us to express our views, and they tell us our views will be ‘considered’. But the evidence strongly suggests our views are ‘considered, then dismissed’. So, what about that link on Anna Hopkins’ website: “Your voice counts – participate”. Hopkins should remove the link. It is disingenuous.
Mike’s illegal actions violated the property rights of many of his neighbours: Rick Burt; Jacqueline Caranci; Bill, Sylvia, and Matt Millar; Mike and Liz Heggarty; Arlene Bulgin; Mark Coulston; the local restaurant; and others. The government refused to enforce the law. Bureaucrats whose jobs are secure refuse to secure the rights of property owners who pay their salaries.
The government went even further by approving Mike’s rezoning application. This might facilitate a continuing violation of the property rights of his neighbours, which could now be considered legal. Legal, but not moral. The government is supposed to resolve conflicts, not create them. Matt Millar, of Millar Berry Farms, had this to say about the government’s response, “I feel betrayed.” Many of his neighbours share this feeling.
Furthermore, the government’s action/inaction appears to be economically counterproductive. In addition to the economic effects outlined above, it is impossible to measure the emotional cost sustained by Mike’s neighbours as their lives have been disrupted by the unpleasant consequences of his illegal activities. This emotional cost can easily generate additional economic costs. When an individual is under emotional stress, it is more difficult to work, to produce, to contribute to economic output. This is a textbook case which reveals the fallacy of the doctrine of economic planning by an omniscient government. In fact, government policy often produces results which are the complete opposite of their stated goals.
The government failed to enforce the law against Mike, but the government fails to enforce the law against a lot of people, as it fails to solve most murders, rapes, and robberies. This may be difficult to accept, but acceptance is a necessary first step on the way to a solution. The primary task of the government’s law enforcement resources is to satisfy the desires of politically influential special interest groups.
Is there a solution? Is there a way to prevent Mike from violating property rights in the future? Is there a way to prevent similar incidents in the future? Of course there is, but it is not easy. First, we must realize that the real problem in our case was not the actions of Mike, but rather the response from the government. Second, we must therefore realize that someone’s property rights are being violated as a result of virtually every government action, or inaction. Third, we must realize that this sort of thing happens in every sector of the economy. It is happening all around us. We just don’t see it. This was discussed above under the heading of “Economic Effects.”
The reason that positive change is difficult to achieve is because most people do not understand all this stuff. They do not understand that a suffocating government fails to protect property rights, and is economically counterproductive, thus lowering our standard of living.
It is wrong to deny people the right to plan their own lives. And it is wrong to deny people the right to make and enforce laws. History reveals that when laws are made and enforced by the people themselves, this tends to harmonize all of the planning activities of the people, to the economic benefit of all, in a far more peaceful society.
The solution is to reduce the size of government, reduce the scope of government, by reducing government budgets. How much of a reduction? The sky is the limit. To accomplish this requires more people to become informed in order to generate sufficient pressure to achieve these goals. An informed citizenry is the solution, and since most people are followers, all that is required is for a small percentage – somewhere between three and ten percent – of the public to wake up, see the problem, and lead the way.
 Bruce L. Benson, The Enterprise of Law (The Independent Institute, 2011) pp 87-88, 132-33 [additional sources provided by Benson: Robert Rhodes, The Insoluble Problems of Crime (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1977) p 13; William Chambliss, “The State, the Law, and the Definition of Behavior as Criminal or Delinquent” in Handbook of Criminology, ed. Daniel Glaser (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1974) p 39; Richard Neely, Why Courts Don’t Work (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982) p 131; Alan Bent, The Politics of Law Enforcement: Conflict and Power in Urban Communities (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1974) pp 3-6
 William D. Gairdner, The Trouble With Canada . . . Still! (Key Porter Books Limited, Toronto, 2010) p 81
 https://mises.org/library/law-property-rights-and-air-pollution [Originally published in the Cato Journal 2, No. 1 (Spring 1982): pp. 55-99]
 George Reisman, Capitalism (TJS Books, Laguna Hills, California, 1998) pp 137-38
 Walter Block, The Case for Discrimination (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2010) pp 114 – 15
 Thomas Sowell, Knowledge and Decisions (Basic Books, Inc.) p 201 [additional sources provided by Sowell: Morris K. Udall, “Land Use: Why We Need Federal Legislation,” No Land Is An Island, pp 59, 65, 70, 74; Bernard Siegan, “No Zoning is the Best Zoning”; Benjamin F. Bobo, “The Effects of Land Use Controls on Low Income and Minority Groups: Court Actions and Economic Implications”
 Ibid., pp 201 – 202 [additional source provided by Sowell: Bernard H. Siegan, “No Zoning is the Best Zoning,” California Real Estate Magazine, February 1975, p 38]
 Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy (Originally published by Yale University Press, 1944) p 37