Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sounds like London…

The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.
— James Madison, The Federalist No. 10
While conservatives and libertarians in Canada inveigh most heavily and most often against intrusions into the individual's sphere of property and action by the federal government, special interests and progressive activists have captured the halls and offices of local governments. The federal government has broad powers of taxation and redistribution, it is true, but it is inherently more conservative in demonstrably exercising aggression against individual rights of than provincial governments and more so local governments, in some part because of the special attention it receives, in another part by the more careful checks of its power by written constitution and judicial scrutiny, but in a greater part because its sheer size makes it more difficult to obtain the necessary coalition of represented interests required to oppress other interests, and whose compliance or accord may be needed by the government in the future. In the meantime, a lack of public, legal and judicial scrutiny and limited bailiwicks of representation that allow factions to trade pet legislations that oversee almost every aspect of an individual's property and actions — any popular concern will serve as a bargaining chip to placate other popular concerns through control. Local governments intimately affect the private interests of people everyday — through zoning bylaws, building restrictions, "green" space requirements, heritage protection, signage codes, pesticide bylaws, licensing… the list of regulations goes on. Property rights were suggested during the federal campaign by Stephen Harper — at the same time, the use and enjoyment of your property is far more likely to be curtailed by local governments, and direct expropriation of property is done almost exclusively by local governments.

If you are one of the many who enjoy or aspire to enjoying the private use of an individual home with a backyard, local governments are actively trying to substitute your preferences with the social consciousness of newspapers, academics and activists. Joel Kotkin's Wall Street Journal article, The War Against Suburbia, demonstrates the regulatory and proprietary tools that local governments possess to censure and obstruct your values.
Suburbia, the preferred way of life across the advanced capitalist world, is under an unprecedented attack — one that seeks to replace single-family residences and shopping centers with an "anti-sprawl" model beloved of planners and environmental activists. … This kind of imposed "vision" is proliferating in major metropolitan regions around the world. From Australia to Great Britain (and points in between), there is a drive to use the public purse to expand often underused train systems, downtown condominiums, hotels, convention centers, sports stadia and "star-chitect"-designed art museums, often at the expense of smaller business, single-family neighborhoods and local shopping areas. All this reflects a widespread prejudice endemic at planning departments in universities, within city bureaucracies, and in much of the media. Across a broad spectrum of planning schools and practitioners, suburbs and single-family neighborhoods are linked to everything from obesity, rampant consumerism, environmental degradation, the current energy crisis — and even the predominance of conservative political tendencies.
The examples Kotkin uses are American, but they are recognizable in any large Canadian city. London, Ontario, for example…

3 comments:

Daniel said...

More of the good stuff ;)

Publius said...

Oh, fine, quote the other Publius! No really, I'm not offended.

P.S. London is not a large Canadian city, it is a large Canadian town. There are apartment blocks in Toronto larger and probably worse run than all of London, Ontario.

MapMaster said...

A quote from Publius, a comment from the other Publius, and a comment from Publius Pundit all on the same post. I've run right out of Publiuses.