Monday, July 31, 2017

There Goes the Neighborhood

Doug French has written a piece, posted at LRC, entitled “The Airbnb Next Door.”  Let me say up front: if I come to find that this is a work of fiction, I am going to be really, really mad.

He offers an interesting situation: one of the neighbors in his quiet cul-de-sac of nine homes has moved out.  The new owner turned the property into an Airbnb.  Some of the neighbors were concerned: what will this do to our property values?  Not a violation of the NAP, French correctly offers.  Shots have been fired on occasion and police have been called.  Doug never heard this, but his wife confirms it is so.

There are parties, but the guests of this Airbnb keep the place pretty neat.  The owner of the property even put in a gate to the backyard.  Not a bad idea, French concludes; keeps their comings and goings out of sight of the neighbors.  The cul-de-sac stays relatively quiet.

French does not state directly where he falls on this matter: a question of the NAP vs. the “culture” (if you will) and, potentially, “peace” of the neighborhood.


What say you?  We all know the pure libertarian answer.  Is this where it ends?  Maybe before you answer, consider: French describes the advertisement for the home; very descriptive and welcoming.  He concludes:

As full disclosure, the owner should add, “and plenty of angry neighbors next door.”


  1. From the description of the renters (and I admit I had to look up bacchanal), I would say my current neighbors are considerably more, err, active revelers. The fact the house is being used as a business means the owner has a strong incentive to keep the property in good condition regardless of the nature of his customers. My neighbors, not so much. I can understand why that kind of business would give neighbors pause, but truly things could be a lot worse by comparison.

    With respect to property rights, the neighbors could offer to buy the new owner out if the activity there angers them so much. Then they could sell to a more suitable owner; one willing to agree to limits on activities and guests. In effect, they really could "band together to do something about it".

    1. "...I admit I had to look up bacchanal"

      Me too. At first, the two definitions seemed at odds, but after reading a bit about Bacchus, I got a more vivd picture of the parties going on in Doug's neighborhood.

  2. Three and a half years ago, there was a major chemical spill in Charleston, WV. We lived there, and at the time of the spill my wife was eight months pregnant. Our plan was for a home-birth, with a birthing tub.

    The spill contaminated the water supply to the point that it was only useful for flushing toilets. Our son did end up being born at home, but not with the aid of a birthing tub.

    This was not an ideal set of circumstances for the conclusion of a pregnancy, and the start of a new life. But, in the end we just had to laugh and say, "well, we did choose to live in a place nicknamed "Chemical Valley."" And then we moved upstream a bit.

    My advice for anyone looking for a tranquil cul-de-sac that will endure, is to consider the greater community that surrounds your neighborhood. If it has a nickname like, "Sin City," you might want to think twice. Or, at least try to calculate the blast radius. Doug's experience shows that it is not less than five miles.

    1. I now prefer to live at least 20 miles away from any metropolitan area. Our neighbors are further away from us, yet we know them. I think that "tight-knit community" is one of the least apt metaphors in common use.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. "Doug French has written a piece, posted at LRC, entitled “The Airbnb Next Door.” Let me say up front: if I come to find that this is a work of fiction, I am going to be really, really mad."

    LMAO! I actually snickered at my desk this morning when I read this. I've got this image of you standing on your lawn and heckling passers in admonition of the "liars" of the world. Calling out Stephen King, JR Tolkein, etc. by name.

    Anyway, this reminds me of a debate a few years back over reputation(not to open that can of worms again, I hope anyway- I just don't have time to argue again right now).

    Another persons argument against me(and I'm in the big time minority in my viewpoint on this from a libertarian standpoint, most everyone that's a libertarian sees reputation as something you can't own and therefore another party harming you by trying to ruin it as not a NAP violation) was in essence that you can't own your reputation and therefore it's not a property violation to destroy it. (an argument Rothbard makes, and many after him as well)

    I understand the argument well and see some validity in the viewpoint but as I hold more to Bastiat's definition of property(that includes IP, which I include in my personal property definition), I see it as a economic good(and therefore can be owned) and if someone uses fraud to destroy/harm it(such as disseminating lies to destroy your reputation) I perceive that as a NAP violation and would seek recompense. (one person argued to me that it's the NAP, not the "not harm principle", which I lol'd over- it's a decent counter argument but it all goes back the definition of property and one other important notion I'm going to note below)

    Anyway, the whole reason I bring this up is because this scenario has some common themes and I settled in to a notion that I think works logically:

    #1 It has to be said, that in a free market society that an HOA type environment would have properly addressed this. In fact, I've done a similar thing on a property my wife and I owned(converted to a rental unit), that also happened to upset some neighbors. Further, there was some HOA restrictions on doing so, but it was not well worded and included some grandfather clauses on allowances and ratios for such(it was a community apt. building with individual owners of each unit). I did it anyway, waiting to see if the HOA would try to prosecute us(they didn't, everyone ended up renting because it was a "hot" market as time went on in direct violation of the HOA agreement).

    #2 The big issue to me here is "intent". It's an issue that seems to be missed on occasion. It's also very subjective, with a moral standard coming in to play.(culture) That's where the definition of "fraud" comes in in my mind.

    Is the owners intent to "harm" the other residents property? I say no, it's not. He simply wants to use his property to generate income. There is no "ill intent", and though I'm not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV, I understand that "intent" is very important in law today an suspect even under common or natural law it would the same in many societies.

    If a crazy person paints their house yellow and purple(this actually happened in a neighborhood close to one I lived in) and it drops everyone else's property value, I think it would be tough to get compensation as their "intent", though crazy, wasn't to harm others property value.

    Alright, I'm ready for some stones being tossed in my direction though I have limited time to answer those throwing them for now.

    1. Reputation: I am in your camp. I haven’t written about it much, if at all. It seems to me that this is one item (of many) where it is irrelevant to debate “pure” libertarianism. History tells us that people will defend their reputation (I challenge you to a duel), and I don’t think a logical argument will change this.

      I guess I could argue that my reputation is my property: I have applied labor to previously unowned property – that property being…me. Anyone who damages that property has initiated aggression.

      This is where the pure argument turns to…the NAP can only apply to physical property and the physical person (hence, IP isn’t considered “property”), else it starts to become meaningless. I don’t think this renders the NAP meaningless; I just view it as one of the many gray areas that different people will conclude differently – and none of them drastically in violation of the NAP.

      As to converted rental units and yellow / purple houses…every event comes with consideration of opportunity cost: is it worth a fight, is it worth disrupting the peace? Communities will sort such things out. My only point (and I know you know this)…drastic or forced change disrupts the peace; those on the receiving end of this change may not stick to the NAP. Then what do you have?

    2. Hey Nick. I always enjoy your comments, and am only going to toss a couple stones because you are expecting them.

      Your #1 example may have had a happy ending, but that seemed to be in spite of the HOA, rather than because of it.

      #2 Intent is difficult to prove, and easy to hide. It's also a convenient way for judges, prosecutors, or investigators to let some connected person off the hook. We are all thinking of the same person as we finish reading the previous sentence.

    3. @ BM

      "Reputation: I am in your camp."

      Good to know!
      *channels Yoda*
      "A powerful ally you are. MMMmmmmmm."

      "opportunity cost: is it worth a fight, is it worth disrupting the peace? Communities will sort such things out."

      Exactly, not withstanding the crazy one was not under any specific contract.

      "Then what do you have?"

      Bingo again.

      @ Jeff

      On #1, agreed, but there was a signed contract even though I exploited it somewhat due to its poor wording(it just so happened all I did was open the floodgates as no one really wanted that part of the contract anymore anyway)

      #2 Yes, intent is difficult to prove-I'm not sure what person you're thinking off(Clinton?), but regardless I think there are times when you can prove intent; then it helps when you can do so in determining compensation for harm. (I am equating harm with damages, personal or property)

      Taken even further, Block has argued before that hiring a hitman is not a violation of the NAP...personally, I think it is..but even if we want to split hairs and grant Block this notion it isn't, I'd say any harm that comes as a result has to be compensated for.(based on intent, which is pretty clear in that case)

      Culturally speaking, most people aren't going to let hiring a hitman "fly" under some notion that the NAP hasn't been violated(unless in retaliation for a murder?!?), even further, we see today the justice system clearly distinguishes between "manslaughter" and "murder", where intent is very important.

      So while I agree that intent is difficult to prove, that doesn't mean we should ignore it if we can do so.

      Taking it into consideration in another way, if someone develops a product that is superior to one I make and then "harms" me, should I be compensated? Of course I understand the argument the person made against me about the NAP not being the "non harm principle"...but I see that as a cultural issue. (definition of property, proportionality of justice, competition in free markets, etc. )

    4. Nick, I certainly agree that intent is important in a case where manslaughter or murder charges are being considered. But, in the Vegas cul-de-sac example, intent would be hard to prove, if any existed.

      Oh, and yes, Clinton.

  4. But do we know the libertarian answer?

    Libertarian is about what the libertarians want and what they negotiate with others to do something. So there would be no standard answer though there might be common answers.

    So in the cul-de-sac the answer is what they negotiated with each other and negotiated with outsiders.

    In the case of the road and sidewalks into the cul-de-sac they probably joint own it with rules on how it can and can’t be used Yes you can drive your car on it and can give permission for your friends to drive on it but that is limited to five cars and no you can’t drive your 20 ton truck over our 10 ton bridge

    In the case of the police being called it might be the local security company is called or the neighborhood watch or the militia being called out But if they need to be called regularly then who is causing the problem need to pay for their time and effort.

    Cause enough problems for your neighbors and they might per contract drop you from the road and militia association and the value of your property drops since you have no access or protection

  5. "if I come to find that this is a work of fiction, I am going to be really, really mad." - This worked better than a cup of coffee to start my day, thank you.

    I can't answer with what is /the/ answer, but at least an observation:

    For better or worse, doesn't this question circle back to culture? Lots of things stand out about Las Vegas culture (where this all sounds like it takes place), and a quiet suburban lifestyle isn't the first, second, or twelfth thing I consider. Vegas wasn't founded for white picket fences and nuclear families.

    The only thing apparent is that Government wasn't the answer: The brunt of misery is doled out equally. The owner pays his pound of flesh to a non-stake holder to operate (A drop in the bucket for the long term, and Government has more incentive to say yes than no), and while neighbors to the property get to air grievances against the operation in an open forum, when all is said and done they still have no say.

    I'm sure between the neighbors and the property owner, a better deal could have been reached in a free market (of ideas, exchange... and culture!).

  6. This one is easy. If the neighbors, be they one-night stands or one-month rentals, cause disturbances, they (or rather, the owner) should be made aware of this. Unless the neighbors want to buy the house themselves, it is the private property of the owner. If you don't like the 'hood, move. If I understand correctly, there is no HOA involved. So, private property should be used as private property, period. End of story. The owner can rent it to hookers by the hour if he or she wants. That Clark County has chosen to fine people for their use of their own private property is not surprising. Disappointing, but not surprising.

    1. Pure libertarian theory is (almost) always easy. The dialogue here and on this topic goes beyond this. If it is important to you to understand more, let me know.

    2. "Pure Libertarian Theory" or "Simple-minded Libertarianism"?

      Please, on paper, the theories of Libertarianism make out as beautiful as Marx's theories. How can anyone fall for that?

      There's a reason that communities come together and create zoning law's, etc.

      "If you don't like the neighborhood, move"?
      How 'bout: If you don't like the neighborhood's
      ordinances don't move in.

      By the way, Mosquito: Noise pollution is clearly a violation of NAP.

    3. Increasingly, one person's abhorrent "music" is another person's noise.

  7. Having been a vandweller since the mid 80's, if I don't like the neighborhood or the surroundings, I start the van and drive away. This has become a bit more tenuous, particularly in tourist traps, because of the proliferation of laws prohibiting the parking of 'vehicles that are lived in' on municipal property, like city streets. It is usually traceable to owners of RV parks being on the city council. In Yuma, Arizona, it even prohibits overnight parking on either of the Walmart store's parking lots, although it is based on complaints, and no self-respecting Walmart manager would ever complain about a peaceable occupant, and likely customer. I lived on the parking lot of the east-side Walmart in Casper, Wyoming for 3 years, until I moved away. One day I was sitting in the driver's sear reading and the manager pulled up next to me and parked. He started to walk away, but he came back and asked me if I worked there. I told him that I did not. He responded that he was just curious if I was an employee he hadn't met. I wasn't, yet. I subsequently worked as a temporary holiday cashier in that store, and he walked up to me when I was tending the "action alley", shook my hand and thanked me for being such a good employee. I was laid off the day after Xmas, a couple of weeks later.

  8. Rothbard, "Law, property and air pollution". Why not expand the concept of what can be owned:

    "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."

    1. This has always seemed to me a reasonable and appropriate argument.

    2. BM -

      If A has been polluting the air above B's property for, say, 2 years, while the property was unused, why should B's rights to enjoy clean, unpolluted air be subordinate to A's prior polluting use?

      Perhaps the property law doctrine of adverse possession might be of some help. Pursuant to the doctrine, if A owns a parcel of land and uses and treats as his own a certain portion of B's land, said portion of B's land can become A's property if, A openly and notoriously uses and treats the land in question as his, B has notice of the same, and A's use continues for 20 years.

      Given that Rothbard, himself, along with other eminent libertarian theoreticians like yourself, agree that the emitting of air pollution by A unto B's property constitutes aggression, the concept of adverse possession might be of some help in establishing a temporal framework by which to sort out problems referenced by Aaron.

      Liberty Mike

    3. Mike

      You offer a two year example and a 20 year rule. You have already described my answer.

      Such things - call these "details" or "gray areas" will be handled by "what is acceptable around here."

      The NAP, like value, is subjective; the specific applications, like prices, are both objective and to be found in markets.

    4. Polluting the air above the property is not polluting the property itself, so no damage is done to the property. The property owner cannot claim compensation for damage to property that s/he doesn't own.