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Running with Robbers

Matt WingardQuickPoint!

One of the most perplexing things about the current fight over Oregon land use laws is how many wealthy Oregonians publicly support restricting development rights.

Many of them are landowners. So it would seem they are advocating against their own interests and the basic concepts of the free market and private property that sustain their wealth.

In reality, wealthy landowners have already developed the land they control. This is why they are wealthy. Restricting the land around them usually turns out to be a way to limit competition and hold their advantage in the marketplace.

Few wealthy supporters of land use restrictions seem willing to give their neighbors the same economic opportunity they and their ancestors enjoyed.

Most of the property owners hurt by land use restrictions have modest holdings, where the value is in future development. That value is often the sum total of their life savings. Should the rest of us be able to steal their investment because we prefer that it remain undeveloped? Those are usually called “parks,” and as a society we used to feel obligated to pay for them.

The golden rule is: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you don’t want the majority to one day steal your property, don’t run with robbers.

Matt Wingard is Director of the School Choice Project at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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