19 October 2007

NIMBY Control Idea

The Not In My Backyard concept is problematic, because there are many land uses and activities are undesirable in a great many areas. In my view, almost all anti-vice legislation, politically, is a form of NIMBY legislation. Vice is often poisonous to neighborhood character, few places volunteer to have it, and so it is banned.

But, banning unpopular uses: sex offenders who have served their time, group homes, cheap bars, prostitution, gambling, nuclear waste dumps, and more, can create real problems too. Banning vice entirely leads to a criminal black market which creates additional harms. The mentally ill and ex-cons have to live somewhere. So long as we are going to have a nuclear power industry, we need a place to put nuclear waste.

In my view, perhaps the best general approach is to require that any law that limits a land use also designate a place where that land use is legal. Obviously, this can not be applied directly to activities that are currently illegal everywhere, but it would force legislators at every level who are passing NIMBY legislation that simply restricts where certain land uses can take place to directly confront the hidden choices that they are actually making. If forced to make this kind of analysis, I think that many NIMBY statutes would be more rationally drafted.

No comments: