The Freedom to Diminish Other Peoples’ Freedom

by Mike Kimel

The Freedom to Diminish Other Peoples’ Freedom

You’ve probably heard about this study by the Mercatus Institute looking at Freedom in the 50 States.

I always find these measures look at the wrong things, and that’s usually because they pick one side of an equation and ignore the rest. See, I support my neighbor’s right to play loud music at 3 in the morning, fire a gun in his front yard, and generate toxic waste and polluting to his heart’s content. However, I object to my neighbor violating my property rights by placing anything, anything at all on my property, be it music, high velocity projectiles, or any contaminants of the air, water, or soil. The problem is that in general, people who play loud music at 3 in the morning choose to do it in a way that leads to unwanted sounds being expressed on other peoples’ property. Those who choose to enjoy their rights to send toxic emissions up a smokestack on their own property usually aren’t doing it because they value the ability to send toxic emissions up a smokestack, but rather because they know that by doing so they will push those toxic emissions into the air over the property of their neighbors… and people tens or even hundreds of miles away. We know that precisely because there are ways to send toxic emissions up a smokestack without exporting those emissions onto other people, but despite the huge number of smokestacks, we never see those being done in practice.

This Mercatus study, like so much else that comes from that institution, seems to be promoting a specific kind of freedom, namely the freedom of some parties to diminish other people’s freedom and the ability of one group of people to make decisions about what goes onto someone else’s property. And this, to me, is not really a measure freedom, but rather a measure of the right to oppress. So as a result, I am going to exercise one of my remaining freedoms (and I hope you do the same) to treat this latest Mercatus study the way way I think of almost everything else coming from Mercatus, namely as an assorted collection of random buffoonery. If they ever extend their concept of freedom and liberty to considering the rights of people not to have sights or sounds or bullets or pollutants placed on their property without their say-so, I might reconsider.

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