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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5746/their-salon-doesnt-like-our-salon/

Their Salon doesn’t like our salon

October 13, 2006 by

Here is a hilarious article at Salon that comments on our discussions here at the Mises Blog.

Billboards in space

If you want proof of why libertarians will never become a majority political force in the United States you need look no further than the discussion of space billboards currently taking place at the Mises Economics Blog. (Thanks to Economonitor’s Felix Salmon for the tip.) The conversation kicks off with attorney/explorer J. H. Heubert plaintively wondering:

“What’s so wrong with space billboards? Why is the default ‘natural’ view of the sky so preferable to a sky with some billboards in it? If the moon naturally, coincidentally had a Pizza Hut logo on it instead of a ‘man in the moon’ face, environmentalists would clamor to preserve it. Why are designs that are an accident of nature so preferable to advertisements which are, after all, designed specifically to please humans so they’ll buy things?”

I guess this is what happens to people who get their law degrees from the University of Chicago: they spend their lives wondering on what rational basis some people find “accidents of nature,” like, say, a redwood tree, more attractive than McDonald’s Golden Arches. But the funny part about the space billboard question is not Heubert’s lame attempt to make “environmentalists” look silly. It’s the ensuing chatter by the folks who hang out at the Mises blog arguing about whether space billboards would impinge on individual property rights.

One discussant does let his inner aesthetic prejudices show, and labels the whole idea “atrocious”. But others concern themselves with whether homeowners have “homesteaded” access to the sunlight that falls upon their property or the theory that common law holds that you “own your property from the center of the earth… to as far up as you can get.” Others note that airplanes are allowed to tug banners behind them — so why not permanent orbiting billboards?

On an abstract level, the discussion is kind of interesting, like a bunch of baseball geeks arguing about whether MVP means “best player,” or “most irreplaceable player on a playoff team.” But in the real world, it mostly misses the point. The limited political power of environmentalists in the United States notwithstanding, in a democracy, the majority of people don’t need to think too long about why a Pizza Hut logo plastered over a full moon would be just unbelievably icky.

Don’t get me wrong. I like a good advertisement as much as the brainwashed peon. But I’m also of the opinion that the stretch of I-75 in Florida between Tampa and Gainesville would be more aesthetically pleasing without the billboards pushing Jesus as the Answer, or the topless dancers at Micanopy’s Cafe Risque. I’m not about to sue the local landowners in Ocala for polluting my vision, but if I lived there and an initiative on the ballot offered me the chance to ban billboards near state highways, I’d vote yes. And the same goes triple for moon logos.

Libertarians would like to remove questions of relative ickiness from the social contract. Define property rights correctly, and all flows thenceforth. But one discussant on the Mises blog did cut close to the real truth: “It is a policy question as to what we are going to grant an easement for. The buzz of an airplane and its flight over my airspace is unquestionably a trespass. But the benefits of allowing the trespass have been deemed to outweigh the costs of enforcing my rights in that 150′ x 150′ column of air above my property.”

Societies decides policy questions like this all the time. My suspicion is the moon can breath easy, for now.

– Andrew Leonard


Urbanitect October 13, 2006 at 6:31 am

“Societies decides policy questions like this all the time. My suspicion is the moon can breath easy, for now. ”

Of course, two centuries ago “societies” decided that industrial pollution of private property was perfectly okay, leading to the mess that environmentalists today are constantly demanding government intervention about.

banker October 13, 2006 at 7:00 am

So this person has no concern about whether the farmer has a right to put a sign on his/her property, that an armed policy officer can go on his/her property and force him/her to remove their sign?

This is why there is a deficit of $300 billion and the Fed is allowed to inflate the currency at will. If this is how most people think then the author is right; libertarians will never become a majority.

quasibill October 13, 2006 at 7:37 am

Along the same lines as Urbanitect – societies two hundred years ago decided that slavery was okay, too. Society today has apparently decided that due process isn’t necessary so long as the “Great Decider” decides that you are an “enemy combatant”. Society today has decided that it likes sprawl better than natural development. Etc.

You always can tell when someone is speaking out of their nether regions when they ascribe purposeful action to an abstract entity like “society”…

Person October 13, 2006 at 8:27 am

Wait a sec — “Andrew Leonard”? That’s not the same Andrew Leonard that goes by “Golbez” on Wikipedia and anti-state.com, is it?

Tim Swanson October 13, 2006 at 11:11 am

The funny thing about the Andrew Leonard’s addiction to referendums (i.e., Referendumitis), is that in a Statist world, every action and preference would be controlled via political decisions.

The private actions and lifestyles of individuals would no longer exist.

This wouldn’t be the first time in history that such an omnipotent political order would be espoused. For instance:

“There are to be no more private Germans, each is to attain significance only by his service to the state, and to find complete self-fulfillment in his service.” – Friedrich Sieburg

“The only person who is still a private individual in Germany, is somebody who is asleep.” – Robert Ley

You could probably guess which happy-happy, joy-joy political party they were ranking members of.

See also: Liberalism, by Ludwig von Mises

Lisa Casnova October 13, 2006 at 1:38 pm

From the article:
“…in a democracy, the majority of people don’t need to think too long about why…” There are an infinite number of endings to that sentence, but I think the beginning of it says everything about what’s wrong with democracy

Golbez October 13, 2006 at 2:53 pm

No, it’s not me. I’ve long been amused that a writer for Wired/Slate shares my name, it makes me essentially googleproof. ;)

Vanmind October 13, 2006 at 4:29 pm

I did a search on myself once and found that I have a namesake working at the World Bank. Puke.

Black Bloke October 13, 2006 at 7:17 pm

Isn’t the underlying issue the ownership of the moon? If the moon is held as a worldwide common doesn’t that introduce all of the attendant and known problems of a common?

banker October 13, 2006 at 7:28 pm

There is no such thing as common property (land in this case). Someone or entity must have exclusive control over what happens on said land. At this moment no one can exercise control over the land on the moon, hence, no one owns anything on the moon.

So either a government, company, or person/persons will end up with true ownership of the moon. Hopefully, no one will worry about industrial pollution on the moon.

J. H. Huebert October 13, 2006 at 8:15 pm

Hopefully, no one will worry about industrial pollution on the moon.

Unfortunately, environmentalists want to make sure the “pristine” space environment reamins untarnished by man. Walter Block and I have a law-review article forthcoming on this very topic.

Ike Hall October 13, 2006 at 9:15 pm

Certainly the US Government did not homestead the moon, as the Apollo missions did little more than pick up some rocks and leave some garbage.

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