How Strong Property Rights Promote Social Equality

Timothy B. Lee, writing in Forbes, says in part:

In today’s poetic justice news, Star Wars creator George Lucas is planning to take revenge on his meddlesome Marin Valley neighbors. For years, he’s been trying to get permission to build a new studio in Marin County. But his neighbors wouldn’t budge, insisting that it was a place for homes, not businesses. So now Lucas is pulling out of the area, and is planning to throw some sand in the faces of his former adversaries: “We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low income housing since it is scarce in Marin.” The New York Times describes the neighbors reaction:

“It’s inciting class warfare,” said Carolyn Lenert, head of the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents.

Mr. Lucas said in an e-mail that he only wanted “to do something good for Marin,” waving away accusations of ulterior motives.

“I’ve been surprised to see some people characterize this as vindictive,” he said, adding that there was a “real need” for affordable housing here.

This story underscores just how economically segregated American society has become in the 85 years since the Supreme Court gave the green light to intrusive housing regulations. People get to veto their neighbors’ land use decisions, and they’ve used that power to effectively prohibit anyone poorer than themselves from living in their neighborhoods. When combined with geographically-based schooling, the result is to concentrate poverty and thereby exacerbate and perpetuate inequality…

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