Wednesday, April 23, 2008

zoning for death

A NY Times editorial published today insinuates that the heady sin of avarice is alive and thriving in the real estate industry, to the detriment of public safety. The article speaks of various regulations that Department of Buildings has tried to implement in the wake of the tragedy at ground zero, among them the widening of and the increase of required staircases.

The main force against such safety precautions is said to be the real estate industry, who are stalwart against the maximization of 'dead weight', space which is neither rentable nor salable, and hence unable to be capitalized.

As usual, what we have here is a few bureaucrats attempting to supplant the will of the people, to try to overrule their desired level of safety, to force them to pay for more safety then what they are willing to voluntarily part for by themselves.

[Monetary] greed, the most maligned, misunderstood characteristic is bandied here as though it simply were a destructive life force of its own. Say what you will of morality in general, but scratch an avowed amoralist, and you should find his instinctual hatred for avarice right there for all to see. I certainly can recognize the presence of greed, but I try to avoid ascribing to it the power of causal explanation.

In this case, it would be far more fruitful to state that the prior intervention of zoning regulation has come at the expense of public safety. Zoning, by arbitrarily and artificially constraining the natural growth of the human habitat has upset the delicate balance of market preferences into favoring space-maximizing strategies at the cost of public safety. It is a safe bet to say that in the absence of such well-intentioned intervention, society will have a better chance at working to obtain an optimal admixture of safety, and pleasant cages than it would otherwise.

Instead of pettily focusing on the motive of greed, it would be more mature (and productive!) to recognize it as an immutable nature of what it means to be human, and to let institutions and relations develop anarchically around that natural formation how they will.

1 comment:

Judah Bergman said...

i like the new colors you're using