Microsoft Hatred FAQ

Alex Martelli aleaxit at
Sun Oct 23 21:18:18 CEST 2005

Mike Meyer <mwm at> wrote:
> David claimed that everyone had a right to do whatever they wanted
> with their property. This is simply false throughout most of the
> civilized world - zoning laws control what kinds of business you can

Incidentally, the perfectly good rationale for this universal existence
of limitations to "doing whatever you want with your property" is known
in economics as *externalities*.  Transactions that appear to involve
just one or two parties, and be entirely voluntary between them, may in
fact produce all sort of beneficial or detrimental effects on further
parties who have not necessarily agreed to that.  For example, I may
"own" a certain lot of land, but if on that lot I place a siren blaring
and a huge flashing red sign, the energy of the sound waves and light
will inevitably also affect other nearby places, which I do _not_ "own"
(either they're commons, or owned by somebody else), imposing an
externality on owners and/or users of those nearby places.

Of course, while some externalities are entirely obvious (it's hard to
argue against such sirens and flashing lights being otherwise), many
others are subtler and more debatable, so one reasonable society might
acknowledge a certain class of externality and try to regulate it while
another might prefer not to do so.  But the general concept of society
as a whole placing limitations on private owners' uses of the property,
based on externalities certain uses might impose on unwilling parties,
is as solid as a rock, both practically and theoretically -- however
much anarchists or extreme libertarians might wish otherwise.


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