Why do we crazy libertarians get all jazzed up over things like Los Angeles imposing a one-year moratorium on the construction of fast-food restaurants? asks Ezra Klein:
Rather, the city council is doing something incredibly ordinary: Deciding what sort of establishment it will allow to open within its jurisdiction. This is called zoning, and not to scare anyone, but it happens all the time. Try and open a new bar in DC sometime and see how far you get. Try to bring some live music to Mt. Pleasant street and tell me if you get approval from the proper authorities. City governments have long used the preferences of residents or the perceived needs of the community to discriminate when licensing businesses for construction.
And the theme is picked up and amplified by Matthew Yglesias:
Ezra's damn right about this. Go to pretty much any populated part of the United States, buy some land, and try to build something on it and you'll find that there are a lot of land-use restrictions in place. Some of these rules are good, some of them are bad (on balance I'd say we're over-regulated in this regard) but they're really all-pervasive. Then along comes the LA City Council to say you can't open a new fast food restaurant in South LA and libertarians and Will Saletan are freaking out. It's about freedom, damnit.
Well, it is on some level, but this is hardly unique. Is Saletan for abolishing liquor license regulations? Maybe he is. I don't think that's a crazy position but that would be a radical change in the way we do business. Banning fast food outlets, by contrast, is very much in line with the status quo. And though it might shock Saletan to hear about it, there are lots of upscale towns and neighborhoods all across the country that do the same thing.
This is sort of like arguing against making such a big deal about cancer because, after all, so much heart disease and strokes and other deadly diseases are so common. What's the fuss? Why make it such a big deal?
But the fact that all this regulating has become so common as to be unremarkable is reason to question any new rule that comes along, not a reason to meekly accept it. Yglesias almost backs into this realization when he writes that "on balance, Id say we're over-regulated in this regard," so maybe there's hope for him. It is about freedom, dammit.