For decades, many U.S.-based collectivists have told people that too many Americans are obese.
They’ve implied that store owners and restaurateurs are evil for not offering people shelves of bean sprouts, never noting that consumer demand drives shelf allocation. Then they tell us that central planning and mandates will alleviate this situation and are excusable because “we all pay” when someone gets diabetes or spontaneously combusts after eating the wrong food. Given that stellar track record of nanny-statism and the push to turn humans into grass-fed sheep, one might think that local politicians and big-hitter judges might want more people to grow their own vegetables. Heck, at the most fundamental level, one might hope that at least the politicians and judges would uphold the ancient human tradition of property rights.
Just don’t cling to those hopes in Florida, where the political busy-bodies of Miami Shores have banned front yard veggie gardens, and an appeals court has just upheld the ban.
There, Hermine Ricketts and her husband, Laurence Carroll, had kept a nicely manicured vegetable garden in their front yard for nearly two decades. Then, in 2013, Miami Shores adopted an ordinance that banned vegetable gardens, and vowed to fine violators each day they failed to comply with the law.
Ricketts and Carroll sued to defend their rights to acquire and peacefully use land, and their rights to privacy. But a state court in Florida upheld the ordinance on the grounds that – get this – veggies are “ugly,” and now, a state appeals court has sided with the lower (very low) court.
First of all, whatever happened to the time-honored adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? What happened to the Latin phrase my father used to say, “De gustabus non est disputandum,” translation “There’s no disputing one’s taste”?
Second, isn’t the supposed rationale for the existence of the state that it is there to “protect” private property from encroachments by others?
Instead, it does precisely that which we are not supposed to do to each other: threatens us, restricts our freedom to peacefully act, and takes our property, be it directly through eminent domain, through taxation, or through ordinances like this in Miami Shores.
Why should anyone be surprised that on appeal to agents of the government, those said same agents ruled in favor of the government and against property rights? After all, the only way they get their paychecks is through the government infringing on the peaceful ownership of private property and via demands of tax “tribute” to their officialdom.
And the decision is not only consistent with the QED of government (it’s supposed to exist to protect your stuff, but it can only exist by claiming the power to take your stuff and hurt you if you resist). It's also consistent with the arbitrary ways in which politicians and judges write and interpret ordinances and statutes. So, as noted by Reason:
‘In Miami Shores, it is perfectly fine to grow fruit, build a pool, or park a boat in your front yard,’ says Ari Bargil, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents Ricketts and Carroll, in an email to me in the wake of the court's ruling. ‘But this decision holds that it['s] perfectly rational for a City to prohibit vegetable gardens, while permitting virtually everything else.’
Just silly. But there is one more important lesson to be derived from this Florida mess, and it has to do with tort law and ancient tradition.
One of the key components of tort law is that a plaintiff must show he or she has been harmed in order to bring a case. If a person hasn’t been harmed by the actions of a potential defendant, then there’s no case. The government is not a person, and, therefore, cannot claim personal harm. If a neighbor of someone with a veggie garden wants to claim damages, let him or her try. But it is highly unlikely that any sensible person would allow such a case to be heard, and if it were to be heard, a jury would likely not find in favor of the plaintiff.
But the state can simply create ordinances that block activities, regardless of the fact that the activities have not harmed anyone.
This is slavery, plain and simple. Many folks see slavery as forced work for another, and government enslaves via taxation, for sure. But it also involves prohibition against peaceful activities -- activities that are part of the gamut of human experience and to which men and women have a rightful claim.
It’s sad that the egomaniacal dictates in Miami Shores are being upheld, but at least others can derive a lesson from this mess. The specifics of the ban are far less important than the principles it confronts, principles that the politicians and judges seem to find offensive.
But which is offensive? A vegetable garden that harms no one, or a government that threatens people with fines and jail for growing the food?
Pretty easy to answer. So easy, in fact, even politicians and judges should be able to answer.