Regulars will know that I seldom find common ground with libertarian sentiment. I have even asked for guidance in helping me understand the "libertarian impulse," because it seems to be an emotion or drive that I utterly lack — possibly some difference in brain chemistry.
When libertarians fulminate about how "high" their taxes are, or fret about their loss of privacy because the government screens telecommunications for signs of terrorist traffic, I am left cold. I simply do not feel whatever it is that gets these folks worked up.
But finally, I can embrace my libertarian brothers, even though, being the rugged individualists that they are, they aren’t into that sort of thing. Perhaps my libertarian sisters will allow it. I’d prefer that anyway.
Where was I? Ah, yes.
When I read about this in yesterday’s WSJ, I was immediately afire with the violation of our fundamental rights. Under the headline "The Right to Dry:A Green Movement Is Roiling America," was a story that stirred me the way (some) libertarians are stirred by the Patriot Act. An excerpt:
The regulations of the subdivision in which Ms. Taylor lives effectively prohibit outdoor clotheslines. In a move that has torn apart this otherwise tranquil community, the development’s managers have threatened legal action. To the developer and many residents, clotheslines evoke the urban blight they sought to avoid by settling in the Oregon mountains.
"This bombards the senses," interior designer Joan Grundeman says of her neighbor’s clothesline. "It can’t possibly increase property values and make people think this is a nice neighborhood."
Ms. Taylor and her supporters argue that clotheslines are one way to fight climate change, using the sun and wind instead of electricity. "Days like this, I can do multiple loads, and within two hours, it’s done," said Ms. Taylor. "It smells good, and it feels different than when it comes out of the dryer."
Amen I say to you, Ms. Taylor! And what, pray tell, could be the objection of her neighbors? A bit of background:
The clothesline was once a ubiquitous part of the residential landscape. But as postwar Americans embraced labor-saving appliances, clotheslines came to be associated with people who couldn’t afford a dryer. Now they are a rarity, purged from the suburban landscape by legally enforceable development restrictions.
I submit that America was a better country when our moms and grandmas decorated our backyards with a hundred highly individualized freedom flags every Monday.
In my own case, it’s not just moms and grandmas. When our older children were small and my wife was at home with them, she used to hang out their little garments in our backyard, and my memory of coming home from the office at lunch time and finding her out there in the sun and the fresh air is a warm and fond one. It was a statement of where we stood with regard to the Earth — we also used real, cotton diapers — but it was also esthetically pleasing. And no static cling.
Since then, we have wasted many a kilowatt/hour on the dryer. It’s a convenience, but one that I don’t feel good about. And you know, as founder of the Energy Party, I think it’s time that we all ran our BVDs up the clothesline pole, and said "Bring ’em on!" They don’t have to salute our undies, but they’d better not try to lower them. I mean… well, you know what I mean.
Before we join the movement at my house, I’ll have to run home and check with the Executive Committee. But whatever she says, it should be our — uh, her — decision, and not that of some busybodies.
How dare anyone suggest that I don’t have the right to do that in my own yard? And for such petty, ugly reasons as not wanting to look like you live next to someone "who couldn’t afford a dryer." That’s disgusting.
And it warms my heart to be with the libertarians for once on a property-rights issue. Normally, they’d be sticking up for the right of the individual property owner to have a factory hog farm, and I’d be for the right of the neighbors not to live next to such, if that’s their decision. I think the property values of the many outweigh the most-profitable use by the one.
But there’s a world of difference, in terms of "harm" done to the neighbor, between a lagoon of hog waste and the colorful display of jogging shorts. And the good done for the environment is reversed in the two instances.
Yeah, I know that most of these things involve private property owners’ covenants "freely" entered into, but how many of you really scrutinized your neighborhood’s esoteric rules and regs before buying the house you wanted?