Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dirt Mall Blues

The story: elderly Houston couple runs routine garage sales to help make ends meet. Neighbor complains, city gets involved. The city's suit aims to shut the impromptu flea market down for violating the terms of the deed. Evidently, open-air commerce is not one of the sticks in this bundle of property rights.

Regular readers should recognize the essentials of this case from a notorious potato chip-themed video. Art and Betty are Jorge Ramos and the customers, respectively. Carl is the grumpy neighbor who presumably feels as if the noise and bustle of the ad hoc dirt mall infringe his own implied property rights of a peaceful neighborhood free of the sorts of undesirables that scrounge for attic treasures.

As Munger notes in his own voice (sadly absent the wig), the most Coasean of all Coasean solution is... wait for it... manners. The Whole of the Law includes, contrary to the prescriptions of A. Crowley, an ordinary respect for your neighbors. Mutual respect.

The news reports I've found don't say whether or not the aggrieved neighbor tried bargaining with Mr. Ramos before petitioning the government for redress of injuries. From afar, it seems tragic that a property dispute like this ends up in the courts. Let's hope they get lucky and end up with a mutually felicitous outcome.

Don't hold your breath though.

Part of conventional ownership is statutory, denoted in titles and deeds and whatnot. But the bulk of ownership conventions are tacit. Expectations for what it means to not be a jerkwad neighbor emerge from the complex daily interplay we learn along the grand boulevard of eudaimonia. It sure would be nice if we'd replace some of the burnt-out bulbs lighting the way. Bring back virtue ethics.

1 comment:

  1. Bring back virtue ethics.

    Serious question: when did we have virtue ethics?


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?