Timothy B. Lee -- Writer with Ars Technica
A few weeks ago I wrote a post questioning conservative antipathy toward the New Jersey Supreme Court's famous Mount Laurel decision. That's a decision that held that exclusionary zoning schemes that make it effectively impossible to build low-income housing in a particular municipality violate the New Jersey constitution. Mike Proto, a spokesman for the conservative activist group Americans for Prosperity, emailed me the following response:
Forcing high density, low income housing into every town in New Jersey is hardly the epitome of a free market. Quite to the contrary, it is social engineering and central planning run amok and everything conservatives rightly oppose. This isn't about property rights, per se. It's about a renegade, activist court imposing its policy preferences against the plain language in the state constitution. Citizens are free to live where they please so long as they are successful enough to do so. And New Jersey communities, through a democratic process, ought to have the right to determine the destiny and character of those communities. Mt. Laurel has stripped this away.
This paragraph exhibits an impressive degree of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, Proto says, the Mount Laurel decision is "social engineering and central planning run amok." On the other hand, New Jersey communities "have the right to determine the destiny and character of those communities," by which he appears to mean enacting laws that effectively exclude those who are not "successful enough" for the community's tastes.
It's true that many New Jersey towns have enacted zoning regimes whose apparent purpose is to determine the "character" of their communities by excluding those who are not "successful enough." It seems to me that free-market conservatives ought to be opposed to these schemes, which violate property rights and are, in fact, "social engineering and central planning run amok."