Should people be allowed to hang their laundry out to dry?
The BBC has an cialis buy
ews/magazine-11417677″>amusing perspective on a trend in the United States toward foregoing the use of mechanical driers in favor of drying clothes on the line. Outdoor clothesline drying is prohibited by many landlords and community associations on the basis that it that detracts from property values. Advocates of clothesline drying argue that it is less costly, friendlier to the environment, and has therapeutic benefits as well.
There are a couple of possible approaches to this issue. One approach is a consequentialist one, wherein we are faced with the costs and benefits preserving the property values and well-being of neighbors on the one hand and protecting the environment as well as peoples’ enjoyment of their own property on the other.
Some economists have tried to address problems of “social cost,” namely costs that people impose upon others as secondary consequences of their actions. But such analyses are only reasonable when we can make precise and commensurable measurements of the costs and benefits involved. How do we compare environmental degradation per ton of carbon emissions to property value loss, or the enjoyment and therapeutic value of hanging laundry? Many of these costs and benefits are subjective and vary wildly on a personal basis.
Another approach is to consider the rights of homeowners to engage in a cost-saving, environment-friendly, enjoyable and therapeutic activity on their property against the rights of neighbors to be free of offensive and property value-reducing sights. Instead of framing the question in a morally neutral light of competing “utilities,” we
should more broadly think of this in terms of a balance between harm and freedom.
What should the limit to peoples’ enjoyment of
their property be? At the very least it seems reasonable to prohibit people from actions that seriously harm or disrupt others’ lives and well-being. Hanging laundry might reduce property values, but so do many other choices homeowners can make, including cars parked in driveways, poorly-maintained lawns, and whether parents encourage their children to read (school test scores matter a lot for property values). Peoples’ actions can impose costs or benefits upon their neighbors in innumerable ways, and few people would advocate regulating or restricting most of them. Is laundry any different?
Image by Flickr user celeste343 used under a Creative Commons Attribution License