Some people wonder why I’m harping on Oregon’s Measure 63 (see here, here, and here). Is something as minor as eliminating building permits for improvements under $35,000 really worth worrying about?

Well, yeah, I think it is. But not so much because of the policy outcome, but because of the larger principle at stake. Measure 63 masquerades as a minor irritant, but it’s really of a piece with a much more dangerous and radical ideology. Think I’m exagerating? Here’s the beginning of the very first sentence of the text:

Whereas a property owner should not be required to obtain the approval of government to make improvements to his or her property…


Think about that for a second. That’s an incredibly sweeping statement. And it would knock out pretty much every protection that property owners rely on. Without the government’s “approval” you could build an airport in a residential neighborhood, sex offender housing next to a school, a nuclear waste dump next to a maternity ward… and on and on.

Sure, I’m being a little facetious (but only a little).

Here’s the deal: property laws are fundamental to our way of life and they’re critically important. And they’re just common sense. Without them, property owners would be exposed to massive risk — not only financial risk, but also in terms of basic health and security.

That’s not to say that each and every property law is smart and well executed. Some need fixing! But Meaure 63’s anarchist approach is the property law equivalent of finding out that one cop is corrupt and so disbanding the entire police force — and maybe the fire department to boot.