As Governor of Oregon, I will put forth legislation that outlaws machine noise pollution crossing property lines from air conditioners and boomboxes, though there might be some exceptions for air conditioners.
Those who gripe that Libertarians shouldn’t be putting forth fresh legislation to increase the power of the State have evidently not read Professor Murray Rothbard’s discussion of noise pollution in Chapter 13 of his “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto”. (Let me interject here that the first two works, which I think every Libertarian should read to achieve a firm foundation in its theory, are the aforementioned work, and “The Ethics of Liberty” also by Rothbard. Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” is also an eye-opener but is unfortunately both out of print and unavailable as an ebook, with only an abridged version, greatly reduced, available online.)
Noise pollution is invasion, and is a crime. Whether we deal with it through private suits, or government prohibitions, it must be curtailed.
Let’s hear what Professor Rothbard has to say in the Libertarian Manifesto: “Noise, too, is a form of air pollution. Noise is the creation of sound waves which go through the air and then bombard and invade the property and persons of others. Only recently have physicians begun to investigate the damaging effects of noise on the human physionomy. Again, a libertarian legal system would permit damage and class action suits and injunctions against excessive and damaging noise: against “noise pollution”. ”
Rothbard goes on, in regard to air pollution although the argument is identical for noise pollution, that “The remedy is simply for the courts to return to their function of defending persons and property rights against invasion, and therefore to enjoin anyone from injecting pollutants into the air.”
Such injunctions against air conditioner noise pollution that crosses property lines would be a defense of property rights, since there are technological ways of greatly reducing air conditioner noise with sound bladders and burms, and the offender is free to adopt them.
I could forsee a case, though, where a very poor homeowner, with a noisy air conditioner, could make good faith efforts to reduce the noise, say by installing a bladder and building a sound burm, and still emit a slight amount of noise that an adamant neighbor might insist was still an invasion of his property rights. If the offending homeowner, an elderly widow on a pension, could not financially afford to further abate the nuisance, what then? Should she be thrown out onto the street? This is one for public debate.
However, I think we should distinguish between non-necessary non-survival noise, like playing your stereo so loud that the noise crosses your neighbor’s property line without his consent, and essential noise necessary for human survival and safety, like your neighbor cutting his fire-hazard tall grass, or cutting his personal firewood with a chainsaw, or starting his car. But when it comes to voluntary activity for pleasure or non-essential comfort, like the music or radio noise that crosses the property line, which the offender can easily do something about, then I would have to agree completely with Professor Rothbard’s arguments. I think I’d just prefer to also have a government law against such pollution, so that not every infraction would require going through a lawyer to file a damage suit, which might be very costly and difficult, especially for the poorer victim. I have no objection in this case to the government being the hammer of the malefactor, when the malefactor is being so irresponsible as to invade his neighbor with noise pollution.
Rothbard postulates that if courts started awarding judgments and enacting injunctions for noise pollution, then that would spur the market for noise abatement technologies, like quieter motors and better bladders, and thus the free market would finally render air conditioner noise pollution a moot issue.
Environmentalists who think that all Libertarians want to ravage the environment, or necessarily would if they could, ought to read the last two sections of Chapter 13 of “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto” entitled “Conservation of Resources” and “Pollution”. Even if you don’t agree with Rothbard’s arguments, it will give environmentalists something to ponder over, and may enable them to distinguish between those self-defining Libertarians who want the government and the courts to get out of the way when they pollute, and those who genuinely want to preserve what is left of Nature.
I believe noise pollution is a grave issue, which significantly raises the level of violence in our society, but an issue that the mainstream conformist politicans never bring up, or solve. I think a division of the police force, funded by the money saved by ending the war on drugs and pardoning non-violent offenders, should be dedicated to such environmental enforcement, for such enforcement is merely the government carrying out its Jeffersonian duty to protect your unalienable property rights.
To have a peaceful society, let’s have a peaceful society.
Libertarians can check my name on the Libertarian Primary ballot. Democrats, Republicans, and Communists can write me in.
Paul Grad, paulgrad4governor.wordpress.com