Code of the day... and how to throw it away  — A fresh look at Euclid v. Ambler Realty

Today’s code of the day will be the seminal U.S. Supreme Court case Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company (1926) 71 L.Ed. 303. For those unfamiliar with this case, it was THE pivotal ruling that solidified the validity of land-use zoning. Specifically, the most referenced portion reads:

“Constitutional law — validity of zoning ordinance.
       8. The exclusion of residential districts by zoning ordinances of businesses and trade of every sort, including hotels and apartment houses, cannot be said to be clearly arbitrary and unreasonable and to have no such substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare as not to be within the police power.”

Ooooooooo. Everyone now bow down and say Amen. “Amen.”

In current planning discussions you will scarcely find reference to the “morals” mentioned here, but from a Marxist perspective, as the capitalist class divisions between owners and workers acts as a mechanism of de-humanization, it is immoral. As capitalism is immoral, it is not something to be advocated by any planner.

And, as one of the “truths we hold to be self evident” is “that all [people] are created equal,” and capitalism and ownership by their very nature makes people unequal ... yes, it is true, capitalism should be illegal. And that the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare are not protected under the capitalist system is quite clear in that people think (including the Supreme Court) that we need the band-aid of government and zoning to help heal the unhealing capitalist wound that has come to infect all of society. We must lose these chains. It cannot be healed. And as government is a function of the capitalist system, capitalism and government must both retire.

I had a professor as an undergrad who’d say, “No zoning ordinance can stand in the face of monetary returns.” If this is the case, then really, as zoning is actually a tool of the capitalist system, and thus it perpetuates inequality and endangers the health safety and welfare of the people—it should be abolished.

This case also makes many references to the “police power”. Any time someone has police power, the power of the gun or the sword, they can enforce their perspective of righteousness on whomever they choose. Under such a rule of power, no one is safe. From an anarchist perspective, the exercise of police power is immoral.

Anarchist morality is not based on some conceptual dogma or societal climate, but equality, without subjugation.