There Goes the Neighborhood! (Err, Make that “Here Comes the Neighborhood!”)
How many of the pissed-off rich people who live in swanky houses along Silverstone Golf Club in Las Vegas call themselves “free-market capitalists?” What’s the breakdown of those within that wealthy gated enclave who support the sanctity of private property rights?
Bear with me, now. I’m looking for some philosophical consistency. But I don’t expect to find it. What I do expect to uncover is this — hypocrisy. Good old-fashioned “not in my back yard (NIMBY)” hypocrisy.
Sure, protecting and defending private property ownership is sacrosanct within conservative and libertarian circles. The belief held is that a property owner can do pretty much what he or she damn well pleases. After all, it’s their home. It’s their land. Accordingly, homeowners and landowners have a fundamental right to use their property as they wish, so long as the fair use of the land is legal and doesn’t infringe upon the rights of others.
Sure sounds good, doesn’t it?
Trouble is, the real world isn’t guided by principles, nor consistent patterns of belief. This is especially true when lots of rich people get angry.
Let’s examine the recent local controversy surrounding a Las Vegas golf course, which has triggered multiple lawsuits, public protests, emergency town hall meetings, and even threats of violence. A local community of homeowners in the northern part of the city called Silverstone includes several hundred private homes, most of which are adjacent to a 27-hole golf course. As one expects, these are far more expensive homes than average, ranging in price from around $300,000 up to several million for premium properties. Not that the value of a home should matter, of course, when it comes to the fundamental question of property rights. Then again, it always does.
A few weeks ago, the golf course was sold off to a “developer” from Beverly Hills, someone with a notorious reputation for bulldozing relatively less-profitable public venues like golf courses in favor of pouring in cement slabs for a forest of condos and housing tracts. He’s already done this in San Diego, triggering lots of controversy and outrage. Just imagine the shock of buying your dream home, a retirement home with your life savings perhaps, with a gorgeous view of a pastoral green fairway. Then one morning, you pick up the newspaper while drinking your coffee and read the golf course was sold off, is about to be torn out, and converted to a massive housing development? What used to be a glance outside your living room onto the green of the 12th hole is about to turn into a the backside of a giant dumpster.
Naturally, all the homeowners are furious, and they have every right to be. I’d be mad, too. So would you. READ MORE DETAILS ON THE LAWSUIT HERE
Trouble is, that prick developer bought that land outside your back window fair and square. There are no special clauses nor restrictions on the surrounding land use. Silverstone homeowners made their purchases and property values were then-based on the presumption the golf course would always be a kindly and quiet next-door neighbor for residents. Well, too bad. Tens of millions of dollars are to be made, and the rich homeowners will likely get the shaft. And I don’t mean the shaft of a 9-iron.
I really do feel sympathy for these folks. One presumes most of them are nice people who worked hard most of their lives. They cherish their homes, which is the most significant financial investment of their lives. That said, these same homeowners can’t go to ballot boxes and vote “pro-business” all the time or be in favor of the concept of “private property rights” and then dare to stand up and protest when some greedy land developer decides he can make a fast buck out in the desert by ripping out a bunch of trees and fairways and stick in apartments and strip malls loaded with fast food joints. You homeowners don’t like what’s happening, huh? Well, you should have supported more responsible and restrictive planning and zoning (an anathema to libertarians, by the way). See, that greedy land developer from Beverly Hills has rights, too — and you put them in place.
One of the essential tenants of socialism calls for the collective and communal energies and resources of individuals in order to make a much stronger force. A single-family homeowner isn’t particularly powerful. However, a group of a few hundred single-family homeowners, united by a common purpose, is certainly a powerful force to be reckoned with . Apparently, the homeowners are now learning firsthand this most painful financial and emotional lesson of what happens exactly when land speculators developers with absolutely no connection to the local community swoop in and vow to completely wipe away the neighborhood for no other gain than selfish profit. Go ahead, Silverstone residents and less-government types. Stand by that principle. Go ahead, continue to defend the rights of private property ownership now that your backyard is about to become a parking lot, just so some guy in Beverly Hills no one’s ever met can make another $15 million. Tricky now, isn’t it?
Maybe we don’t need so many golf courses around Las Vegas, especially with water limitations. If not, that’s a different kind of debate. Regardless of the eventual outcome in the Silverstone homeowners case, one doubts that their fundamental political and philosophical leanings will ever change. Dinner parties and the afternoon cocktail hour will undoubtedly include lectures about free-market rights and stump speeches on individual freedoms. Such talk will gain nodding approval as it typically does within these circles, unless of course, we’re talking about putting up a condo complex next door. Then, those same martini sippers and real estate hawks will demand that the government step in and do something.
Please, do something. Save my property value. Save my gorgeous view.
Sorry rich people living in pretty homes out on the golf course. This is the system you voted for, and this is exactly what you get. You can’t expect government to help when you’ve neither supported it nor empowered it to do good things for people. Decisions do have consequences. You reap what you sow.
Look out — here comes the neighborhood.
Postscript: More bad news. It appears the same new property owners in partnership with the management company have also purchased Badlands, and are now threatening the same thing on the west Las Vegas property. READ MORE HERE
Writer’s Note: I played golf at Silverstone once, and was accompanied by Roy Cooke. Even though I cheated on a few of the holes, he still beat me by 12 strokes. After that ass-kicking, I decided to skip the back nine.
Special thanks to emeritus supporter and fellow writer Tim Lavalli for the creative headline suggestion.