Sign Code, Part 1

Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.
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Political power, then, I take to be a right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property.
John Locke, the Second Treatise of Civil Government.

That is extremely powerful stuff. Every man owns his own labor, so when he combines that labor with the stuff of nature, he creates something that is his own, his property. And political power is vested in the government for the
purpose of preserving private property.

John Locke is widely recognized to have influenced the drafters of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, as well as the other Founding Fathers. (While there may be debate about the extent to which Locke's influence is found in the Federalist Papers, there is little doubt that his political philosophy can be recognized in much of what we consider to be American principles of governance.) In Federalist No. 10, our founders wrote: "The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests.
The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. " In other words, mankind has diverse skills and abilities, and different individuals will use these abilities in different ways to acquire property. Protection of these differences and, thus, the property they create is the "first object of government."

Conversely, in The Principles of Communism, Engels wrote that the laborer "can free himself only by abolishing private property in general."

In other words, our free system of governance relies at its core upon private property, and the first object of government should be to protect private property rights. On the other hand, a communist state can exist only where the government acts to abolish property rights.

Whew, sorry for the history/philosophy/civics review. What the hell does it have to do with the sign code? I would hope that the answer is obvious to anyone who bothers to read this 'blog.

When a small group of citizens comes together to try to regulate what I can and cannot do on my private property based in large part on aesthetics, how can we possibly think that this process does not infringe on my property rights? Come on, think about this.
Less then 20 of our fellow citizens are going to tell the remaining 60,000 of us that they will decide what is pretty and what is not, what looks good and what does not, how big is too big, what colors are good and what colors are bad? Can you honestly say that the "first object" of our City Commission is the protection of our private property rights?

I went to the informal meeting this morning between the Sign Committee and the City Commission. As I listened to the speakers talk about what was an "appropriate" sign, what would be an "improvement," what signs are "not so good," I was struck by a very basic question. Do any of these people who purport to govern us ever stop and think about the absolutely incredible seriousness of the steps they take? Do they ever stop and really contemplate that every one of their little sign codes or zoning codes or other ordinances actually shackles their fellow citizens? Do they ever stop and think about the cumulative effect of years and years of City Commissions and bureaucrats and regulation and permitting?

I don't think they do. I don't think they care.

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