For The Birds

Dave Killion — April 27, 2011

There has recently been a lot of attention given in our locality to the subject of urban chickens, and it appears likely that one of our 13 local governments will soon join with four of the other local governments that already permit chickens on smaller residential lots. And you are almost certainly wondering where libertarians stand on this controversial issue.

Because I live in Victoria, I don’t really care if people in Saanich own chickens. And because I live in the Quadra Heights neighbourhood, I don’t care if people in the James Bay neighbourhood own chickens. Because I live on Smith Street I don’t care if people on Jones Street own chickens, and because I live on the 3100 block I don’t care if people on the 3200 block own chickens. To the extent that chicken ownership is an issue for me, it is so only to the extent that I can see, hear, or smell them. I suspect this is the case for people in general, and libertarians in particular.

Under the old bylaw, my neighbour couldn’t have chickens, even if that was cool with the rest of the neighbourhood. Under the new bylaw, if my neighbour’s chickens are a noisy or smelly nuisance, so long as he meets the particulars of the bylaw he is safe from legal action by my neighbours and me.  Where Common Law and negotiation could have insured each neighbourhood regulated chickens in the fashion best suited to itself, local government imposition of one-size-fits-all rules has guaranteed dissatisfaction for at least some communities.

The libertarian position is that the old bylaw was bad, and so is the new one. And the libertarian question? Why can’t local government refrain from sticking its beak where it doesn’t belong!


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