Sunday, August 17, 2008

NIMBY: Wind Turbine Edition

Some people don't want wind turbines disrupting their scenery. OK, fair enough. It comes down to a question of property rights. If you own the property where the proposed wind turbines would be built, then you have every right to stop them if you don't want them there. If you don't own the property, sorry but your scenery may now include wind turbines.

If the offended land owners valued the pristine view more than the developer valued the land as a site for wind turbines, then they should pool their money and out bid the developer, acquire the land and keep in its current state.

But the developer has more money. Why should he who has the most money always get what he wants?
Excellent question. Let me try to answer that with an example. I would like to have a new truck, a 50 inch flat screen TV, more books, and steak for dinner every night. Why don't I have all of these things? My budget constraint. All of that stuff would be cool, but my budget only allows me to buy so much stuff. My ability to pay for these goods is not high enough for the current owners of these goods to voluntarily trade with me. I still value this stuff, I just can't acquire everything that I value. Someone with more money, or different priorities, will acquire the stuff that I want. Such is life in a world of unlimited wants and limited means to acquire such wants.
If you own something, then you can control its use. If you don't own it, you can seek to control something's use by coming to a voluntary agreement with its current owners to purchase the asset or change its usage, or you attempt to control it through the political system, that is via coercion. It is when the latter happens that NIMBY becomes a problem.

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