Steet Privatization and Your Debate with Libertarians


It's funny you should mention private roads. I was just reading some of
Walter's work in this area at ( One
implication of his research that should be more thoroughly explored is the
impact that street privatization can - and already does have - on the
quality of life challenges imposed by the homeless and panhandlers in San
Francisco. Despite hundreds of millions dollars already spent on these few
thousand souls, they remain pervasive on the streets downtown. This has
really hit my radar screen now that I have moved to the Financial District.

I live across the street from a private park and near some privately owned
streets. While these properties are generally open to the public, I notice
that they have a lot fewer homeless people and beggars than nearby streets
that are maintained by the City. This difference arises from the efforts of
security guards who shoo these individuals away from private spaces; by
contrast, police leave them to their own devices in City controlled areas -
even in spite of the recent passage of the sit/lie ordinance.

I think more commercial streets in San Francisco can and should be
privatized. A few years ago, the city began allowing the formation of
"Community Benefit Districts" (CBDs) in commercial areas of the city (see
aspx and
Property owners in a CBD pay extra taxes to fund a non-profit organization
that beautifies and polices the area. These highly regulated entities are a
poor substitute for outright privatization, but seem to be a step in the
right direction. Local libertarians should advocate expanding these CBDs
and morphing them into something that works more like full private property,
in which owners have more rights to specify appropriate conduct.

While compassion for the poor and unfortunate is to be applauded, it is not
unreasonable for working people and tourists to expect to walk down the
street without being affronted by the sights, smells and behavior of
individuals who consistently refuse help and/or drop out of social programs.
Local politicians, subject to influence from pressure groups like the
Coalition for the Homeless and reasonably concerned about undermining
broader rights to assemble on public property, are reluctant to improve the
situation. Reducing the number of loitering options through privatization
could result in more homeless people finally getting off the streets and
into treatment.


P.S. - With regard to your comparison: I think most of us radical
libertarians realize that there is virtually no chance of seeing our ideals
implemented during our lifetimes. Excluding the many libertarians who plan
to freeze themselves and perhaps wake up in a world of total freedom, I
think the motivation is to educate as many people as possible as to what we
see as the most ideal, most moral social order for humanity. The hope is
that - at some point - a critical mass of people will embrace these ideas,
withdraw their tacit consent to the State's impositions and usher in a new
system through non-violent resistance to the status quo.

If your ideas have a 0.01% chance of being implemented, and my ideal has a
0.001% chance of being implemented, I may as well advocate the perfect
instead of the good.