Satoshi's Sidewalk #14: Regulatory Amber

Historic Preservation is misnomer.

Historic Preservation is the act of preventing buildings or sites deemed “nationally significant” from being altered for a different use or demolished for a new development. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 established federal law for the definition, treatment, and preservation of sites deemed historic or important to American history. Admirable goal, I suppose.

Historic Preservation comes in three flavors: preservation, restoration, and reconstruction. Preservation is for sites which cannot technically be restored or rebuilt, and are only preserved to the best degree possible. Restoration is restoring, typically houses and buildings, to be the equivalent of their original, historic state. Reconstruction is rebuilding something brick for brick which was destroyed by some event in the past.

This is not, however, how the law is used. Local and state governments under pressure from denizens and organized groups vote to preserve all manner of sites and buildings. None of which should be maintained by taxpayer dollars.

In my town historic preservation has been granted to an entire neighborhood constructed in the 1950s. The houses in the community are a) not remotely close to being architectural wonders and b) are small townhouses along arterial and semi-arterial roads. There are not other traits which would ordinary cause the homes in this neighborhood to be of historic significance. With the passing of historic status, the homes and community writ large cannot be altered in any substantial matter. No color changes. No garage doors added. No exterior remodeling or updating. This community is now trapped in regulatory amber. Forever. Not even John Hammond can help.

Even if a homeowner is able to get approval, neighbors will do their best to throw a wrench in the process by petitioning bureaucrats or filing lawsuits. Both are petty moves but it works. Owners of historic properties are then stuck with what they’ve got and are limited to some interior modifications - unless the property must be fully restored. If restoration is required the owner must use approved, equivalent materials and stick to the original floor plan. So much for your property rights. And basic common sense.

Speaking of property rights - as a developer and builder this author can assure you, dear reader, actual real property rights only apply to your real property. Certainly not to an irksome neighbor or a neighbor who received approval for something you could not in the past. As far as things go it’s a rough situation.

Owners of historic property have severely curtailed real property rights. These restrictions not only prevent owners from minor and major modifications, would-be future owners are also limited in action and use of their real property. Land does not have to change over time but must have an option to change. Trapping parcels in regulatory amber for feel-good, subjective badges of MuH hIsToRy is akin to condemning sites and neighborhoods to routine decay and abandonment.

Only after a wave of redevelopment will some historic sites be restored. There are no guarantees. Cities are hamstringing themselves when passing historic ordinances when already strained financially - or even bankrupt.

Bitcoin provides ideal real property rights in cyberspace. Your bitcoin cannot be diluted, black listed, appropriated, or be prevented from transacting. The protocol’s code will not act against you. Computer code is an instance of following set forth parameters. Simple as.

Bitcoin is for enemies. No annoying neighbors. No pandering councilmen. No do-gooder bureaucrats. No one - but you, the keyholder, can control your bitcoin.

This author believes bitcoin’s protocol will become the ideal to strive for when legislating real property rights in meatspace. Code is law - and bitcoin’s code is monetary law. Both real property rights and property rights can be informed and reformed under a new North Star. Real property rights have been severely degraded since the early 20th century. Government at every level is able to deter, nudge, and prevent wealth creating development patterns.

With the protocol as our ideal form, we can work to restore the real property rights of individual landowners.