mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

On chairs and property rights...

Jesse Walker at has a post on a subject I've written about before - Boston's refusal to allow people to save their shoveled-out parking spots with chairs and the like 48 hours after a snowstorm.

The whole parking thing is always interesting because it's sort of a tragedy of the commons, failure of public property type thing. Plus, I live in the city and park on the street, and always wonder if I'll be able to find a place to park my car.

But what I think is interesting is that Jesse lives in South Baltimore. He talks about how in the absence of laws, people have socially accepted ways of dealing with things, like you don't park in someone's shoveled-out, saved spot. He also says that:

Here in Baltimore, it's generally understood that a homeowner is supposed to shovel out not just his car but the stretch of sidewalk in front of his stoop. (You can, of course, hire a kid to do this for you.) This may or may not be required by law, but I've never heard of anyone actually getting a ticket for failing to do it; the only real sanction is the disapproval of your neighbors.

Actually, no. I do know someone who was ticketed for not shoveling a walkway- my landlord. Two years ago, he was out of the country, and neither my housemates nor I bothered to shovel. A few weeks later, he got a $25 ticket from the city of Baltimore for not shoveling his walk.

We kind of figure that one of his neighbors who he doesn't get along with ratted on him, and I don't know if the city really goes around looking for people to ticket - although it wouldn't surprise me. But I guess Baltimore figures the social contract isn't enough and they need government to enforce it.

And I hate to admit it but it worked - after the last snowstorm I made a point of shoveling the walkway and the sidewalk so he wouldn't get ticketed again.

And I noticed that while I, and most people, just shoveled enough of a path for people to walk thru, the neighbor who we think narc'ed him had their walkway perfectly shoveled from the edge of the grass to the street. If you looked just down at their sidewalk, you wouldn't know it snowed.


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