Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Here's another striking example of land use law being employed as a surrogate for other social values. In Amsterdam, the famous and infamous red light district has long been one of the city's most popular "attractions." In 2000, the Dutch government made prostitution fully legal, in the hope that it would transform it into just another occupation, with rules, regulations, and protections for workers. But the crime and abuse that surround prostitution have not been easy to cleanse. Accordingly, Amsterdam's mayor announced this week a new plan to transform much of the red right district into new, non-sex-related development. While closing many of the brothels will no doubt push some prostitution "underground," the government appears to hope that making prostitution more difficult through land use may help ameliorate some of the social problems that the trade generates. It reminds one of the failed experiment of Zurich, Switzerland, with its "needle park" in the 1980s, when the Swiss attempted to control heroin use by legalizing and regulating it in one particular area of land.
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Monday, December 17, 2007
Other nations may now be as automobile-crazy as America has been for decades, but I doubt that any nation can touch the United States for the amount of things that one can do in one's car. Although Americans have largely abandoned the novel practice of watching a movie from one's car (this is now most often done at home), Americans line up to buy donuts and burgers, watch DVDs, sleep, make love, and purchase alcohol from their cars. But a growing number of jurisdictions are banning the practice of drive-through liquor stores.
The government of Charles County, Md., a booming exurb south of Washington, is working on a plan to prohibit drive-through sales as part of the requirements for liquor licenses. Interestingly, the reasons for the ban appear to be two-fold. First, the county wants to burnish its image from -- well, the kind of place where people buy beer at drive-throughs -- to a more sophisticated suburb of comfortable residential developments. Second, the county apparently believes that drive-throughs encourage drinking and driving. A switch to walk-in only liquor stores won't stop everyone from drinking and driving, of course, but it does require more effort to park one's car and enter a liquor store on foot -- and we already know that Americans don't like to leave their cars. Accordingly, marginally less alcohol would be sold. Once again, land use law is used as a means to indirectly foster other policies -- here, the effort against drunk driving -- with the prospect of rather uncertain results …
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