Monday, May 29, 2006

Sign of the times

Reading the Raleigh News and Observer this morning I came across some letters to the editor in which people were complaining about billboards along the highways. These people seem to be upset that this practice is actually allowed. The basic complaint was that the natural beauty of North Carolina is being spoiled, and that we as citizens have the right to drive the highways without having our view obstructed by garish signs.

Maybe it's because I grew up in an area where billboards were somewhat ubiquitous, but I've never had a problem with signs lining the highways. I've definitely never thought that I had some natural right to a scenic view while I was driving. Of course, that doesn't mean that I don't find some signs ugly or inappropriately placed. I just don't see how my aesthetic tastes trump the property rights of others.

One of the writers quoted a court ruling saying that billboards don't have a "right to be seen." Well, besides the fact that billboards don't have any rights, what right does the letter writer have to an unobstructed view of the countryside during their commute? While an individual or company may not have a right to have their billboard seen, they do have property rights and the right to contract with owners of roadside property.

Having said all that, I wonder how the Rothbardian homesteading principle would apply? I'll leave that for another time.

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