David SimsEssays

Florida: Now It’s Illegal to Share Your Own Home

And other infringements of our rights

by David Sims

MIAMI AND MIAMI BEACH have now passed laws making it illegal to rent out unused space in your own home. A smartphone app called “AirBNB” was facilitating that, and using it is now illegal in those cities too. Miami Beach mayor Phillip Levine has led the charge against home sharing.

This sounds like another collusion between local government and local business (motels, hotels, landlords) against the interests of the common citizen.

Sharing your property is a right protected by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Your property is your property because you have certain liberties regarding your relationship with it. You may dispose of it as you like, use it as you wish. It is a good question whether the government may constitutionally even tax property (i.e. threaten to deprive you of your property unless a regular fee is paid for no reason other than that you own the property), let alone prevent you from sharing it with someone for a while.

Big business often behaves as if its minions regarded their fellow citizens as their property, and calls upon government to enact laws that enforce this attitude on the rest of us, regardless of whether it is consistent with the highest law of the land, our national Constitution.

These businesses and the politicians who empower them to infringe on our constitutionally protected liberties are, in a sense, at war with us. The police are their shock troops. We ought to be able to fight back against this illicit system in an appropriate manner. It would be called “terrorism,” of course. But that word would be no more appropriate to our struggle now and hereafter than it was to Samuel Adams and George Washington.

The law at times seems like something Franz Kafka and George Orwell might have collaborated in making. A fellow in Virginia has been arrested for the “felony” of dressing up as The Joker (a character from Batman) and being seen in public. The legal issue stems from the facial make-up required to look like the character being characterized as “wearing a mask in public.” What was the guy’s reason? Apparently, it was just a lark. He didn’t know about the law, it seems, and he wanted to appear as The Joker just for the thrill of it.

A felony is supposed to be a serious crime — something truly dangerous from which we need to be protected. But the “crime” of wearing a mask in public is not serious. Only the penalty is. Let’s not be confused on the matter. The Virginia law is probably unconstitutional. The standard for restriction of speech (most of the time) is “a clear and present danger.” And wearing a mask is a kind of expression, hence a kind of speech. Wearing a mask, per se, does not involve a clear and present danger, unlike shouting “fire!” (as a hoax) in a crowded theater, or whipping up a riot by making an inflammatory speech.

But it wasn’t Franz Kafka and George Orwell who made this “law.” Instead, it was Republican and Democratic politicians (whom we’d all be better off without, I think) who were pandering to Jews and other minorities, targeting members of the nearly-defunct and legally defenseless Ku Klux Klan, who sometimes wear hoods (based an an old Spanish religious order’s robes) that are falsely characterized as “masks.”

Don’t be too surprised if this law is selectively enforced against culturally mainstream Americans, while Muslim women wearing burkas with niqāb facial coverings are ignored by the police — and while mask-wearing leftist rioters brandishing tire-irons at nationalist marches are winked at.

Next thing you know, it’ll be illegal to grow a beard if you didn’t have one when you posed for your driver’s license photo.

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Source: Author and Reason magazine

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