Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep . . . It starts at 6:30 AM and, together with numerous
other stressful construction noises, goes through breakfast, lunch, cocktail
hour and dinner. In south Walton county, construction crews are permitted to
work from 7 AM until 7 PM six days a week Monday through Saturday. Residents
miss the white construction crews. They didn’t get going until 8 AM, knocked
off at 3:30 PM, and didn’t work on Saturdays But the Mexican construction crews
produce non-stop construction noise 72 hours a week.
noise is relentless. OSHA has added to it with beep-beeping machines. The noise,
all penetrating, is very stressful. Many years ago on a large construction site
a heavy equipment operator backed over a workman who, like the operator, was
not paying attention. OSHA (Occupational and Safety Health Administration)
mandated beep-beeps on all construction and earth moving equipment, and on all
large trucks. Even some pickup trucks go beep-beep.
from these trucks and equipment is pervasive. It would be interesting to know
what the score is between the people killed by the stress of the noise vs.
those not backed over by construction equipment and garbage trucks. One would
think that today the beep-beep could be dispensed with and the problem of
inattention handled by cameras. But don’t expect any logic or intelligence from
OSHA. Little doubt but that the beep-beep manufacturers are a well-entrenched
lobby in Washington.
Japan there are noise ordinances that prevent real estate developers from
dumping noise from their activities onto the lives of residents. This is the
reason that Japanese homes are prefabricated and assembled, not constructed, on
site. The ability of a profit-seeker to reduce the quality of life of others is
limited by regulation. But in the barbaric US, nothing counts but profits.
the US prefabs might not be appropriate in all circumstances, but 72 hours per
week after week of construction noise inflicted on a neighborhood is certainly
not appropriate. Yet, all rights belong to the outside developer, and none to
residents, who can be surrounded on all four sides for years at a time with 72
hours a week of construction noise.
has been excessive construction noise in south Walton for about 20 years ever
since real estate speculators decided to destroy the communities along 30-A,
the county road that fronts the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida panhandle. This
was paper company land, and the paper company held on to it. Consequently,
there was little development and miles of open beach with nothing but sand
dunes and sea turtle nests. Birds galore. A person could walk the beach for
miles and not see anyone.
insurance was inexpensive, because there were relatively few dwellings, and
thereby little exposure, and many were inexpensive one-story block houses low
to the ground. Today hurricane insurance alone can drive out residents, but is
an insignificant cost to vacation rental houses bringing in five figures
weekly. The hurricane insurance rates go up with the rents, adding to the
departure of residents.
paper company threw in the towel. It was either the environmental harassment
over the stench of the paper mill at Port St. Joe or it was Wall Street
prodding the company with the threat of financing a takeover to capitalize on
the development of its real estate assets, which are considerable.
occurred with a vengeance. New high-end communities were planned and created.
But rental units, not communities, resulted. The three old communities that did
exist, Inlet Beach, Seagrove, and Grayton Beach, fell under real estate attack.
outside real estate speculator buys an Old Florida house that exudes character,
knocks it down, and puts up a McMansion that sleeps 20-30 people. The
communities are “protected” by codes that mandate single family residences. But
fraud is permitted. The speculator says he is building a single family house,
but he really is building a commercial rental that brings in $20,000 a week, a
lot of money but a low per person cost when split among 20 to 30 occupants. In
other words, it is a party house for commercial rentals, not the single family
home it is misrepresented to be.
first there is the noise of the construction. Then there is the noise of the
party house. Residents faced with the ruination of their neighborhood put their
properties up for sale. More McMansions. More party houses. What was a
community is transformed into vacation rentals.
community “protected” by single-family zoning becomes a commercial area with no
residents. Inlet Beach actually has a warehouse misrepresented by the builder
as a single family dwelling. When the community protested this violation of the
zoning, the county solved the problem by having the builder put a window into
the windowless building. Apparently this re-classified the metal-sided
warehouse as a single-family dwelling, although it is reportedly full of
county government is happy with the code violations. The rentals,
misrepresented as single family dwellings, bring in a large bed tax that pays
for “tourist development” and perks for county employees. It also eliminates
voters, making it easy for the interior parts of the county to shift the tax
burden to the coastal commercial rentals.
term residents and vacation home owners are driven out not only by construction
and party house noise, but also by the loss of their Gulf views and the
transformation of the beach from a wild one to a Coney Island Beach advertised
civilized country, such as Japan, the view enjoyed by an owner is part of his
property rights, but not in barbaric America. A Gulf view is something that can
be appropriated by an outside real estate speculator who puts up a four-story
McMansion in front of a resident’s property. By blocking the view, the outside
real estate speculator can transfer value that was in the resident’s property
to his speculation.
the activities of outside real estate speculators overdevelop the area and
create congestion, which uses up residents time in travel and makes an evening
out a traffic ordeal. Nothing is the same. Beach communities give up and die.
They are replaced with commercial enterprises.
to economic theory, which is essentially a cover for looting and theft, free
markets bring resources to their most highly valued use. This is not science.
It is an ideology. It only works if there are no external costs or, if there
are, the costs are compensated to those on whom they are imposed.
free market real estate speculation does not compensate any of the costs that
it imposes on others. Indeed, a case could be made that the external costs of
real estate speculation in south Walton county exceed the value of the
speculations constructed. The value of the communities that are destroyed are
not counted as an offset to the profits of the activities that destroyed the
only have many existing properties lost their Gulf views and been devalued, not
only have people lost time from their lives in traffic congestion, not only
have people’s enjoyment of their properties been reduced by endless
construction and party house noise, not only have people’s finances been
impacted by massive increases in property taxes and wind insurance, reflecting
the high values of the McMansion $20,000 weekly rentals and high density, not
only are people impacted by the cost of sewage fees replacing their septic
tanks and by the tax burden they must shoulder for widening the two-lane
highways into four lanes in order to provide some semblance of hurricane
evavuation for the overdeveloped areas of south Walton county, they are also
impacted by experiencing the loss of their community. It is similar to losing
one’s village or town to a wartime bombing attack. What you knew and was part
of your life is gone.
widening goes through the middle of many communities, essentially destroying
them. A family that lived far back from the road now has traffic passing
through the front yard.
of these costs, and there are more, are imposed on existing peoples and
communities by outside real estate speculators. The speculators do not, and
never will, live in the communities that they destroy. They are only concerned
with their profits, and these profits originate in the ability of the
speculators to impose the costs of their projects on every one else.
you imagine the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the Secretary of the US
Treasury, the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commision all testifying
before Congress that markets are self-regulating? Their testimony was just
prior to the collapse of unregulated financial markets requiring trillions of
newly printed dollars by the Federal Reserve to “save the system.” In their
testimony ignorance spawned by ideology spoke through the mouths of these high
markets are self-regulating, how is it possible for capitalists to impose their
costs on third parties who do not share in the profits, but who experience
enormous costs? If markets are self-regulating, how is it possible for real
estate speculators to destroy entire communities?
is a system whose costs in many instances exceed its benefits. It is often the
case that capitalist profits owe their existence to the ability of capitalism
to impose its costs on others. If the full costs of development in south Walton
county had to be borne by the developers, much of the development would not
Marx said that capitalism exists by exploiting labor, by paying labor less than
labor’s contribution to the value of output. This is true today in the
globalist corporation’s use of cheaper foreign labor to produce the goods and
services sold to the domestic US market. However, another source of capitalist
profits is the imposition of capitalism’s costs on the environment and on third
parties who do not partake of the profits.
is always profitable when its costs are paid by others.
happens to Capitalism when there is nothing left to loot and nothing left to
pollute? Being an exploitative system, capitalism is not sustainable.
Unfortunately, greed drives the system to the limits of its logic. The system
fails when the ruination it brings is complete.
real estate development has external costs, but depending on the character of
the development, the costs vary in intensity. As Martin Anderson showed in his
classic book, The Federal Bulldozer, urban renewal in inner cities displaced
many low income ethnicities and replaced them with high income recipients. The
external costs were the fate of the displaced ethnicities. When the rich
purchased their high-dollar residences, the price did not include the costs to
the people who lost their community.
in suburban countryside in which there are no established communities, if the
development poses no threat to water and environmental resources and does not
add noticably to traffic congestion, has low external costs compared to
block-busting established communities, as is occuring in south Walton county.
population grows, mainly from mindlessly accepting immigrants difficult to
assimilate, new homes are needed and will be built. But real estate development
should be carefully regulated to ensure that its costs do not exceed its
this article I have used real estate speculation to illustrate the nature of
external costs. However, external costs are not limited to real estate. They
are general and result from every economic activity. The point is not that the
villain is real estate speculators. The point is that in America property
rights are so poorly and often so one-sidedly defined, that the costs of
capitalism can be imposed on those who are excluded from the profits. Without
common sense regulation, the external costs can exceed the value of the
projects that impose the costs.
is the bad guy in all of this? Is it the real estate developer or is it the
failure of economists and legislators to take external costs seriously? It is
the latter. Generally, external costs are explained away or disposed of
theoretically on the grounds that they can be compensated. The US judicial
system was poisoned by rightwing foundations underwriting law and economics
courses taught to judges that, in effect, leave all rights in the hands of the
is the fault of law, not the developer, that he can come into your neighborhood
or community, disrupt your life and activities with noise for long periods of
time, block your view, create congestion, and cause your property taxes to rise
even though your house has been devalued by the developer’s expropriation of
your view. Americans are so brainwashed that they describe this as progress.
about the external costs of corporate agriculture and its herbicides,
pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. Think about the external costs of
concentrating 90 percent of the US media in six mega-companies repeating the
identical propaganda. Think about the external costs of Google’s, Facebooks’
and YouTube’s ability to censure the Internet. Think about the external costs
imposed on America by corporations offshoring their production of goods and
services sold on the US market. Think about the external costs of fracking.
Think about the external costs of energy exploration in environmentally
common sense regulation and an understanding that Earth’s resources are finite,
capitalism is a mechanism for destruction.