Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It is my right to do what I want with my property

Last week was London Week of Action of empty homes and we did a fair bit of TV and radio work on the issue of empty homes in London: there are still over 33,000 privately owned homes empty for more than six months.

I then took a call from a very irate member of the public. He had heard a piece about how the London borough of Newham was using compulsory purchase as a way of tackling long-term private empty property. Our caller was incensed - it is my right, he claimed, to do whatever I want with my property. If I want to leave it empty, he insisted, I have the perfect right to do so and no charity or council has any right to tell me any differently!

What do you think - did our caller have a point? Should the freedom to keep a property empty be stronger than any other freedom? Or should the rights of neighbours not to have to live next to an empty property be considered? Or what of the rights of the thousands of homeless families in London to live in a decent home? What do you think?


  1. Obviously he has a point and he's saying something quite fundamental I'd have thought in terms of one side of an old socio political argument (one of those that never seems to reach a conclusion in the less than narrow minded).

    Whether or not it is his right by law is a different matter. Ownership of something does not necessarily imply the right to do what you want with it, does it?. If you own a horse there are stipulations on what you can and can't do with it. If you own a car there are other considerations you need to take into account.

    Isn't it the same with buildings?

  2. sorry, the above was suppose to read; 'if you own a car there are other considerations than ownership you need to take into account in order to be able to drive it on the road'

  3. Yes, He’s right and you are wrong. Unless we have the freedom of property then we don’t actually have any of the others.

    You’re a vile man for passing the law that steals houses from those who own them.

    Yes, we could have a more public debate about this. I would welcome it in fact.

    My email is timworstallATgmailDOTcom. I would suggest that we do so at Nightcap Syndication.

    My starting point will be that you have abolished, stolen, the most basic freedom that we have spent 800 years building.

    I look forward to the debate.

  4. Mr Worstall, you don't half like to blog do you?

    Do you ever get time for anything else? One so sure of right or wrong. Cut and Dry. So Angular and so British.

    Intellectual property by contrast, has been the right of anyone more economically more powerful to steal back since Henry VII stole a riff from a poor minstrel.

    It's only when it's the other way around that you appear to get a little uneasy about property.