I like what you’re saying, so I won’t zone you out.

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy Ilya Somin has posted that Berkeley is “considering enacting a zoning ordinance to restrict [military recruiters'] location[s] in much the same way as other cities use zoning to restrict or ban businesses selling pornography.” He writes:

Conservatives are justifiably outraged by the proposed Berkeley measure. I share their indignation. However, it is striking that advocates of the Berkeley measure use most of the same arguments for it as many conservatives use to justify zoning out adult businesses and other enterprises they disapprove of.

For example, the Berkeleyites claim that the measure is justified on the basis of community morality in Berkeley, where much of the very left-wing population finds military recruiters offensive. As Berkeley Councilmember Dona Spring puts it, “I do want to do something, whatever we can do, to shut down an agency that offends our public standards.” Conservatives similarly argue that local communities that find adult businesses offensive should be able to ban them for that reason. If conservative local majorities should be able to use zoning law to enforce their moral values, why shouldn’t the left-wing local majority in Berkeley be able to do the same thing?

[T]hey should not use the heavy hand of government to force out enterprises merely because they find them offensive. Zoning might be able to play a valuable role in providing certain local public goods and in restricting businesses that cause genuinely severe harm to their neighbors. But mere community disapproval – whether by the right or the left – should not be enough to justify such restrictions.

I so agree. I notice, though, that the proposed zoning ban would apply to both government and private military recruiting offices. Certainly the zoning measure is flawed as it applies to private recruiters. And it lacks no better basis when it comes to government recruiters. I’m curious to hear how a local or state actor restricts the speech of a federal actor. Interesting stuff!

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