Right to Play

They say that there is no pleasing everybody.  But what happens when one feels that their individual rights and freedoms are under attack?  More so, what happens when their friends and neighbors think that they have no ground to stand on?  In recent months governments have legislated away freedoms in the name of knowing what is best for people.  However, the issue that I will address today is about a woman in Peterborough, Ontario who is demanding $25,000 in compensation from her neighbor because her teenage son is playing basketball too loudly in his driveway.  When her neighbors suggested a wooden panel to block the sound that travelled through her window, she claimed that it was an intentional blockage of her right to sunlight.  To take things further, this lady, Ms. Langdon issued a press release to inform the public that she has asked the province’s Environmental Commissioner to investigate.  To be clear, she is asking for government intervention to stop a boy from doing exactly what we should be encouraging: active participation, and exercise in the place of video games.  Thankfully, her neighbors have decisively sided with the boy who just wants to play basketball, and his family the Elliotts.

At the heart of this issue is the issue of property rights.  Property rights are the exclusive authority to determine how a resource is used, and who owns the resource.  In this case, the resource in question is the driveway between the two homes.  At the core, property rights are the right to use a good as the owner sees fit.  This means that the homeowners have the right to use their driveway to practice basketball, park their car, hold a garage sale, or leave it empty.  However Ms. Langdon says that the sound of the basketball represents an ongoing disruption of the enjoyment of her home, damage to her health and well being, and the loss of sunlight.  She is asking for $25,000.  There is something to be said for striking the right balance of individual freedoms and community living.  There is also something to be said for being rational.

A fair balance between competing individual rights is important.  People need to take responsibility and not call upon the government to solve minor disputes.  As a society we need to protect the rights of young people to be young people.  We need to protect the rights of children to play and the rights of property owners to use their property as they see fit.  More so, we need to protect and promote the rights of the individual within the context of society to live a fulfilling life where one is free to pursue the choices that they desire to make and free to make mistakes that will surely come alongside.

-Alanna Newman

One thought on “Right to Play

  1. Hey Alanna,

    I agree with you in some senses here. Sure, that person asking for $25,000 for a kid next door to stop playing basketball sounds pretty ridiculous, but your defense of property rights ignores (to some degree) the neighbors property rights. If the kid plays basketball, it’s noisy and it bothers the neighbor, then that makes the neighbor worse off. We should at least consider her side here. Could the kid set up huge speakers at the edge of his property and play ultra loud music at the neighbors house all night? I’m pretty sure advocates of property rights would argue that there’s something wrong with that.

    Anyway, I, of course, agree that this sort of thing should be handled privately, but I wouldn’t just come out and say “that kid’s on his own land, he can do whatever he wants.” That argument is a pretty slippery slope, and one that I don’t think we want to go down.

    Check out Ronald Coases’ “The Problem of Social Cost”. He gets into a lot of issues on conflicting property rights in the article that might be useful to you in discussions like this one:

    http://weber.ucsd.edu/~jlbroz/Courses/POLI200C/syllabus/Coase_social%20cost.pdf

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