Regulation of the Day 69: Owning More than Three Cats

A new ordinance in Dudley, Massachusetts makes it illegal to own more than three cats without government consent. (Hat tip: Drudge)

Having solved all of the community’s other problems, regulators now have the time to turn their attention to what is apparently a spat between neighbors. One resident is upset that the 15 cats (!) owned by a neighboring woman have been sullying his yard.

I might suggest that Coaseian bargaining might be a better solution than a law.

A fiat decision in favor of one party will leave at least one disputant dissatisfied. In this case, the cat lady is looking to move to a different town. Why not treat both parties as equals with rights to need to be respected? That approach is far more likely to generate an outcome everyone is happy with.

Presumably the offended neighbor is willing to pay some amount to keep the cats off of his yard. The cat lady is also willing to pay some price to keep her cats. Let them bargain, then. Maybe they can split the cost of building a fence. Whatever they agree on. The point is that there is a missing market here.

Allowing the parties to bargain creates that missing market. It allows the neighbors to come to a peaceful, mutually agreeable solution. Passing a law favoring one over the other is simply unfair.