Extortion vs legitimate sale
Posted Jun 1, 2005 2:42 UTC (Wed) by giraffedata
In reply to: Difficult for a farm boy like me
Parent article: Software, reverse engineering and the law
"Ordinance" means statute. For some reason, statutes passed by local jurisdictions (city or county) are called ordinances. (Statutes, btw, are what most people call "laws," but lawyers recognize that law can come from places other than legislation, so prefer the more precise term "statute.").
A zoning ordinance is an ordinance that tells what uses of a piece of land are permissible. (It's called that because the form it takes is that it divides the city into zones -- this part is the residential zone; that part is the industrial zone, etc.) A zoning ordinance can shift wealth enormously, so the process is ripe for corruption.
A city council member has a moral obligation to vote for a zoning ordinance if he believes it is in the city's best interest. Therefore, offering to a developer to vote for it for $1000 is extortion. Remember the basic definition: offering to sell something you're morally obligated to give for free.
In a business corporation, shareholder votes are pure business. There's no morally right or wrong vote; it's all about the money. Shareholders vote to try to maximize their own wealth, and are free to sell their votes. And just as it's OK for me to charge $1000 rent for a building even if it otherwise would have been vacant, it's OK to ask $1000 for a vote even if I wanted to vote that way anyhow.
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