No Pecan Nuts to Brazil

Around Christmas 2018, I mailed a one-pound bag of pecans, harvested from local groves, to a Brazilian friend, since he didn't know what pecans are. His wife does, but she acknowledged they are rare and costly, certainly in the country's northeast. Surely they would enjoy a bag of pecans, I thought.

Mail to Brazil is slow, often a few weeks, but my friend says the Brazilian postal system is reliable, if slow. He says they have never lost or stolen anything. I expected delays because of Christmas and other seasonal holidays as well as a Brazilian postal workers' strike. But March came without the pecans showing up, so we gave up.

Around May 1st, almost a half year later, the pecans returned to me. They bag had been opened for inspection and a pamphlet inserted, written in Spanish, about what is prohibited entry into Brazil by Vigiagro, Vigilância Agropecuária Internacional. I had checked with the USPS about whether nuts could be sent to Brazil and got a definite maybe, so I decided, Why not? And now I know.

What I found particularly interesting is the forbidden items pamphlet in Spanish, not English, the international language of business. I find it odd that Brazil's Vigiagro has no English forms; however, since Brazil's neighbors and, probably, majority trading partners are nearly all Spanish-speaking, maybe there is no real reason for such forms in English.

Next time, like Ghostbusters, I'll know who to call.

Ban Zoning

The libertarian magazine Reason has produced a superb short video (below) on a "tiny house" in Washington, DC, that is running afoul of the six zoning agencies; apparently one is not enough when it comes to telling people how and where they will live. The video goes on to discuss how zoning laws appeared in New York City in 1916 then rapidly spread to major (and minor) cities everywhere.

Everywhere except Houston, Texas. That largely explains why Houston's housing is markedly cheaper than in cities of comparable size and location. It also explains why Houston has much greater, more organic, diversity of housing stock, unlike the often drab enforced uniformity of housing sectors in towns where such personal decisions have been turned over to bureaucrats.

During my time in Japan, I enjoyed its lack of zoning. In fact, I happened to spend a week living in a hotel in Tokushima City that violated the local building suggestions by being too tall (it's since been torn down) and in an apartment complex in Kunitachi City for the same reasons; the residents placed in the shade by the complex sued but lost their case. There are indeed businesses mixed among homes in Japan, but big businesses tend to move outside residential areas to cheaper land. The businesses that remain are small businesses: privately owned clinics and hospitals, bakeries, barber, coffee shops, 24-hour minimarts, and such. There is less residential-only and business-only uniformity found in much of the US, probably an inevitable result of letting bureaucrats dictate.

Get rid of zoning. It is dreary, costly, and officious.