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Why do we allow people to build permanent homes and businesses on coast lines and flood plains?

Makes no sense to me.

"We all like to congregate at boundary conditions. Where land meets water. Where earth meets air. Where bodies meet mind. Where space meets time. We like to be on one side, and look at the other" - Douglas Adams

Of course, that's just an explanation of why we like being near coast lines. The direct answer to your question is that we generally don't 'allow' things in this country, but rather you're at liberty to do whatever you like unless government prohibits it. For good or ill, an outright prohibition on building anything on land is usually (though not always) considered a taking of private property under the Fifth Amendment. So local governments (who typically have the primary role in these things) are often loathe to prohibit development and risk liability.

Why we subsidize flood insurance is a different question, of course....

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