Monday, January 18, 2010

Libertarian paradise emerging in post-earthquake Haiti

Lynch mobs turn on looters amid Haiti aid crisis - Times Online: "Six days after the Port-au-Prince earthquake large areas of the city remain untouched by the global aid effort as bottlenecks continue to clog the airport and looting threatens to descend into wholesale violence."
I would be interested in hearing the libertarian perspective on why, when Haiti's government collapsed along with the government buildings, people didn't immediately begin ordering their affairs with voluntary and efficient contracts. Instead, with no government and a long delay before external aid appears, Haiti is offering a good look at Thomas Hobbes' vision of life in a state of nature: "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

This is also a good lesson for the survivalist wingnuts who can't wait for the the US to collapse so they can grab their bugout bag and a .223 and machete-hack their way through the marauding gangs to a patch of open land where they will set up a homestead and live off venison and home grown mung beans. Good luck with that.


Mike G said...

Libertarianism is not the same thing as anarchy. The libertarian paradise is a government that protects people from physical harm at the hands of others, protects property from theft or destruction, and enforces contracts.

Anonymous said...

"The libertarian paradise is a government that ... protects property from theft ... and enforces contracts."

Then why are libertarians apologists for HOAs that engage in property theft?

Is it because the their victims are bound by contracts that are encouraged/mandated/required by the government, and allow one party to change the terms without consent of the other party, who has no rights under the contract? As Darth Vader said to Lando Calrisian, "I have altered the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

My experience with HOAs has caused me to question the foundations of conservatism and libertarianism. While I'm not going to become an Obamunist, I've come to believe that a large faction of conservatism/libertarianism/capitalism/free-market beliefs are simply a front for a privatized corporate dystopia, not freedom and liberty.

It seems to be the only explanation of how conservative/libertarian/free-market organizations, which claim to be devoted to property rights, are willing to abandon individual property owners in favor of HOA corporations.

Anonymous said...

Science-fiction author James P. Hogan, a two-time winner of the Prometheus Award "to honor libertarian fiction" (1983 and 1993), wrote back in March 1997:

I'm not an anarchist, as I'd interpret a faction within the Libertarian movement to be. Although I agree that we're over-governed and over-regulated at present, it doesn't follow that a better situation would be no government at all. ...

Free-market ideology. I get uncomfortable when one solution is pushed as the answer to everything, on principle, and with attempts to twist and contort it into fitting even when it doesn't seem to want to. The result becomes a quasi-church. ...

The other reservation I have about the free-market ideal is if it could ever exist in practice. Start the race with a fair field, and some, through ability, luck, or whatever other combination of reasons will do better than others. As soon as some begin to amass sufficient wealth, human nature being what it is, they will use it to influence the lawmaking processes of whatever society they live in to advantage themselves and disadvantage their competitors. Very likely they won't perceive themselves as doing this, but as merely protecting themselves against others who are--or who would if we don't preempt them. And as soon as that happens, a free market has ceased operating. The situation is somewhat like a cone standing on its tip--theoretically possible, but too susceptible to the least disturbance to be stable. ...

The disagreement is over whether it can best be achieved through state coercion or unrestricted private enterprise. I have a feeling that this isn't a realistic alternative, since any excess of one provokes a resurgence of the other. Such swinging back and forth is a characteristic of systems that offer only a choice between two opposites. (Pendulums are moving at their fastest and impossibly to stop just at the mid point where you'd want them.) ...

and in October 1997:

I'd submit that the competitive economics enshrined by the mythology of our own culture is far from the ideal of rationality and efficiency that we imagine. When millions of people have to work themselves into neurosis and sickness fifty weeks out of the year to satisfy needs that require a multi-billion-dollar propaganda industry to persuade them they have, there's something crazy going on at the heart of it. Every fourteen days, we spend more on cosmetics, entertainments, and alcohol than we did on Apollo in its peak year.

I think we can do better than a system that alienates individuals by pitching each in a battle against all, where everyone becomes a threat or an adversary. Ultimately, compassion and tolerance at the personal level are what decent societies are built on.

and in February 2002:

While I've written much over the years that promotes a free-market approach as the better way to tackle many things in life, I don't buy it as the automatic cure-all that some people say it is, based on the premise that price automatically indicates the worth of anything. The fallacy, it seems to me, lies in the claim that the market caters to majority needs as indicated by price, whereas in reality it caters to the whims of those most able to pay.

Mike G said...

Libertarian/conservative support for HOA is a mystery to me. I'm just now starting to dip my toe into the housing market. The one condition I have is that I will not under any circumstances buy with an HOA.

Some conservatives/libertarians make the argument that they are private contracts and should be enforced. That's true in theory, but in reality they operate more as a government. The rules can be changed without the 100% approval of the governed.

A private contract must have the consent of both parties before a change is made. Not so with the HOA. Also, they do the opposite of what the constitution does in that it lists restrictions of the governed rather than the governing body. So to gain more freedom you need a supermajority.

HOAs show why limited government is so important. The people involved in them want to push their way of living on others. People have a natural urge to dominate others whether physically or economically. Government, in the purest form stops them from doing so.

Local governments love HOAs because they do some of the work for them and they can spend the money elsewhere.

So to sum up, I'm libertarian and believe HOAs are more hyper-local government rather than private contract. They should be treated as such.

The simple solution is for everyone to refuse to buy a house with one of them and they'll go away soon enough. However, I realize that the simple solution probably won't happen anytime soon.

Shu Bartholomew said...

"The simple solution is for everyone to refuse to buy a house with one of them and they'll go away soon enough."

In theory that makes sense but the reality is that in some places the only housing available, for all practical purposes, is in an HOA. In Fairfax County, VA the guesstimate is that over 90% of all housing is in an HOA. None controlled housing is being torn down (and replaced with HOAs)because they are old and don't comply with the current "smart growth" hype.

Some states, like Texas, grant non controlled neighborhoods to impose mandatory membership HOAs with a vote of a relatively small percentage of the neighboring owners.

So the "If you don't like it, don't move here" argument is a non starter.

The Libertarian thinking on anyone who knowingly and willingly enters into a contract is bound by it, is valid. What is NOT valid is that HOAs fall under the accepted definition of a contract. No one in their right mind would agreee to surrender control of everything to an unknown third party.

The Gun Control Lobby said...

Dear HOA Board of Directors:

As you are aware, there have been several incidents of violence, including shootings, directed at HOA board members and homeowners in recent years (e.g., the shooting death of Rita Hohmeier in Franlink Park, IL, and the fatal shootings at the Ventena Lakes HOA meeting).

Scientific statistics compiled by the University of Anglia’s Gun Research Unit (GRU) show that most people are shot by somebody they know, which means that you are at greatest risk from other home owners within your community who own guns.

Although our lawmakers will not stand up to the gun lobby, and refuse to curtail the easy access to guns in this country, you can do something about this problem and protect yourselves.

HOAs have the power of small governments, but are shielded as corporations. Therefore, recent court rulings that erroneously refer to the second amendment as an individual right do not apply to your association. You have it within your power to amend the rules of the HOA to prohibit privately owned firearms in your common interest community.

In exchange for the benefits of common collective ownership, the residents elect a legislative/executive board and delegate powers to the HOA board. The courts have ruled that "The restrictions on the use of property in any common interest development may limit activities in the common areas as well as in the confines of the home itself" (Nahrstedt v . Lakeside Village Condominium Assn. (1994) 8 Cal.4th at p. 373).


The Gun Control Lobby said...


In theory, such a change to the rules prohibiting firearms would require approval of the homeowners. However, in practice it is easy for an HOA board to produce the desired outcome of a homeowner election using perfectly legal methods, without resort to outright fraud. It is also possible to have the courts approve changes to the HOA rules without a vote by the members of the association.

If HOA home owners are eventually turned into renters — as has been proposed — then such a "no guns" policy change would be even easier.

Because HOAs are private corporations, many conservatives, libertarians, pro-business organizations, and private property advocates -- even those that normally support gun ownership -- will not oppose such a new policy. Their position is that HOAs can do whatever they want, since (1) the members voluntarily waived their rights, and (2) the interests of the HOA corporation take priority over the interests and rights of individual home owners. To them, HOA rules are simply a private contract matter between the HOA corporation and an individual home owner, and they have no desire to interfere with what they believe to be a free market.

The benefits of turning your community into a privatized gun free zone are twofold: (1) board members, and other home owners, would be protected from gun violence, and (2) the HOA would have another source of revenue, by levying fines against those home owners who insist on clinging to their guns, and seizing their homes through non-judicial foreclosure after fines and legal fees are imposed.

If you are interested in implementing such a change, our lawyers would be more than willing to assist you. Or, if you live in a municipality sympathetic to our goals, we can put you in touch with the city’s mayor and legal office.

If you are not interested in banning firearms within your HOA, we will be contacting your management company and attorney. We suspect they will be more sympathetic to our proposal, and may be able to act without your approval to make your common interest community a safer place.

Sincerely yours,

Fred Pilot said...

Mike G said...

"So to sum up, I'm libertarian and believe HOAs are more hyper-local government rather than private contract. They should be treated as such.

The simple solution is for everyone to refuse to buy a house with one of them and they'll go away soon enough. However, I realize that the simple solution probably won't happen anytime soon."

As you note, HOAs are properly categorized as a form of local government. As Shu Bartholomew has pointed out, this form of local government is as ubiquitous as county/muni local government areas of the U.S. One cannot avoid HOAs in these areas any more than one can avoid county/muni government.

Local government isn't determined by consumers making choices in the housing market but is in fact a matter of public policy. Recent and current public policy has sanctioned the privatization of local government in the form of mandatory membership HOAs.

Anonymous said...

The test of libertarianism is how it would function under ordinary circumstances, not how it functions among a population of people at the nadir of desperation: Impoverished after 200 years of property rights abuses, and decimated by an earthquake.

They reason they don't order their affairs with voluntary contracts because most of them need sustenance immediately and have nothing to offer but their labor, which could take months to bear fruit. I don't know a libertarian who ever claimed that her preferred system of governance was 100% earthquake-proof.

Arguments are like taxicabs. Take them as far as you actually plan to go and pay no mind to wherever else they might lead. While we're picking convenient test cases, let's analyze the Haitian government's valiant handling of the situation. Is this what we can expect to happen whenever the government's monopoly on legitimate security services is decimated by a natural disaster?

Anonymous said...

Contrast with :


These and hundreds of other survivors of Chile’s devastating earthquake have organized neighborhood watch groups, arming themselves and barricading streets to protect their damaged homes from looters. The groups have stepped in as police were overwhelmed by looting and soldiers were slow to restore order after an earthquake and tsunami.

“We take care of ourselves here,” said 51-year-old Maria Cortes. . . . Throughout the quake zone, survivors lived in fear and fed on rumors of roving mobs. Gunfire punctuated the night in Concepcion, Lota and other towns.

The eruption of banditry shocked the nation and put President Michelle Bachelet on the defensive. Chile’s much-praised urban rescue teams were hampered by slow-to-arrive equipment – and the looting of their local base in Concepcion.

Almost everywhere, citizens have banded together to eat, get water and protect damaged or destroyed homes.

This is why Americans have guns. And why getting to know your neighbors is an important part of disaster preparation.

Posted at 6:55 pm by Glenn Reynolds

Anonymous said...

Regarding my "modest proposal" above, I was not aware that our host had already commented on the issue of property rights vs. gun rights back on August 25, 2008. Go read it.

Billll said...

HOAs like PTAs and municipal governments are the hot, steaming "flowers" that attract the kind of busy-body "bees" who believe to the bottom of their souls, that the whole world would be a better place, and largely devoid of problems if only it would think and act more like they did.

Most of us would prefer to be left alone, but alas, this is not the sort of mindset that inspires one to seek office on the premise that if I am elected, I will solve all your problems. This is probably why the "shining city on the hill" will eventually, if we're lucky, become like Greece or Italy, or if we're not, Zimbabwe.

To compare libertarianism to anarchy is to reveal oneself as one of those types who loses sleep at night worrying that people are out there going places and doing things without your permission.