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Some real grassroots politics - Input Junkie
November 2nd, 2010
10:41 am


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Some real grassroots politics
Podcast about Home Owners Association

I happened on this, and I thought I'd share yet another non-obvious angle on things going wrong. I don't know how you guys can stand how good I am to you.

It's about an hour, but here are some highlights. The short version is that home owners associations are independent powers, with extraordinary abilities to screw over home owners. Local governments are complicit with the HOAs. One of the consequences is that in a bad economy things get worse.

Libertarian ideas get blamed (in some detail), but so does Obama, I think for believing that money can be pulled out of the economy here and spent there and somehow things will get better.

Speaking of libertarianism, apparently the laws inspired by Kelo (that private property can't be taken by a government to give or sell to a private interest) are dead letters-- the claim is that more such takings are going on.

The general idea is that some sort of collective action by homeowners is needed (approximate quote: "Elections are the least disruptive form of collective action"), but exactly what the collective action is supposed to aim at is not defined. Maybe that information is elsewhere on the site.

A flaw in a lot of a libertarian thinking is that there's no sense of process-- an honest free market is supposed to just happen. Once you see a flaw like that, you start seeing it everywhere (and occasional examples of the opposing virtue). These guys seem to think that good government can just happen.

HOAs are compared to Nazis and to the Soviet Union, but I think the closest analogy is those corrupt small town governments in John MacDonald novels, including some violence. I'm sure a good mystery novel or three could be written about murder committed by an HOA. Are there any?

Why were the contracts written so that it took 2/3 of the homeowners to change provisions, when it's nearly impossible to get that many to show up, let alone vote in the same direction? Originally, the fear was of all the crazy homeowners. *sigh*

Anyway, the 2/3 provision meant that the homeowners couldn't get rid of the (eventually Federally unenforceable) racial restrictions, so judges completely set aside the contracts, meaning that the HOAs had even more power.

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(7 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:November 2nd, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
A flaw in a lot of a libertarian thinking is that there's no sense of process-- an honest free market is supposed to just happen. Once you see a flaw like that, you start seeing it everywhere (and occasional examples of the opposing virtue). These guys seem to think that good government can just happen.

I'm reminded of this joke: "How many libertarians does it take to change a light bulb? None, the market will take care of it." I think creating non-government alternatives (one example would be homeschooling support) is one of the most useful things libertarians can do, and it's often neglected.
Date:November 2nd, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
Strange the way American right-wingers have appropriated these ideas of the 'free, organic society' that are more natural to Anarchism. Noam Chomsky talks about 'Libertarianism' as well but he defines it entirely differently - it's the original, European usage of the term.

How can oligarchy free anyone except the oligarchs!?

Is an HOA anything like a housing co-op? I was reading about those recently and it seemed like a good idea; right now in the UK there's a dearth of cheap housing and the new government won't build any new housing without the involvement of the private sector.
[User Picture]
Date:November 2nd, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
I don't know enough about your housing co-ops to have an opinion.

HOAs are started by real estate developers, and then transferred to the home owners.

As for appropriation, it's hard to say-- basic political ideas kind of float around. What intrigued me about the podcast was that the people in it weren't exactly either left or right wing. They were being hurt by a vast government/business conspiracy, and weren't sure what to do about it.

Near the end of the podcast, one of the people was talking about not quite being able to put a finger on what was going on.

Edited at 2010-11-02 05:15 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:November 2nd, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)

I'm wondering whether anonymous means what's often called "co-housing" in the U.S. - rather like a commune, but with ownership of a certain amount of individual living space.

Edited at 2010-11-02 05:36 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:November 3rd, 2010 04:24 pm (UTC)
Don't forget only being able to paint the house certain colors, and the landscaping has to use plants on the approved list, and so on, and so on...
[User Picture]
Date:November 3rd, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
Rules restricting who can be sold to by race/religion are no longer permitted, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's illegal to refuse to sell according to sexual orientation.

I think there's housing that doesn't permit children as residents, but I don't know whether any of it is suburban.

That being said, all the other sorts of rules exist, and I've never heard anyone say anything good about an HOA.

What fascinated me about the podcast was people in an obviously bad situation without obvious political tools to deal with it. Could something interesting happen?

Alternatively, could local politicians win by promising to constrain HOAs?

It does make Heinlein's vision of Americans seem like a bit of a fantasy, doesn't it?

Edited at 2010-11-03 04:47 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:November 3rd, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
Motto for the House Party: "Paint is speech!"

National character is a complicated thing. I think of it as a complicated interaction between temperament and random events.

I don't know if Americans were quite as compliant about petty tyranny when Heinlein was forming his ideas about them. Korzybski strikes again!
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