By Mencken’s Ghost
Feb. 23, 2012
My wife and I live in a small townhouse
in a gated homeowners association, or HOA, of 176 homes. The similarities and dissimilarities between life in
the HOA and life in the USA
In theory, HOAs should be libertarian
paradises, except for those libertarians from the anarchist fringe who believe
the wacky notion that life would be swell without any government or formal laws
First, HOAs are based on the libertarian
principle of voluntary association. People move to HOAs voluntarily and with
full knowledge of the rules and regulations. In that sense, they are similar
to legal immigrants who move to the USA.
Second, the rules and regulations of
normal HOAs are based on another libertarian principle of people being allowed
to do whatever they want--as long as they don’t harm others, infringe on the
rights of others, take the property of others, disturb others, or behave in
ways that negatively impact the value of other people’s property. It
is none of the HOA’s business if a resident smokes pot, is in a gay
marriage, is in the one percent or 99 percent, is an atheist or God-fearing, or
buys stuff from suppliers outside of the HOA. Moreover, HOAs don’t invade other
HOAs to force them to adopt the invader’s rules and regulations.
fees are based on services rendered, such as the maintenance of common areas
and streets. Residents cannot vote to give themselves free stuff at the
expense of other residents or to redistribute the fees in order to satisfy
their yearning to be charitable with other people’s money. Also, thankfully,
HOAs cannot engage in deficit spending by printing fiat money and issuing HOA
bonds. Residents are free to help the association and their neighbors through
volunteering and free choice, or, if they prefer, to be left alone.
Unfortunately, this libertarian paradise is under constant attack.
First, amazingly, numbskulls move to the
HOA and immediately begin to violate the rules and regulations that they knew
beforehand and that made the community a desirable place to move to in the
first place. They are like citizens
of the USA
who are determined to destroy the things that have made the country prosperous
and free. A few numbskulls end up making life miserable for everyone else.
Second, special interests from outside
the HOA can’t keep their noses out of the HOA’s business. Take one of the most powerful and most self-serving
special-interest groups at the state level: realtors. Realtors got a law
passed in my home state of Arizona
to forbid HOAs from restricting the use of for-sale signs on the front lawns of
homes for sale, including homes in gated communities, where the general public
can’t drive by and see the signs. Even if they could see the signs, it’s a
closely guarded secret in the real estate industry that for-sale signs are
really about advertising a real estate agent’s name and not about helping to
sell a home. In fact, in a down market, a proliferation of for-sale signs in a
neighborhood can have a detrimental effect on prices and salability.
An aside: Think
about how much better life in the USA would be if federal, state and
municipal laws were passed to outlaw the passage of any law that benefits one
special-interest group at the expense of everyone else. Of course, such laws
would never be passed, because they would dramatically reduce the power and
importance of politicians and the campaign contributions they receive; and
because the laws would keep busybodies from trying to remake the world into
their own narcissistic image.
most citizens of the USA,
most HOA residents are apathetic. They
don’t read HOA newsletters, don’t attend HOA meetings, don’t review HOA
financial statements, and don’t get actively involved in their community--until
it’s too late and the HOA is facing a crisis in finance and governance.
about one million times more people live in the USA than in my HOA. That means there are one million times more numbskulls,
one million times more apathetic people, one million times more special
interests, one million times more rules and regulations, and one million times
more chances for things to go awry.
That’s a scary thought.
_____________Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.