Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“I'm in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my values system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.”     Milton Friedman

August 25, 2008

Libertarians Who Don’t Respect Property Rights

by Doug Mataconis

A blogger at Lew Rockwell.com decries the notion that private organizations have the right to make their own rules:

Homeowners’ associations can be filled with hordes of power mongering, petty, little tyrants who love to play Big Bureaucrat and run the lives of everyone else. In Texas – of all places – there is an HOA that will not allow your Hillbilly Cadillac in the driveway. Because it’s too unsightly. Yeah, you know the rules when you move in. But still, non-libertarian people yearn to play the roles of authoritarian bullies who can’t wait to use a bunch of silly and domineering “rules” to control others.

But, you see, there’s a perfectly reasonable libertarian answer to this non-existent problem:

POA’s are entirely a creation of contract. Groups of homeowners come together and form an organization that will accomplish certain goals. Typically, this includes maintaining some standard rules of esthetics for the community, contracting for trash removal, and maintaining property that is owned by the POA members in common rather than by any one person.

When you buy a house that is part of a POA, you agree to certain rules and regulations. These rules can be as mundane as what day you put your trash can out or what color you can paint or front door. Or, they can be as rigid as telling you that you cannot put a sign of any kind in your front yard. In fact, if your front yard is actually POA property, which is true of many townhouse communities here in Northern Virginia, then the property really isn’t yours anyway.

(…)

If you don’t like the rules that a particular POA has then you have several options. For one thing, you don’t have to move there to begin with. In Virginia, sellers are legally required to give buyers a copy of the POA rules and buyers are given an opportunity to review those rules and back out of the contract without penalty. If you’re in a POA and you don’t like the rules, or how they are being enforced then get involved in your community and get the rules changed.

And, most of all, don’t complain when the rules you agreed to take a turn you don’t agree with.

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15 Comments

  1. Please, not twice in one day. First the “guns in parking lots” rebellion* and now this? That’s way too much unlibertarian “libertarianism” for me.

    (*Just to be clear, Chapman’s right and his critics are idiots.)

    Comment by KipEsquire — August 25, 2008 @ 7:30 pm
  2. is lew rockwell a self professed libertarian pub? if not, what does any of this matter?

    Comment by oilnwater — August 26, 2008 @ 12:04 am
  3. oilnwater,

    Rockwell isn’t even the author of the post I linked to.

    Get on topic, ok ?

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — August 26, 2008 @ 2:51 am
  4. Doug,

    is lew rockwell a self professed libertarian pub?

    With “pub” presumably meaning “publisher”, oilnwater isn’t claiming he wrote it, but that he published it.

    So, is Lew Rockwell a self-professed libertarian publisher?

    Comment by ThomasBlair — August 26, 2008 @ 5:34 am
  5. Well in that respect yes, Lew Rockwell is a publisher, and he claims to be a libertarian.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — August 26, 2008 @ 6:01 am
  6. And he is a libertarian. There is no “claims” to it.

    Comment by The Inquisitor — August 26, 2008 @ 6:19 am
  7. The Hillbilly Cadillac in question is supposed to be a Ford F150 pickup. The problem for most people is others are allowed to park their Lincolns, Cadillac Escalades, and other higher end trucks and SUVs outside, while this man is being forced to “hide” his Ford in the garage. They’re trying to portray the neighborhood as something other than what it is.

    I live in an older neighborhood in the city of Dallas. We have an optional neighborhood association, but many of our friends and family that live in the suburbs are forced to join the neighborhood association – including paying some expensive dues. I personally think the first amendment guarantees the freedom to not assemble, as well as the freedom to assemble.

    Comment by Pepe Johnson — August 26, 2008 @ 7:30 am
  8. Pepe,

    If he doesn’t like the rules then he has choices. He can get involved in his community and try to change the rules (trust me, its not hard for someone sufficiently motivated to get what they want from an HOA) or he can move.

    This is a private organization and this guy signed a contract when he bought property in this community. He needs to respect the rules and stop whining.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — August 26, 2008 @ 7:46 am
  9. Inquisitor,

    Since Rockwell reserves for himself the right to decide that other people — specifically anyone who likes the Cato Institute or Reason Magazine — isn’t a libertarian, then I deserve to question his bona fides as well.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — August 26, 2008 @ 7:47 am
  10. “Yeah, you know the rules when you move in.”

    The author mentions this in her post. It is not so much un-libertarian as it is just some venting. Just because you are a libertarian does not mean you can’t take exception with social issues.

    Granted, I don’t know how much value the post has on Lew’s site, as it does not seem to involve any compulsion. But then again, what is the purpose of this post on this site?

    Comment by freewheeler — August 26, 2008 @ 8:21 am
  11. freewheeler,

    What part of the HOA is a private organization that should be entitled to make it’s own rules don’t you get ?

    The only libertarian position on this issue is to say that someone who enters into a contractual relationship should be aware of the terms they are agreeing to and should not be able to re-write the contract after they find out it applies to them.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — August 26, 2008 @ 8:32 am
  12. Doug,

    My point is, I don’t think the blogger was suggesting they cannot make their own rules. There is nothing inherently unlibertarian about this post, as long as they do not pursue compulsury intervention to change it.

    She was making a connection between common character traits of the ruling class and the “power mongering, petty, little tyrants” that often run HOAs. She acknowledges that it is a private organization, but is nonetheless frustrated with the desire of some people to create needless, excessive (in her mind) rules as a means to control others.

    I personally do not think this is really relevant on a political commentary site, but that is another matter.

    Comment by freewheeler — August 26, 2008 @ 9:38 am
  13. Actually, I got the impression that the blogger didn’t understand the purpose of HOAs and why having those rules is usually a good idea.

    Frankly, I don’t want to live in a community where people keep rusted vehicle on cement blocks in the front yard, decorate their flower beds with pink flamingos, or paint their house purple.

    As for relevance, I see it as a matter of property rights and the sanctity of contracts.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — August 26, 2008 @ 10:03 am
  14. To be clear, I was referring to the original post on Lew’s site as maybe lacking relevance. But, I think she would agree with you that the HOA has that right, it was merely a social observation, IMO.

    Comment by freewheeler — August 26, 2008 @ 10:30 am
  15. I struggle with the this, but I agree with: “This is a private organization and this guy signed a contract when he bought property in this community. He needs to respect the rules and stop whining.”
    Our HOA has limited on street parking. CCRs say any 2 cars in garage first, then any 2 cars in driveway, THEN you apply for an on-street permit that includes a garage inspection, if you have more cars. Improvements preventing 2 cars in garage are not an excuse.
    The purpose here is that everyone here (and their guests) is entitled to equal and fair access to the on-street common area. If a garage is full of stuff, it pushes cars on-street which reduces the available spaces for everyone else. (Also, if one home is allowed to violate the garage CCRs, then everyone else should too- then you have chaos.)
    Rules of contract. Abide, change, or move; but don’t violate.

    Comment by HOA Parking Comittee — August 26, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

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