My dream is shattered. Thousands of experiments show that libertarianism doesn’t work.
I’m not referring to the failed free-state experiment of New Hampshire, or the libertarian fantasy of moving outside of government jurisdiction to a Pacific Ocean artificial island or natural atoll (preferably not one bombed during the testing of A-bombs).
I’m referring to the libertarian experiments of homeowners associations. Yes, HOAs.
No, I have not lost my mind.
On second thought, maybe I have lost my mind. After all, this libertarian has lived in two HOAs and served on the boards of both.
HOAs have a bad reputation for being run by control freaks and being populated by busybodies. The reputation is often well-deserved. But actually, HOAs operate under important libertarian principles.
First, they are a voluntary association. People can move in or move out at will.
Second, prospective homeowners know the HOA’s rules before moving to the community, as the rules are given to them when a house they are buying is in escrow prior to the purchase being closed. If prospective homeowners don’t like the rules, they can decide to live elsewhere, maybe to a hidden valley in the Rocky Mountains and have John Galt as a neighbor.
Third, HOA government is small, visible, elected, and usually staffed by unpaid volunteers who live in the community. There are not legions of faceless bureaucrats between the elected officials and the homeowners who pay the bills through monthly fees. If some homeowners don’t like the way the place is run or the fees they pay, it’s relatively easy for them to find likeminded homeowners to join together to amend the rules or vote for a new board of directors.
Fourth, the penalties for violating the rules are typically minor and don’t include jail or water-boarding.
Granted, anarchists don’t like HOAs. Of course anarchists don’t like any form of government, including voluntary ones. The few anarchists who are not atheists would even dislike Heaven, because God Almighty rules over it.
Unfortunately, the tendency of HOAs is to turn into nightmares—and by extension, so would a libertarian community.
Why? Human nature.
Due to human nature, some homeowners move into a HOA and immediately begin to violate the rules, or ask for special treatment, or become a nuisance to everyone else, or try to get a free ride by not paying their dues.
At the same time, some HOA board directors let the power go to their head. They play favorites, apply double standards, demand preferential treatment from vendors, and sometimes engage in unethical behavior.
Meanwhile, most homeowners are so apathetic and/or busy that they don’t do anything about it.
The results would no doubt be similar if libertarians and objectivists were to move en masse to Galt’s Gulch. Some of them would immediately begin to violate the town’s founding principles. And John Galt, Dagny Taggart and Francisco d’Anconia eventually would run the town for the benefit of themselves and their cronies, because they would believe Ayn Rand’s fiction that they are smarter and purer in principles than everyone else.
Thankfully, I’d be different. Being a true libertarian and thus superior to other humans, I’d never be unprincipled or let power go to my head.