The common definition of “institution”, for our purpose, is “ a custom, practice, relationship, or behavioral pattern of importance in the life of a community or society”, or “an established custom, law, or relationship in a society or community.” The degree or strength of the acceptance of the established custom or behavior pattern often results in the perception that the institution is a concrete and indestructible reality, and not dependent on one’s belief or acceptance of the institution. For example, marriage is an institution that has been losing its acceptance in recent time.
The definition of an institution well applies to planned communities and homeowners associations. As a result of the failure over 47 years to mount substantial opposition, homeowners associations have become an American institution, an accepted way of life. While there were “spots” of protest and informed communication over the years, it was the accumulated effect of the national lobbying organization, CAI, supported by real estate and land usage legal-academic aristocrats writing in their journals and speaking at conferences, that brought about the institutionalization of HOAs. Homeowners associations have become accepted as a way of life in our society and culture, and thoroughy ingrained into our society.
Consequently, it does not come as a surprise that any substantial opposition, such as my commentaries and citations of authorities, is met with disbelief. This is normal human behavior, which occurs with any idea or facts that are contrary to one’s long term beliefs and values. This is the effect of institutionalization.
When confronted with facts and hard evidence to the contrary of these long held beliefs, the normal reaction is a defense of the long held belief. After all, many aspects of one’s life are tied to one’s beliefs and values, and they cannot be dismissed out of hand. The common reactions are: You are crazy! You don’t know what you are talking about! You’re a weirdo! A radical! The reaction is to ignore any evidence to the contrary.
The stronger the belief, the more reactionary is the response to contradictory information. Defensive arguments offered to retain the long held belief can rise to highly illogical and absurd defenses. Even legislators are not immune to this aspect of human nature. Such is the effect of institutionalization on society.
HOAs became part of our society with the help of the special interests who did not speak, and continue not to speak, of any negatives about homeowners associations in America. The unspoken alliance of “no negatives” has been thoroughly ingrained into our elected officials, the media, and the public at large. Just a natural consequence of the institutionalization process. But, an institution does not automatically carry the stamp of being ethical, moral or just. Slavery was once an American institution. Established practices and behavioral patterns just reflect the mindset and values held by a large majority of the society, and we well know societies can go awry from time to time.
The only rehabilitation therapy is the continued and repeated exposure to the facts, and I mean facts backed by hard evidence, legal authority, and confronting those seeking to maintain the institution’s continued existence in our society. Such as, presenting the other side of the issue at hand, which, as we know, was often purely propaganda and not the full truth. (A good example would be the HOA Academy backed by a number of Arizona towns that does not inform HOA members of their limited rights when a suit is brought by their HOA, or provide information about the statutes and the demanding nature of legal Rules of Procedure).
In time, either the established institution is now seen in a a different and unfavorable light, or society becomes divisive with the supporters taking dogmatic ideological positions, resorting to, essentially, an “I don’t care” rationale.