“Beyond Privatopia” – understanding the economic theories that brought about the New America of HOA-Land

Beyond Privatopia: Rethinking Residential Private Government, Evan McKenzie (Urban Inst. 2011)


Once again, a short book, 168 pages, by McKenzie is packed with very important information for those seriously interested in understanding the HOA phenomenon. A must reading for the public interest nonprofits, the legal-academic aristocrats, and all state legislators who have failed over the years to face the realities of the social and political impact of HOAs on our democratic system of government.


In his Preface, McKenzie proclaims that “this book is written in my own unusual hybrid perspective”, having one foot in the legal-academic club and the other foot amongst the homeowner rights advocates. He names names of leading advocates (p. 121, n. 4): Shu Bartholomew, Jan Bergemann, Pat Haruff, George Starapoli [sic], Fred Pilot and Monica Sadler. Yet, my impression so far is that the book is addressed to the legal-academic aristocrats to remind them that America was not founded on the state being an neoclassic economic force, a business, concerned with efficiency, productivity, wealth redistribution, or rational choice But, that America was founded on principles of democratic government as set forth in the Preamble to the US Constitution (my interpretation):

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfectUnion, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide forthe common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure theBlessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity . . . .

In Chapter 3 McKenzie discusses the libertarian views of Robert H. Nelson and Nozick, among others. He references Nelson with, “They contend that CIDs [McKenzie’s generic term for HOAs] are more efficient and more democratic [my emphasis] than municipalities and should replace them.” (p. xi). He present’s Nozick’s 1974 argument (p. 47) for “minimal states” that lead to “private protective associations.” Minimal states and protective associations have become today’s call for less public government and the CC&Rs enforcement agency known as the HOA.


Nozick’s defense of minimal states, according to McKenzie, is that “This [minimal] state would be legitimate, even though it may infringe on the liberty of individuals [my emphasis], because from the bottom up it would have been based on voluntarism and the rights of contract.” Sounds eerie doesn’t it? We hear these arguments today in defense of the HOA legal scheme, but as McKenize argued, they are based on myths. “The notion that individual owners agreed among themselves to perform these services for each other, and subsequent owners took over from them, is entirely fictional.” (p. 60).


Enough for now. More to come . . . .

Published in: on June 28, 2011 at 3:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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