Skip to main content


In his 2011 work Economic Facts and Fallacies, the economist Thomas Sowell writes of an essential condition for property rights, that "existing residents and potential newcomers [must be permitted to] compete for the same space on an equal basis in the marketplace, rather than in a political process in which only the existing residents can vote." Sowell continues: "While the existing residents may choose to believe that they have a right to 'protect' their community against outsiders by using the power of government, the Constitution of the United States requires 'equal protection of the laws' to everyone, regardless of where they happen to live or how long they have lived there." Finally, Sowell asserts that "what existing residents choose to call 'our community' is in fact not their community... [e]ach resident [owning only] the private property which that particular resident has paid for." 

As may seem uncharacteristic of this author, at least in the estimation of the casual reader, I am on this occasion inclined to strongly disagree at least with the implication of Dr. Sowell’s argument — Dr. Sowell so rarely erring in judgment that I hesitate to completely dismiss his sentiments; in this case sentiments perfectly consistent with free market principles yet, by appearances, slow to appreciate the bigger picture in which those principles are to function (in the present), by which the reputation of the free market hangs in the balance. 

Despite the correct attitudes and motivations among them, it must be said that free market advocates often fail to fully account for the perverse effects of government intervention, especially where those interventions stand to cooperate with mere vestiges of a capitalistic economy. Such advocates often contend that free market principles are justified wherever they can be implemented or affirmed, but, as shown by Operation Cash Drop and the following risks posed by any market economy corrupted by government influence — restrictions, redistributions, and redefinitions of the very concept of "ownership"  those principles can actually backfire where they are not met with the total circumstances in which those treasured principles can reliably produce positive results; one such principle being the assertion that "what existing residents choose to call 'our community' is in fact not their community." This assertion is particularly dangerous where it advances the causes and preferences of those in government, those unhampered and unaccountable agents pursuing their own self-interest with precious little regard for the values and principles of the people, let alone any community.

The assertion ought not to be that people are not the owners of their respective communities. So far as it is to be stated at all, the assertion ought to be that they are more properly regarded as stewards of their communities. After all, it is a people’s personal investment in their respective communities which makes any community hospitable and suitable for happy living. 

Therefore, it is not only improper but highly irresponsible to offer any suggestion which remotely undermines a people’s investment in their communities, especially where this kind of investment maintains a community’s cleanliness, safety, respectability, and in many cases an ability to govern itself and manage its own internal disputes, thus enabling an added layer of protection from government overreach; indeed, some people even formalize this arrangement through homeowners associations (HOAs), which are, like them or hate them, market outcomes with willing members maintaining a formal interest in their own homes as in the standards of the community. 

So far as people are to otherwise view themselves as renters or transients just passing through, people who personally couldn’t care less about the condition or future prospects of the area, the community is sure to witness a decline in the kinds of pride, dignity and responsibility which are so characteristic of a people who are otherwise invested. Therefore, the matter should not center on whether any people are permitted to view themselves as part of a community, whether any people are permitted to maintain an active interest in it. It should not focus on, or squabble over, whether they ought to assume some kind of “ownership” over the community. This kind of assertion should rather elaborate on its (most likely) intended meaning: in this case, whether they can be said to “own” their community as they do their private property. Of course, as a matter of right, they cannot. 

However, there is nothing inherently wrong with a community of concerned residents, members personally (and even intimately) invested in the care, condition, and future of the community. There is nothing illegal or inequitable about such a community, so long as each resident retains the power to exercise his own rights over his own private property, and that indeed includes the right to sell or transfer ownership of his property, just as it includes his right to develop and defend his property; the latter having something to do with the subject at hand, given that, once again, each resident remember and respect the rights of his fellow resident. 

This is not to suggest that there aren’t downsides to changes and developments in any community, especially as they relate to the character and congenial qualities which had enabled peaceful living for the existing (or prior) residents. This is not to say that such outcomes do not present risks or threats to the community, the surrounding areas or beyond, but that, while operating from and maintaining that essential right of private property, a people in any community must distinguish between the manner in which they own their homes and that in which they assume "ownership" over the community. 

The limits on the latter have their implications in not only the rights of their fellow man but the mobility of and economic opportunities for newcomers and subsequent generations, and the extent to which their fellow citizens are welcome in their community, whether their citizenship should grant them economic access there. The challenge, of course, comes particularly in the form of political and economic distortions which bring about certain shifts in popular attitudes or changes in culture and demographics, whether by design or by effect. 

While one might argue vociferously for economic mobility and equal opportunity, for supply to have the chance to meet demand without interference, this kind of argument ignores, dismisses, or is otherwise ignorant to the kinds of artificial distortions just described, ones that are often so nuanced and abstract as to elude the untrained eye. 

For this reason, it is essential to maintain an appreciation for the details and to remain vigilant not only to propaganda and hysteria but to fixed rules and standards applied beyond their scope or out of accordance with the necessary conditions: in this particular case those rules pertaining to the free market, vigilance being indispensable considering governments’ pervasive influence through artificial subsidies, government developments or mandates for the “public good” (including “affordable” housing and below-market rents), their promotion or “guaranteeing” of loans, their immigration practices in defiance of law or sound judgment, each presenting the distinct threat of ushering into communities the kinds of people who would not otherwise have cause or the means to live within a given area; thereby presenting the risk of introducing the kinds of influences, customs and practices not suited for peaceful or fruitful coexistence. 

For this reason, it is especially important to appreciate the total conditions of any given case before placing it within any given model, before running the risk of assessing it from false assumptions. This is good practice in all forms of study, and it is especially so where it concerns human rights, as well as the state and stability of a people. Nowhere are the ramifications more serious than in the way property is distributed and the way it is said to be “owned”.


Popular posts from this blog

Into the Wild: An Economics Lesson

The Keynesian mantra, in its implications, has its roots in destruction rather than truth: “In the long run, we’re all dead.” If this is your guiding principle, we are destined to differ on matters of principle and timeline. While it is true that our fates intersect in death, that does not mean that we ought to condemn our heirs to that view: the view that our work on this planet ought only to serve ourselves, and that we ought only to bear in mind the consequences within our own lifetimes.  The Keynesians, of course, prefer their outlook, as it serves their interests; it has the further benefit of appealing to other selfish people who have little interest in the future to which they'll ultimately condemn their heirs. After all, they'll be long gone by then. So, in the Keynesian view, the longterm prospects for the common currency, social stability, and personal liberty are not just irrelevant but inconvenient. In their view, regardless of the consequences, those in charge tod

Death by Socialism

This title is available for purchase on Amazon ,  Lulu ,  Barnes & Noble , and Walmart .

There's Always Another Tax: The Tragedy of the Public Park

In the San Francisco Bay Area, many residents work tirelessly throughout the year to pay tens of thousands of dollars in annual property taxes. In addition to this, they are charged an extra 10 percent on all expenses through local sales taxes. It doesn't stop there. In addition to their massive federal tax bill, the busy state of California capitalizes on the opportunity to seize another 10 percent through their own sizable state income taxes. But guess what! It doesn't stop there. No, no, no, no.  In California, there's always another tax. After all of these taxes, which have all the while been reported to cover every nook and cranny of the utopian vision, the Bay Area resident is left to face yet an additional tax at the grocery store, this time on soda. The visionaries within government, and those who champion its warmhearted intentions, label this one the "soda tax," which unbelievably includes Gatorade, the preferred beverage of athletes