Friday, May 05, 2006

All Roads Lead To Gated Communities....


I am often amused when self-described libertarians engage in argument that really boils down to an abrogation of any sense of a social compact, particularly where they are the affluent progeny of affluent parents.

Because the rich can take care of themselves, the argument goes, the poor should be left to care for themselves. The externalities are ignored. Usually when you get a larger perspective on the speaker, you find an associated set of beliefs and values which speak not of libertarianism, but the notion that they and their wealthy peers should not have to pay taxes which inure to the benefit of people they deem beneath them. They can afford association fees which pay for the private roads of their gated communities. They assume the middle classes can form private associations to assume ownership of their own streets (and any gates they wish to install). And if they can't (or if they're poor), too bad, so sad. That's why God created dirt roads and tar paper shacks.

So when I read something like this,
Many commenters seem astonished by the idea of private streets. My parents have a house in a private, gated community, where the streets are indeed privately owned. Access to the community is for owners and their guests. The community functions quite well, as far as I can tell, and, among other potential advantages, there is virtually no crime. This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there is nothing either radical or impractical about streets being privately owned.
I am left wondering if the speaker is truly expressing opinions which arise from libertarian notions of private contractual obligations taking the place of government ownership and maintenance of roadways, or if they have chosen libertarianism as the philosophy most consistent with their desire to avoid taxes, social responsibility, and exposure to people with different ideas or (gasp) who are poor.

7 comments:

  1. I'm a libertarian and I hate gated communities, and would not want to live in one. As to your other points... Most of us small-l libertarians aren't really against taxes in the abstract. (This is a secret, and I will deny having said this is pressed.)

    We're just so fed up with how are tax dollars are being spent. It's the wasteful (porkful?) way of spending money that enrages so many of us.

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  2. My beef is not so much with libertarians as it is with those who have a personal agenda which they seek to advance by latching onto the label "libertarian".

    The most extreme example might be somebody who claims to be a "libertarian" solely because he wishes to repeal age of consent laws (I don't think there is any need to explain further). It's a label of convenience used to conceal actual motive.

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  3. Why, aaron, do you have somebody in mind? ;)

    I wonder, for the little crime in that gated community that *does* happen, who the quoted poster calls for assistance. A private police force?

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  4. those who have a personal agenda which they seek to advance by latching onto the label "libertarian".

    That sounds like everyone in the Libertarian Party. You ever wonder why many of us bother calling ourselves small-l libertarians? Well, it's because we don't want to be associated with those nutjobs.

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  5. Who cares about the infinite regress that accompanies the label "libertarian"? The behavior itself -- gating oneself within a community and abandoning one's fellows (the ones without similar affluence, anyway) -- is the point of the post.

    I wouldn't use the word "reprehensible" to describe such behavior, but I find it wrong-headed and ultimately self-destructive.

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  6. Well, as I originally suggested, I'm often amused by it. Libertarians (that is, the "small 'l'" variety) may care, though, that when they say something like, "I favor abolishing affirmative action because I am a libertarian," in the absense (or, for that matter, the presence) of additional context I might infer that they are using "libertarian" as a synonym for "privileged white guy from a gated community", or even "racist".

    I enjoy political debate with "small l" libertarians, although I find that (as Mike suggested) many of them express horror at the thought of being associated with the Libertarian Party, speaking of which....

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  7. "My parents have a house in a private, gated community, where the streets are indeed privately owned. Access to the community is for owners and their guests."

    I wonder what kind of streets her parents use on the trip to and from their "private" community . . . or what kind of "private" fire department they have . . .

    CWD

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