Tuesday, August 05, 2003

A homeowner puts a UN flag on his front lawn. Some local bureaucrats tell him to take it off; having that flag is against the rules. He's refused, and will probably wind up in court. If the local bureaucrats were government officials, libertarians would be all over this as an example of the silly excesses of the nanny state. But the bureaucrats are members of a private homeowner's association, and some libertarians seem quite pleased:

The home owner, in the same misguided state that makes him think the UN is a organization worth supporting, cited the U.S. Constitution against the association. Of course, the Constitution is about the federal government, not home owners associations, but this kind of confusion seems to be common.

This incident illustrates a key difference between libertarianism and libertinism. The former is about choices and the latter about avoiding consquences. The home owner in this case is a libertine, believing that he should be able to do what ever he wants without consquences. He knew about the association when he chose to buy his house, but now that it’s inconvenient he wants to ignore the consequences of that choice. Libertarians want people to be able to chose, but also believe that every choice has consquences, good and bad, that can’t be separated from the ability to make choices.

What's interesting here is that if the homeowner's association were a formally constituted government body -- say, a zoning board -- the homeowner would face pretty much the same set of choices that he does against a private body: fight in court, petition the board to change its policies, or run for a seat on the board and start to work from the inside. And the argument that "he know about the association when he chose to buy his house" applies just as well to a zoning board. The main difference is that, as our libertarian commentators are quick to point out, there are restraints on government, like the first amendment, which do not apply to private bodies and cannot be used to defend against them.

Which all might give some people the feeling that there's something ever so slightly wrong with libertarianism. (At least if you think it's supposed be about empowering people and not corporations; if the latter, there's no problem at all).

via Hector Rottweiler, Jr.

More: Remember back when EBay was bragging to law enforcement about all the things they could do for the cops that that pesky Bill of Rights kept the cops from doing for themselves? Now, they're cooperating even more with government, by kicking off an artist whose offense was mocking Dubya. But hey, he can't have any reason to object, since he must have known of EBay's terms of service!

By the way, I'm sure all my readers are familiar with all of the terms of their ISPs' acceptable use policies and the various clauses of their software license agreements. Down to the letter. Why, not to read them just wouldn't make sense...

via The Agonist...


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