Why Malthus was wrong

Felix mechanical calculator, 1960s

Within a couple of decades, this monster was replaced by a palm-size device of greater capability and far lower cost. A few years later, calculators fit in wrist watches. Now they are included as software in just about every communication device. The cost of each additional calculator approaches zero, their marginal environmental impact is near zero also. I think that Michael Crichton was right about the capacity of humans to innovate, especially when free to do so and not enslaved. Slave populations seldom advance civilization and that is why personal freedom equals long-term survival of the species.

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51 Responses to Why Malthus was wrong

  1. Pyrotek85 says:

    Funny you should post this, I just recently came across a video of the Curta Mechanical Calculator. I think these were pretty awesome.


  2. Engineering Student says:

    Michael Crichton–and your qualification on his quote–are both ignoring that the past century has been an anomaly in human history. The reason Crichton had to refer to the period from 1900-2000 is because there isn’t any other period in human history in which he could have made the same claim. Not from 500-600 CE, not 210-110 BCE, not 1240-1340 CE… and the reason we are special in history is because we as a race have had the values and determination to make those advances unlike any who came before us.

    The important point here is that if we do not preserve those values and determination, we cannot repeat the successes of the past century again.

    Your qualification states, “especially when free to do so and not enslaved.” Which direction is our society moving? Toward or away from such enslavement? If we do not make the effort to fight such enslavement, and to value innovation, invention, technological advancement and engineering, then Malthus will be proven right yet again and we will again slide back into the morass of history in which he was right all along, as he was in his own time and every other historical period except the past few decades.

  3. Jason says:

    Technology can do a lot of things, but it can’t change the size of the earth. We’re currently looking at about 5 acres of land per person. As people get jammed closer and closer together, what you get is not more freedom, but more repression. See Steve Sailer on “The Dirt Gap“.

    There are other limits too. Because fresh water comes from rain, the amount of land per person puts a limit on the amount of water per person. Certain areas are already getting squeezed, with governments draining aquifers to make up the difference. Even the U.S., which has a rather low population density compared to the rest of the world, is feeling the pinch. Droughts that would have been a minor inconvenience in days past are now serious issues. This also has social and political effects.

    At this point, I’m sure some cornucopian will start to talk about desalinization. Even if such science fiction were to come true, that takes energy and infrastructure. Trading energy for water is as pointless as transforming corn for food into corn for ethanol. You’re just transforming one scarce resource into another. But lets assume energy becomes essentially free. You still need the infrastructure, and that infrastructure makes a good choke point for control by the state, or terrorism. Less freedom, more fear.

    We’re already there with food. A billion people only survive because of the high-energy agriculture techniques invented by Norman Borlaug. Because of the high productivity, and the high capital required (in order to be competitive a farmer must now use very specialized and expensive fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds) these barriers to entry create a system ripe for cronyism. Governments can easily control the flow of those essential materials to profit a few in a way they couldn’t control agriculture when it was simply millions of small organic farms requring minimal capital investment. Many nations now have to import food. Control the ports, control the food, control the food, control the people. How can you have freedom in a system like that? And now one global disruption – say, war, or a large volcano – of that system, and a billion people would stand to die in a year. The more infrastructure required, the more brittle the system becomes, and the more tenuous and risky our position.

    Malthus was right. But the first disaster isn’t starvation, it’s the loss of freedom.

    • Oleg Volk says:

      Solutions that we know today aren’t always the solutions of tomorrow. That’s how modern Japanese or Hong Kongers can live better than their much less numerous counterparts from a century ago or than modern tribesmen from sparsely populated areas.

      • R. says:

        They’re not, but the more interconnected the world economy is, the more people there are, the less give there is, the greater the chance of major trouble.

        A major volacanic explosion and a resulting year without summer, like the one in 1836 or so could create a catastrophe, maybe not in the developed world, but the 3rd world and especially poor countries that can’t feed themselves would fare very, very badly.

        Control the ports, control the food, control the food, control the people.

        History shows that mostly free societies fare much better from all viewpoints than tyrannies. Case in point, Western and Eastern Germany.

        What I’d be worried now is rule by corporations. Over at GRM, one poster (Taillebois) paints a grim picture. He argues that the financial industry, which is running loose in the US is attempting to take-over the US by taking over the infrastructure.

        US seems to be nearing dysfunction at many levels of government, finances are in trouble everywhere, and fire-sale privatization and bought officials can provide great riches indeed as anyone who has ever been interested in recent history of eastern Europe will know.

        Once infrastructure like sewers, roads, etc.. is all owned privately by a few companies, those will be able to reap great riches indeed by making people pay far more for them than they ever paid in taxes when state companies owned the infrastructure..

        Example is the Jefferson county sewer treatement program.

        After all… people can vote on their taxes, but no one but a monopoly’s boss can decide how much a monopoly will charge.
        And whoever owns and charges for infrastructure is indeed a monopoly. The investments needed to replicate such infrastructure as roads, rail, or water.. etc..are enormous, which means that once it’s private it will stay private, and most likely without competitors, as competing with an infrastructure monopoly just wouldn’t pay off.

        I hope the guy’s wrong, though.

        • anonymous says:

          “What I’d be worried now is rule by corporations. ”

          I agree. Until conservatives and libertarians get over their fetishization of corporations, simply because they are “private,” corporatism represents as much a threat to individual liberty as government.

          Case in point: last year, an HOA corporation in Texas (of all places!) passed a rule to prohibit a homeowner from running an internet-based gun business out of his house (meaning there would be no customer traffic to or from the house itself).



          Since HOAs are private corporations with governmental powers (the power to tax, fine, foreclose, etc.), the Second Amendment does not apply. More shocking than gun-control in Texas was the silence from the RKBA community. When Clinton banned home-based FFLs in the 1990s (I was one of those forced out of the business), there was a lot of outrage, because gun owners recognized this as an attempt to choke the supply of privately owned firearms. But when a private corporation did the same thing, the reaction from RKBA was worse than silence — it was enablement of

          “repressive libertarianism,” where certain people who call themselves libertarians invariably side with property owners who want to limit other people’s liberties through the use of contract law. Property rights (usually held by somebody with a whole lot of economic clout) trump every other liberty…As private corporations take over more functions of government, this position could lead to gradual elimination of constitutional liberties.

          Corporations are legally persons (albeit “artificial” persons). A person who acts without a conscience, with morals, and without empathy for others, is considered a sociopath. Yet the sociopathy of corporations is celebrated as a thing of beauty, because they have no moral obligations to others. As The Milton Friedman Choir put it:

          Corporations have no social duty
          Except to those who own their stock

          Corporations are amoral
          Corporate conscience is impossible
          The corporation really has no choice

          So if you want your freedom
          Let the corporate seize the day
          There really is no better way

          To the Ayn Rand wing of libertarianism, this is a good thing!?

          As someone who considers himself more in the Robert Heinlein camp of libertarianism, I find this appalling (and creepy).

          As The Onion warned us 11 years ago, “The Future Will Be A Totalitarian Government Dystopia” or “The Future Will Be A Privatized Corporate Dystopia”.

          The Privatized Toll Road To Serfdom is no more desirable than The Toll Road To Serfdom.

          • ChrisJ says:

            You mention that corporations are legally “persons,” but neglect that it’s the government who said so by legislative fiat. A corporation can only exert as much power as the government grants it.

            Regardless of whether that is direct power to use force against people (non- elected HOA board), or it’s indirect power as a result of government enforced monopoly (R’s sewage example).

            In a perfect world corporations have no power, they must convince you that their service or product is better than their competitors’ products or services.

            Unfortunately this is an imperfect world, but the problem isn’t the corporations, it’s the government.

          • Lyle says:

            Corporations can’t force you to do anything. They can’t make law without the cooperation of corrupt government.

            • R. says:

              They can’t make law? If they own nearly everything, they can always screw you over as easily as a government.

    • rick_swenson says:

      Your response displays the same “limits of thinking” as did all of the flat earthers before you.
      With all due respect, can’t you imagine that we will be colonizing and living on the Moon and soon thereafter Mars …….and beyond ?
      We will eventually harness fusion energy. Eventually.
      We will be able to create new propulsion systems allowing us to travel heretofore unimagined distances in short time.
      With such abundant energy, we will be able to create atmospheres, and clean water, and necessary minerals and metals………….

      Stop thinking inside the box.
      The box changes, and the rules change; the new technology redefines everything you presume to be linear or fixed.

  4. Dave says:

    Malthus was right only in context of a meddling government that can’t keep its bloody fingers out of every pie, AND a sniveling citizenry that not only fails to chop off those fingers, but asks for more.

    Change either of those two things, and we beat Malthus’ ideas to a bloody pulp.

  5. Ritchie says:

    Malthus was an early adopter of management by calculator. ‘Nuf said.

  6. anonymous says:

    *$%#! lack of edit function.

    Correct link is

    HOAs are private corporations with governmental powers

    The HTML in the original had a / at the end which breaks the link.

  7. Tony Lekas says:

    In general the problem is not large corporations but a government permitted to get large enough to be captured by large corporations. Some see big government a source of protection from corporations. I consider that to be at best foolish. A large powerful government will inevitably be significantly influenced by power centers, especially large corporations.

    The financial sector would not have been able to do what it has done without a government tailored set of regulation and monetary policy largely designed by the large financial institutions. The bankers did write the law that created the Federal Reserve and they have done very well by it. If normal law, what used to be common law, were applied to them all along the financial sector would not have developed in the way it has. If it were applied now they would almost all be declared bankrupt.

    I don’t know much about land use policy and Home Owners Association law in TX. However, as one commenter at the link says, government land use policies in some places tends to reduce the non HOA options.

    For my part I would not sign a HOA Agreement without looking at it very closely and considering the implications. Basically I probably would not end up signing one.

  8. Pingback: SayUncle » The future

  9. Red Ramage says:

    I’d remember reading Malthus’ “Essay on population” in school. The state education system approved answer to Malthus is that he wrote his ideas before the industrial revolution, and that endless technical innovation will allow humans to expand our numbers forever without limit.

    What never seems to be brought up is that the industrial revolution, the agricultural revolution, and the increased standard of life that 1st world humans enjoy are utterly enslaved to fossil fuels. The industrial revolution took off in Britain first, because of their enormous coal deposits. On an island starved of wood for fuel, coal power brought about the beginning of modern life. Oil has replaced coal as the sustaining fuel for our life, but the dependence is the same. Consider agriculture: A modern farmer uses herbicides and pesticides that cannot be manufactured without oil. Modern mega-farms depend on oil-powered machinery to prepare the soil and harvest crops. An oil-powered truck delivers the crops to a factory, which is likely powered by natural gas or coal power plants. Another truck takes the food product to a distribution center, then to a local store. You or I get in an oil-powered car to go get food, and store perishables in a fridge powered by a fossil fuel power plant. Remove fossil fuels from the equation and the United States would starve to death, let alone the rest of the world.

    We’re still sitting on large amounts of coal and natural gas, and the oil supply hasn’t dried up yet. However, given a world population that expands exponentially and a finite supply of fossil fuels, there will be a day when the tap runs dry. Malthus, mocked and overlooked, will have his posthumous revenge as famine, war, and disease reduce human population back down to the carrying capacity of the earth.

    Consider the earth as a closed system: We get energy input from the sun, which establishes a global energy spending limit. Renewable power sources are driven by the sun. Heating of bodies of water drives the water cycle (hydroelectric). Solar power is obviously linked to incoming solar radiation. Uneven heating of the earth drives wind power. Biomass energy generation is driven by sunlight. Even fossil fuels are nothing more than stored prehistoric sunlight. There is a hard limit on the amount of solar power that can be utilized in any form.

    The only other form of energy generation that we can count on is nuclear, but good luck trying to tell people that we need to build more nuke plants…

    I’m not optimistic.

    • ChrisJ says:

      After we exhaust the stored sources of energy, and reach our limits with the sun-fall on the earth, you next move to a Dyson sphere, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere

      • Oleg Volk says:

        The point I was making is that our energy consumption in some areas falls off dramatically through innovation.

        • ChrisJ says:

          Certainly, though taking a still young but quite impressive technology like computation, and hoping to extrapolate its progression to any of humanities’ other endeavors may be stretching the analogy a bit.

          I also get that those computational innovations enable other human endeavors to be more efficient, but there are still certain limits we will eventually bump up against. When is eventually? Probably not for a very long while still, beyond that idk… 🙂

          • anonymous says:

            “taking a still young but quite impressive technology like computation, and hoping to extrapolate its progression to any of humanities’ other endeavors may be stretching the analogy a bit.”

            John Ross (the same John Ross who wrote Unintended Consequences), actually addresses this in his essay “If Airplanes Were Like Computers…, or Why Your Nerd Friend is Dumber Than You Thought”.

            The point is that we’re now at only a small fraction of where we will eventually be, with computers. But with airplanes, 99% of everything that could be known about subsonic aerodynamics was known by 1940. Aircraft, particularly the ones that fly at subsonic speeds, are a mature technology. Computers, marvelous as they are, are not, yet. In 1935 we could make an airplane that would carry two people at 180mph on 8 gallons per hour and climb 1000 feet per minute. We can better that today a little bit, but not by much, certainly not double like the computer guys are used to seeing every couple years. Not if the airplane has to carry human-size passengers, fly in air, and be propelled by a fuel that exists on earth. Lightplane designs today are a LOT better than the ones from 1910, but they’re not much different than those of the 1940s.

    • R. says:

      You’re a fool. Most fossil fuels are used for transportation and such nonsense. More are wasted in raising livestock. If fuels become more dear, more of them will be used in agriculture, and less for transportation. Which, theoretically, doesn’t need any fossil fuels.

      If US were a sane society, you’d have a robust, electrified rail network, and your merchant ships were armed and powered by nuclear reactors.

      People are stupid, I’ll give you that, but when the choice will be between brownouts or nuclear, they’ll choose nuclear.

      Only a little proportion of all oil is used in agriculture. Everyone needs to eat, therefore, farmers somewhere will always have enough oil to run their farms.

  10. Kirk Parker says:

    However, given a world population that expands exponentially…

    Lucky for us, then, that we don’t have that. Instead, the rate of growth is slowing pretty much everywhere.

  11. anonymous says:

    Every time the subject of corporate power comes up, the knee-jerk libertarian response that “corporations are only corrupt because of the government” is as predictable and wrong as a typical college-campus liberal who wears a Che Guevara t-shirt and drives around in a Prius sporting a “Hope and Change” bumper sticker blaming private corporations and/or George W. Bush for all the evils in the world.

    Let’s go back to my HOA example above (July 10, 2011 at 9:42 pm), because (1) this is an area I am currently active in, and (2) HOAs are about as libertarian of a form of governance that exists in the United States today.

    HOAs are among the most un-regulated private corporations in America. And the lobbyists for HOA property management companies and HOA law firms work hard to make sure it stays that way.

    So how exactly did government regulation force the Falcon Pointe HOA to discriminate against a gun owner?

    Or how exactly did government regulation force the Heritage Lakes HOA to steal the house of Michael Clauer without having to go to court? Related question: why do libertarians know who Susette Kelo is, but are completely ignorant of what a private corporation did to Capt. Clauer while he was deployed to Iraq?

    Or how exactly do government regulations force corporate lawyers like Robert Tankel (see here and here) to be the douche bag that he is? Even Tankel himself is quoted as saying that “It’s called capitalism. It’s the free market.” about his house-stealing business. Is it the government’s fault that he’s a greedy sociopath?

    What could be more libertarian and free-market than threatening to sue (and by extension, foreclose upon) a wildfire survivor because he’s living in his RV while his house is being rebuilt. Or telling somebody whose wife and son were killed when a plan crashed into his house that, after rebuilding the house, he has to tear it down?

    If you want to see how libertarianism works in the real world, instead of the fantasy world of Ayn Rand novels, look to HOAs. R’s warning above about privatizing the infrastructure is coming true, one neighborhood at at time.

    • ChrisJ says:

      “Every time the subject of corporate power comes up, the knee-jerk libertarian response that “corporations are only corrupt because of the government””

      No one is saying that but you.

      What everyone has said is that without the government sanctioning of their force/fraud corporations are powerless.

      • ChrisJ says:

        Or to put it another way, I don’t care about an evil corporation who is powerless to do anything to me because the government doesn’t give them the power, which is in stark contrast to the evil corporation who with government blessing can do what ever they want.

        See the difference yet? It appears as if you are arguing over an irrelevant point, that corporations are ‘evil.’

      • Tony Lekas says:

        If I grant, for the sake of argument, that HOAs get none of their power through the government, and assuming that the government courts are adjudicating the HOA contracts honestly, then the appropriate solution is for people to do more to understand the potential implications of the HOA contract they are considering signing.

        If you are concerned about what you see as injustices I suggest that instead (I am making an assumption here) of getting the government to place limits on the HOA contract, that you work to educate people of the problems with HOA agreements. If enough people refused to sign this type of contract I suspect that of types of HOAs would come into use.

        Are all HOAs now as restrictive as you portray these to be?

        The problem is that if the government has the power to abrogate contracts that you consider unjust they will also have the power to abrogate ones you consider just and they will do so for interests you oppose.

        • Tony Lekas says:

          Neither a society with dramatically less government power or the society we have will be or is perfect. People can make mistakes and put themselves in bad situations. Unanticipated issues may arise.

          My bottom line is that on balance we will be better off and problems will be easier to deal with than is the case in the current system. I see government, especially the Federal Government, the greatest danger to the well being of the people of the US.

          That does not mean that there will not be serious problems in a more free society. However, one risk that is less likely to exist is having the whole society drive off a cliff due to bad decisions made by a Central Government. I am concerned that we are in the process of doing just that. Our economy has been seriously damaged by such decisions and I am afraid that it will get much worse before it gets better.

      • anonymous says:

        “What everyone has said is that without the government sanctioning of their force/fraud corporations are powerless.”

        Are you suggesting that lack of regulation — and HOAs are very unregulated — is “the government sanctioning” a corporation’s use of fraud? And that in the absence of government, corporations would be “powerless”?

        • ChrisJ says:

          Regulation and sanction are two different things.

          For HOAs the government has to approve them because they appear to have very extraordinary powers. They are using coercion to force you to sign the contract with them, as they otherwise have no claim to the property. (ie. government sanction to coerce others over something that the HOA has no claim to)

          If you were in fact a willing participant, and not coerced, I don’t know what else to tell you, you agreed to it.

          On the other hand regulation is the government telling hard chroming shops, stainless steel manufacturers, and leather tanning shops that they must dispose of their waste by-products in a particular fashion so that the surrounding residents don’t all contract cancer and die as a result. (ie. stopping someone from impacting unwilling participants)

      • anonymous says:

        “It appears as if you are arguing over an irrelevant point, that corporations are ‘evil.’”

        No. I’m arguing that corporations are sociopaths — that they are ‘persons’ who act only in their self-interest without any moral considerations for others.

        What alarms me is that some people think that corporate sociopathy is a good thing.

        Everyone here knows that only governments and liberals can be evil.

        • ChrisJ says:

          But corporations are not in actuality people. That the government claims they are does not change reality.

          And yes, self-interest is a very good thing, you just don’t recognize it in humans because we are complex and often look to the very long term, but in all reality altruism is very rare.

          On the other hand you can see with corporations that they have a very simple value system, profit, and confuse this as being bad, instead of different, or simply as a way for you to get the means to an ends you also desire.

  12. anonymous says:

    What judges and lawyers consider to be a “contract,” and what normal laypersons such as you and I think of as a contract, are not necessarily the same thing. This is a major flaw in the system, and with any socio-economic theory that holds contracts to have supreme moral and legal authority.

    “Today, by contrast, it seems widely (though not universally) accepted that if you write a document and call it a contract, courts will enforce it as a contract even if no one agrees to it. “
    -Mark Lemely
    “Terms of Use”
    Minnesota Law Review, 2006

    Andrew Clements never agreed to a contract that would prohibit him from selling guns over the internet out of his house, unless you think a deed restriction that is “publicly posted” by filing it with the county and can be unilaterally amended by one party counts as a contract. Yet the RKBA movement did nothing to help him.

    There is also is the failure of documents-called-contracts to meet certain elements of Rational Choice Theory (eg, informed consent, equal power, truly free choices), which is necessary for a truly free market to work. That is way beyond the scope of a blog post comment like this, but Dilbert summed it up nicely in a comic strip earlier this year:

    Your software services contract is too confusing for any normal human to comprehend.
    And it wouldn’t be cost effective to involve our attorneys for a deal so small.
    So I’ll just take a chance and sign it.

    Why is it that we rightful complain about the volume and complexity of the law, but expect laypersons to know every detail of every document they encounter?

    For example, if you have a cell phone contract with AT&T, you have effectively waived your seventh amendment right to sue them for breach of contract?

    Did you know that if you buy a house from KB Home, you are waiving your first amendment rights to criticize KB Home in public?

    Which would you rather have: The American dream of owning a home, or Your right to free speech?

    KB Home, one of the largest homebuilders in the nation and in Texas, offers you the choice. They don’t exactly put it that way. If they did they might not be a $5 billion Fortune 500 company selling 25,000 homes a year.

    No, they present the choice quietly, nestled deep inside a couple dozen pages of deed restrictions. It falls between the paragraph saying you have to honor utility easements and the paragraph forbidding “outdoor clothes lines and drying racks visible to adjacent properties.” The paragraph in question is lengthy, and deserves to be quoted at length.

    “Moreover, no Owner may use any public medium such as the `internet’ or any broadcast or print medium or advertising to similarly malign or disparage the building quality or practices of any homebuilder, it being acknowledged by all Owners that any complaints or actions against a homebuilder or Declarant are to be resolved in a private manner and any action that creates controversy or publicity for the Subdivision or the quality of construction of any homes within the Subdivision will diminish the quality and value of the Subdivision.”

    So it’s not just those unsightly lawn signs. You may not give a television interview, write a letter to the editor, post a message on a Web site or go on a radio talk show to discuss any problems you may have had with a homebuilder.

    And you may not use any of those media to discuss the practices of any homebuilder. A spokeswoman at KB’s Los Angeles headquarters said Friday afternoon such language has become something of an “industry standard.”

    But the KB spokeswoman stressed that the provision is not to protect KB Home from bad publicity. It’s to protect neighbors from damaged property values. And she says it is the homeowners’ associations, not KB Home, that enforce the restrictions.

    In many HOAs, you give up your fourth amendment rights against unreasonable entry to your house:

    Then, he received a lawyer’s letter warning if the signs [in his window] don’t come down, the association will come and remove them.

    A letter from Association Law Group said, “Should no one be home at the time the Association comes, the services of a locksmith will be utilized and you will be responsible for the cost.”
    But Local 10 has discovered something Elliot and Frye didn’t know. According to the by-laws that govern the neighborhood, which Elliot signed when he bought the house, the association does have the right to enter his property and remove any violations after a written notice.

    Nobody truly consented to any of the above. But contract law, not common sense, says they did. Is your position that enforcing the terms of a document-called-a-contract, no matter how unconscionable or unbalanced, is what is meant by government giving power to corporations?

    • ChrisJ says:

      “Is your position that enforcing the terms of a document-called-a-contract, no matter how unconscionable or unbalanced, is what is meant by government giving power to corporations?”

      I suppose I left out that the person willingly agreed to these contracts, thus giving the corporation power, as I assumed that to be self-evident.

      Going back to the HOAs, it really is an example in buyer ignorance and laziness.
      1.) THEY agree to the HOA
      2.) THEY don’t get involved in the governance
      …rules change to their displeasure
      3.) THEY STILL don’t get involved in the governance
      4.) THEY choose to remain in the home instead of move

      The home buyer makes a series of bad decisions, regrets them, and you think that makes the case for government intervention?

  13. anonymous says:

    1) “Homeowners cannot agree to ‘contracts’ that are not available at closing – the majority of these alleged contracts exist at a distant location and are referred to in a PUD rider at escrow. Thus, the homeowners have never even seen the terms, and if they did they would never agree to such things. No homeowners knowingly agreed to place their homesteads up as collateral to pay the dues to these regimes forever. Forever is a long time.”

    Homeowners are often not made aware of the existence of an HOA until after the purchase (former HOA lawyer Evan McKenzie, at 12:50 to 21:30 in this video).

    The idea that homeowners “agreed” and “consented” to a “contract” is a legal fiction perpetrated by those who seek to enrich lawyers at the expense of others.

    Or should we all retain $300/hour lawyers to read through the fine print of every document called a contract that we encounter every day in order to function in society in order to make sure that we don’t contract ourselves into slavery? Is that what the advocates of economic liberty want?

    2, 3) Homeowners have been disenfranchised and marginalized. The so-called “elections” are as corrupt as the ones in Chicago. If they speak out, they make themselves a target for retaliation. And if that happens, they are at a huge financial and legal disadvantage, because the HOA corporations gets to use the individual’s own money against him, and suffer no consequences regardless of the outcome.

    As that lazy ignoramus Barabara Hogan wrote:

    Since 2002 I have attempted to make fair and democratic changes to my own homeowners’ association, Nottingham Country Community Improvement Association (NCCIA). Nottingham Country is located in Harris County between Houston and Katy. The group of homeowners I joined forces with could not overcome the obstacles and underhanded roadblocks utilized by the HOA board, attorney and management company. For several years I maintained a website to help my neighbors learn about the problems. As a result of the website I spoke with many people across Texas and across the United States. I quickly realized that amending the Texas Statutes is the only way changes could be made in my neighborhood.

    I know this may come as a shock to a lot of people here, but sometimes government is the answer. Like pure communism, pure capitalism does not scale up very well. Or are you one of those people who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

    4) Do you seriously believe that (even before the housing market crash) changing homes is as “free” a consumer choice as changing brands of breakfast cereal or tennis shoes?

    If HOAs are an expression of libertarian ideals, then why do

    1/5 of homeowners in HOAs say they’re an “annoyance”
    1/2 of homeowners in HOAs says they’re “a major headache”
    1/5 of homeowners in HOAs say they’ve been in a “war” with their HOA
    over 1/2 of homeowners in HOAs say they’d rather live next to a “sloppy neighbor” than deal with an HOA
    4/5 of homeowners in HOAs say they would consider not buying a house governed by an HOA

    source: LA Times, 2007. Service Magic, 2007.

    If your socio-economic philosophy depends on blaming the victims for getting screwed over, then you’re not going to convince many people that your ideas are right. Most voters aren’t as darwinistic as you are.

    And not every threat to liberty comes from the barrel of a government gun.

    • ChrisJ says:

      1a.) If the contract isn’t available at or before closing you are correct they can’t agree to it BUT (that’s a BIG but) then again how does an HOA get to do that? Answer: Government Sanction!
      (in my state that doesn’t fly, they need to be provided before hand)
      1b.) Retaining a lawyer to review some of the finer details of an HOA is not only a good idea, it’s practically common sense when you realize buying a house is most people’s biggest purchase in their lives. Even more so when considering the time, effort, and money usually put into house hunting, getting inspections, etc….

      2, 3.) There’s some merit to government here….

      4a.) Moving is the only way to deal with your state, county, or city if all else fails. In comparison getting away from a bad HOA isn’t nearly as dramatic.
      4b.) Ooh, statistics that says people don’t like HOAs, yet why do they keep signing them?! Unless those 4/5 don’t follow through and not buy in an HOA on their next purchase they have no one to blame but themselves!

      Again, I agree not all threats come from the government, people willingly giving up their rights is a far bigger danger, but one would think that’s self-evident.

      • anonymous says:

        “yet why do they keep signing them…they have no one to blame but themselves”

        Because the conservative and libertarian ideas about private corporations and contracts are as naive and ignorant of the real world as the drivel espoused by your typical college campus leftist wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt driving around in a Prius sporting a “Hope and Change” bumper sticker.

        • ChrisJ says:

          That makes no sense. You say, “4/5 of homeowners in HOAs say they would consider not buying a house governed by an HOA”

          I suggest that those people simply need to follow what they already know, but you say that’s unrealistic. Are you really suggesting that those people are so dumb and feeble minded that they are unable to not buy in an HOA and as such need government help?

        • ChrisJ says:

          Is if possible that you don’t understand what libertarianism is? Kind of like the people who argue that the BP oil spill was an example of free markets failing?

          An HOA being able to force a contract on a home buyer without informing them prior to the purchase is not libertarianism, it’s most unfortunate that the government in your area has done this to people. Just like BP weighting the costs of extra safety precautions against the liability cap the government gave them isn’t a free market either.

  14. anonymous says:

    “Is if possible that you don’t understand what libertarianism is?”

    Yeah, because I’m no longer drinking your brand of kool-aid, I must have forgotten what it tastes like. That’s the only possible explanation when your theories don’t fit the facts.

    Libertarianism is a philosophy that, unfortunately, has fallen from its ideals of free markets and economic liberty, and has descended into a parody of corporatism. As long as it’s not the government committing some unconscionable act, anything goes. This is why there was no outrage from the political right over the treatment of Michael Clauer, Andrew Clements, etc. And why we get pronouncements like “Hooray for multi-national corporations!”; because if the Donkey-Rats hate them, we’re obligated to praise them.

    There’s an old joke that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.

    And a libertarian is a conservative who’s been arrested.

    What do you call a libertarian who has been abused by his HOA corporation? Whatever the word is for “somebody who had to re-think everything he believed for a quarter-century.”

    I’m certainly not going to start drinking the 0bama kool-aid, but as I said earlier, what the law considers a “contract” and what laypersons such as you and I consider a “contract” are not the same thing. And under private “contract” law, constitutional rights do not apply. Go back and re-read the definition of “repressive libertarianism” above.

    If you think that HOAs are un-libertarian, please find me examples of conservative, libertarian, and pro-individual-rights (as opposed to pro-corporate-collective-rights) pundits, bloggers, etc. saying so. Try to find even just one; not counting Rachel Alexander’s recent column, because 1. it was published only three weeks ago, and 2. has anyone heard of her?

    Like the modern-day heirs of Walter Duranty that they are, the right-of-center media has hidden and distorted the truth about what truly goes on behind the Irony Curtain, where the practice of the most libertarian idea — privatized corporate government — has resulted in a regime dedicated to the collective ownership of your house.

    Which, technically, is what HOAs are — corporations whose assets are the equity in your home. Bonus points if you can tell me what happens when an HOA corporation goes bankrupt.

    • ChrisJ says:

      Frankly I’m losing interest in trying to have a discussion with you. I can only assume all your links are as scatter brained as you are. I get it, you’ve been abused by an HOA and are carrying around some serious baggage as a result. I don’t deny that this happened to you or others. But…

      The best part is that you support what I’ve been saying all along, you even say so yourself…
      “what the law considers a “contract” and what laypersons such as you and I consider a “contract” are not the same thing.”

  15. anonymous says:

    I get it, you’ve been abused by an HOA and are carrying around some serious baggage as a result.

    Yes. God forbid that I should revise my socio-economic theories based on real world experiences. Especially mine.

    That’s like telling our fine host that he’s not qualified to talk about the horrors of Communism. “I get it. The Soviet Union was a horrible totalitarian dictatorship, and you are carrying around some serious baggage as a result, but…”

    “what the law considers a “contract” and what laypersons such as you and I consider a “contract” are not the same thing.”

    Well, that’s a change from your earlier position that individuals are “ignorant”, “lazy”, “dumb,” “feeble minded,” “make bad decisions”, and (implicitly) therefore deserve the bad things that happen to them because “the person willingly agreed to these contracts”. Which is it: the individuals are at fault, or now you want to blame government?

    If you need to resort to ad hominem attacks — apparently a technique that is not the exclusive domain of liberals — to end this, go ahead. I spent twenty-five years espousing the same ideas you do now, and have heard and said it all before. I know there’s no point in discussing the basic elements of Rational Choice Theory (something necessary for a truly free market to work) with you.

    Conservative and libertarian ideas about private corporations and contracts are as naive and ignorant of the real world as the drivel espoused by your typical college campus leftist wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt driving around in a Prius sporting a “Hope and Change” bumper sticker. They’re as workable as “pure communism.”

    The excuses offered by the two groups for the failure of their ideas to work in the read world are the same: “Communism/Libertarianism [choose one] is great. But don’t judge them on their real world results, because real communism/libertarianism [choose one] hasn’t been tried yet.” Variation: “People aren’t good enough for it.”

    Earlier, you said that HOA contracts are not an expression of libertarian ideals (which is also a change from your earlier position). Let me know when you find one example of a mainstream conservative or libertarian critical of the institution, rather than praising them as “private contracts” or “free market alternatives” to government.

    • ChrisJ says:

      No my position has not changed, corporations only get the power they have because the government gives it to them. I did not feel it necessary to include that the individual can give them that power as well, because that’s self-evident. As for your real world experience, you are singularly fixated on the direct actor being the HOA, and completely ignore the cause is still the government or the individual giving the HOA that power.

      So yes being scatter brained is not an ad hominem, it is an accurate description of you. You keep bouncing back and forth between who’s authorizing this power, because you can’t accept anything other than corporations are evil. Then when that doesn’t work for the n-th time you go off the deep end seriously conflating neo-conservatism with libertarianism, because you have no clue what the latter is.

    • ChrisJ says:

      By the way that was actually you who said people were dumb and feeble minded, I was just clarifying that’s really what you were saying.

      • anonymous says:

        “By the way that was actually you who said people were dumb and feeble minded, I was just clarifying that’s really what you were saying.”

        Me thinks thou doth project too much. I never said nor implied any such thing.

        I do, however, stand corrected, because neither did you. I apologize for mis-interpreting your post of July 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm.

        You never claimed that the people involved are “dumb” and “feeble mined.” Just ignorant, lazy, and (implicitly) deserving of the bad things that happen to them because they made “a series of bad decisions.” This was before you changed your position, when you discovered you could blame government for imposing a so-called “contract” on homeowners.

        Blame the government or blame the individual victims — whichever is convenient at the time.
        But never ever blame corporations when corporations behave badly (because the devil/government made them do it).

        If corporations get their power from government, should government take that power away?

    • ChrisJ says:

      As for the real world experience, if Oleg’s response to his experiences was to call for more layers of government and laws to prevent the the atrocities they committed I’d be arguing with him too.

      Thankfully he seems to realize that adding more even more government to a problem the government created is usually not the answer.

  16. ChrisJ says:

    “Me thinks thou doth project too much. I never said nor implied any such thing.”

    Unfortunately you never supported why you think the 4/5 people who already know they don’t want to be in an HOA, need the government to save them from themselves. When instead they simply need to act on their own known desires. This does strongly imply you think they are too dumb or feeble minded to act in their own enlightened self-interest.

    “Just ignorant, lazy, and (implicitly) deserving of the bad things that happen to them because they made “a series of bad decisions.””

    Following on that 4/5 people don’t want to be in an HOA in the first place, another one of your many claims is that a lawyer is too expensive, $300/hr you say. To that I question how one is purchasing a house worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and will over 30 years pay an additional amount at least the home’s value in interest, yet spending less than a thousand dollars for a lawyer before closing is somehow a deal breaker? Given the scale of the purchase that is simple due diligence, just like getting an inspection, and a title report. The last of which also presents some more interesting government permissions being granted in the cases you’ve mentioned, an HOA lien should show up in a title report, unless the government has excluded it ;-).

    “This was before you changed your position, when you discovered you could blame government for imposing a so-called “contract” on homeowners.”

    This appears to be a somewhat unique problem with Texas. Most other states would never accept what you’ve described as a contract. As a matter of fact it is not voluntary, and one can not agree to something they don’t know about; which only further highlights that you seem to be ignorant regarding the differences between libertarianism and neo-conservatism.

    Your inability/unwillingness to see the government part of this is especially troubling, and is similar to what you tried arguing about the government declaring corporations people. For something like this to be considered a valid contract the government must define it as one, without that government acceptance the HOA is simply powerless.

    My position did not change on this, it never did. All that changed is I learned that the government of Texas has enabled some truly horrid things.

    “Blame the government or blame the individual victims — whichever is convenient at the time.
    But never ever blame corporations when corporations behave badly (because the devil/government made them do it).”

    When a corporation acts using color of law, I blame the government. When a corporation, acts within the color of law, and within the bounds of the agreed upon contract, I blame the individual (they are not a victim). For the remainder of the times when a corporation acts outside of the agreed upon contract, in particular using force or fraud, I would hope there is a law in place to punish it.

    So far you’ve made a very strong case that the color of law in Texas is grossly flawed. You’ve yet to make any case that someone not doing their due diligence makes one a victim. And I may have missed it, but I didn’t see you present any examples of force/fraud that didn’t fall into one of the prior two categories, which is not to say they don’t exist, I’m sure they do.

    “If corporations get their power from government, should government take that power away?”

    Yes, but that is vastly different from another layer of government on top, as I alluded to in my response to you bringing up Oleg’s life experience.

    Really, an interesting perspective you could take such a conversation in the future is to question how is an HOA different from a local government? With that you can easily paint them into a corner where they lose the flexibility of contract law and become more restrained as a result. Though good luck convincing the government of this stance. (note that once again it’s not the HOA you need to convince)

  17. anonymous says:


  18. anonymous says:

    “Your inability/unwillingness to see the government part of this is especially troubling, and is similar to what you tried arguing about the government declaring corporations people”

    I am well aware of the government’s role in this industry, which is not limited to Texas as you believe. The FHA has been promoting HOA corporations since the 1960s. For the past several decades, municipalities have been requiring that all new housing construction be under the governance of of some type of HOA: Steven Siegal, “The Public Role in Establishing Private Residential Communities: Towards a New Formulation of Local Government Land Use Policies that Eliminates the Legal Requirements to Privatize New Communities in the United States” (Urban Lawyer. Fall 2006). It’s a really really long article, so you might just want to listen to an interview with him at OnTheCommons.net (April 28, 2007). This has created a massive distortion of the housing market, leaving consumers with little choice. And this is not just in Texas, as you want to believe.

    The growth of HOAs nationwide has not been driven by consumer demand, but by government mandate and the desire of developers for greater profits. See also “Private Community Associations: Boon or Bane for Local Governance?” .

    I am going to break a rule of the internet, and use ALL CAPS in the next sentence to emphasize something.


    A few quick examples before I head off to work:

    “What Are Private Governments Worth?” (Cato Institute). PDF version here.

    “Let His Freak Flag Fly?” (Reason).

    “In other words, the ACLU is defending McDonel’s freedom of speech by supporting state interference with the contract and property rights of his neighbors, who have chosen to live in a development with picky aesthetic rules and presumably derive some benefit from that arrangement.”

    Typical libertarian knee-jerk reaction. FYI: This is not in Texas.

    “Free-Market Alternatives To Zoning” (Independence Institute)

    “Are HOAs Anti-Freedom? (The Future of Freedom Foundation)

    “HOAs are a market response to people’s desire to protect their home’s value. They are voluntary contracts, and deserve to be protected by law. They are also an example of how private alternatives can easily replace government edicts. As such, they stand as an excellent example of free exchange and free will — highly appropriate in a free society. “

    “Beware HOAs” (Libertarian Examiner). In spite of the title, the author sides with the HOA corporation.

    A Florida man who lost his wife and son when a plane crashed into his house may have to tear down his rebuilt home over complaints from his homeowner’s association. Joe Woodard’s wife and son were killed in the July 2007 crash, and he’s been building a new home on the same lot for the past year……HOAs are private organizations formed voluntarily between homeowners…As heartless as it appears Mr. Woodward’s HOA is being, I have to side with it over Woodward.

    FYI: This is not in Texas.

    “Real Estate Investors Beat The banks To Profit On Foreclosures” (St. Petersburg Times)

    “‘It’s called capitalism,” Tankel said. ‘It’s the free market.'”

    Robert Tankel is an HOA corporate lawyer who makes enormous profits by foreclosing on homeowners for trivial amounts, in accordance with the terms of the HOA’s contract. Follow-up story here.

    So are HOAs an expression of libertarian ideals? Yes, because libertarians say so. If you no longer think so, then at least I’ve made some progress with one person. Discussing HOAs with libertarians is like discussing evolution with Flat Earth creationists.

    Why are the conservative and libertarian proponents of HOAs willing to overlook the government’s role, and the atrocious behavior of HOA corporations? Like the modern day heirs of Walter Duranty, they have an ideological agenda to push, and their fetishization of corporations and sociopathy makes them look the other way when the facts don’t fit their theories. Like communists and global warming alarmists, libertarians are not immune to engaging in ignoring facts rather than revising their theories.

    As for the rest of your points, I could go on about the fraud and violence in HOAs. And beyond HOAs, I could talk about Rational Choice Theory, power imbalances, unconscionability of private contracts, etc. that make some of your other ideas either wrong or as not as clear-cut as you (and I used to) like to believe.

    But if you are not aware that the government has declared corporations to be persons, you might want to research “corporate personhood” first. Otherwise, I’ll be wasting your and my time.

    1 U.S.C. §1 (United States Code) In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise– the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals;

    If you do look into the issue, you’re going to find a lot of left-wing moonbattery that you’ll have to filter out. But don’t dismiss all the concerns simply because other libertarians think corporate sociopathy is a virtue to be celebrated as a thing of beauty.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll conclude with this before I head off to work: Conservatives and libertarians are as ignorant of the real-world consequences of their socio-economic theories as your typical college campus leftist wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt driving around in a Prius sporting a “Hope and Change” bumper sticker.

  19. ChrisJ says:

    You seem to have some sort of perverse appeal to authority fetish, but sadly you don’t seem to read the articles you are linking to for yourself…

    The CATO article entirely revolved around home values in HOAs and had little to do with anything we discussed here.

    The Reason article indicates that in Arizona HOA contracts are available for review before purchase and as such can be accepted or rejected voluntarily.

    The Freedom Daily article operates under the assumption that the contract is available before closing for acceptance/rejection.

    … same thing in the Libertarian Examiner.

    The Tampabay.com page appears to be a local news page, not some libertarian rag, nor can I find anything indicating Robert Tankel is a libertarian.

    So again with the libertarian stuff you go off half-cocked about a bunch of random crap, and it really is random crap. All you’ve shown is that there are HOAs in states other than Texas and that people don’t like them there either. You need to show that those contracts are not voluntary, as you purport is the case in Texas.

  20. anonymous says:

    So you\’re going back to the argument that a deed restriction that rides with the land, which the courts treat as a private contract with the HOA corporation, was made \

  21. anonymous says:

    So you’re going back to the argument that a deed restriction that rides with the land, which the courts treat as a private contract with the HOA corporation, was made “available for review” to the home buyer by the developer, who “publicly posted” the document-treated-as-a-contract by filing it with the county. And homeowners should know to look for such things?

    Even if that “publicly posted” document called a contract was “on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign outside the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’”, libertarians believe this meets the Rational Choice Theory requirement of “informed consent.”

    Juliet Foxtrot Charlie! Libertarians are as bat **** insane as liberals.

    Maybe someday, if the BATFE (or whatever they’re calling it nowadays) mandates gun manufacturers to create a “terms of use” that requires all new gun buyers to be members of a “Gun Owners Association” (G.O.A.) corporation, in which we waive our second amendment rights (and a whole lot of others for good measure), you might realize how screwed up your ideas about “contracts” are in the real world. But given the above exchange, probably not.

    As for me? I don’t want a boot stomping on my anyone’s face forever, regardless of whether it’s worn on a government foot or a the foot of a private corporation. The Privatized Toll Road To Serfdom is no more desirable than The Road To Serfdom.

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