Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Anti-Democracy

The best modern argument against democracy is, of course, the American homeowner's association, where The People prove that they actually are substantially less bright than, and almost as vindictive as, Killary Clinton. Homeowner's associations are a ruse, whereby developers get tax breaks to steal land from a County in exchange for binding future road development to limited subsets of homeowners, thereby depriving said homeowners of the consolidated bargaining power for repaving services that the County itself already has. The developer gets to squeeze extra money out of dozens or hundreds of HOA-dwelling marks until the development is complete, at which point it is turned over to "the homeowners." Suddenly, full democracy--one household, one vote, and all our problems are solved, right?

Oops. Not quite. Because no one wants to go to the meetings and no one wants to bother voting, and even if they all did, a small coterie of busybodies with too much time and an unhealthy amount of interest is already controlling the thing using purposefully asinine European parliamentary procedures, imposing the minority's "majority" will in order to raise rates to buy snacks for the board meetings and sign up for County-sponsored community improvement projects that extract money from everyone, whether they liked it or not. What an atrocious waste it is, these white-flight holdovers, and how wackily defensive so many people are of it, just because it's a "democracy," and there's something magical about that word, so don't question it.

Of course, being an American, once you're in a position of power, it is mandatory that you "partner" with local law enforcement in a way that gets you some kind of badge, stuffed crime dog, or subscription to a listserv that warns you about sex offenders living eighty-three miles away. Lured by the sexy appeal of being "on the inside," and impressed by the phenomenal amount of hyperparanoid "data" sent daily to the local precinct, what else can you do but request more patrols and more intervention, on the behalf of your subjects, who just love it when weird pseudo-fascist signs about armed response start being posted on the first floor of the condo building?

Developers always partner with jointly-held "rental management" or "community management" companies, so that even once the community is turned over to homeowners, some tiny office somewhere collects a massive yearly fee in exchange for tabulating homeowner payments. Americans, rarely able to balance their checkbooks or understand their credit cards, are amazed by the sheer impressiveness of commercial zoning, and laugh at the idea that anyone but that very same rental management company could possibly tabulate all those association dues with only thirty days to do so between each set of payments.

And even when you seize power, so many people are nervous about changing things too fast, or changing things at all, because since they are currently alive, the last administration had to've been doing at least something right, so don't rock the boat. Even if all you want to do is cut the yearly fee dramatically for all members. Yes, they'll actually fight like hell if you try to do that, because they have this vague sense that there has to be a higher yearly fee or all social order would break down. It makes supply-side economics look intelligent, because people will fight for the right to pay more of their own money to the HOA even knowing that the HOA never returns money to them in the form of jobs or dividends.

So if we like democracy, that's great, but it's not going to work with these people. These people need improvement, first. Maybe education; maybe a touch of the post-structural femimarxist dialectic; maybe martial law and a few decades of tyranny built around some generalissimo's personality cult. Maybe none of these things. But one thing is for sure: democracy in these conditions is a complete fail. Even if democracy is (however bad, you'll admit) the best type of government we have available, it's not something that could be applied well to this particular group of test subjects.

4 comments:

  1. LOL, one of the many reasons i went with a home in an old neighborhood - no HOA! I am increasingly suspicious of democracy even without the disturbing example of HOAs. Disturbing, because if there is one context in which democracy should be working with no problems, it is precisely in small, homogenous communities - and nothing is more homogenous than a subdivision!

    What to do then? Asshole middle class homeowners will be with us whatever the future brings, and they have a lot of practice yapping about what must and must not be done. A disinterested corporate domination may be preferable to asshole busybody domination!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I propose that, by Constitutional Amendment, all resident disagreements with homeowner's associations be removed from executive branch jurisdiction and placed in the hands of the duly-elected homeowner's association. Then, armies of suburbanites can converge on the single holdout house in their neighborhood where the grass is not properly mowed, and after a six-day standoff and eleven people left critically wounded, the HOA president waves a flag triumphantly and permits local media to film her workmen cutting the grass to the proper height.

      Delete
  2. Developer wants, developer gets.

    Developer can be Levitt or can be well-connected smaller-scale dude who guts & remodels structures along the newly-designated Commercial Corridor, formerly a residential street but those residents were obviously lower-class and needed to be ejected by imposition of sidewalk construction, tree removal, shrub removal, fence re-alignment fees that none could handle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yah, people don't realize how much of a glass issue it is to even pay a $25 monthly association fee. A lot of people have to balance their residential outlook against a fixed salary, and $25 a month can mean the difference between medicine and no medicine, so those things, however apparently piddling, actually do serve as a class divider.

      How pitiful, though, to attempt to define yourself as belonging to the class that can afford a $25/month membership fee.

      Delete