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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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This Land is My Land

There can be little doubt that anyone living in a deed-restricted community is, at some base level, a socialist at heart. Anyone disputing such a notion need only look up the common definition of the word to prove my point.

According to the big red Random House College Dictionary sitting on my desk, "socialism" is "a theory or system of social organization that advocates the ownership and control of industry, capital, land, etc. by the community as a whole." For purposes of my argument, simply note the italicized words.

In Marxist theory socialism is the bridge between capitalism and full-blown communism, but I'm not talking about Marxist theory so please don't think I'm calling anyone a Communist or potential Communist. But if you believe in giving up control of your own property to maintain an ideal community aesthetic, what else could you be described as, other than a socialist?

In case you don't know what they are, deed-restricted communities are housing developments governed by a set of codified rules on how one can appreciate the property they own. Generally houses must be painted any number of approved colors, in some communities cars cannot be parked on the street, in others lawns must be kept green or may only use an approved type of grass, and so on and so on.

These restrictions almost always apply to the exterior appearance of a house and the community as a whole, but sometimes restrictions will go so far as to prevent the operation of home-based businesses.

Usually, the developer is the one who gets to set the rules when the community is first built. Developers then create a homeowners' association, which generally cedes the day-to-day operations of the community to a professional property management company. The property management companies in turn run several or dozens of different homeowners' associations.

The crux of the deal for people living in a deed-restricted community is that the homeowners agree to abide by the deed restrictions, in exchange for the knowledge that their fellow residents will abide by the restrictions. Basically homeowners are saying "you can tell me what color I can paint my house, if that means the guy across the street from me can't paint his house bright purple."

Here in Florida deed-restricted communities are big business, and it seems like every other new development sprouting up around the state is under some sort of restricted living code of conduct. Every time I drive by one of these communities, which almost always go by some mildly pretentious name like "Fox Ridge," I cringe.

It is no coincidence that the Founding Fathers viewed property rights as tantamount to freedom itself. If you don't believe me, ask yourself why the Third Amendment is third. This amendment, so important to the Founders, has never been directly addressed by the Supreme Court and has in fact only once in the entire history of this country been the subject of legal action (in Engblom v. Carey).

The Third Amendment is third because the Founders viewed the practice of quartering troops in private property so offensive it merited more protection during the creation of the Bill of Rights than did the protection from unlawful search and seizure and the protection of cruel and unusual punishment.

The idea that modern Americans would give up their rights to use and enjoy their own property as they see fit would be baffling to the Founders. It confuses me. As a homeowner, I have a six figure debt just as much as the people who live in these communities do.

And yeah, as a homeowner who doesn't live in a deed-restricted community, much less one even governed by a simple homeowners' association, I can get a little annoyed when the guy across the street from me drops a Pepsi vending machine in his front yard.

But he took it with him when he moved, and I can paint my house any color I want to, without interference or objection from anyone. I could even paint it bright purple.

Now that's freedom, although admittedly very bad taste.

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