Local Government as Private Property

Robert Nelson (2002)

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Critics of private community associations often argue that they represent an undesirable combination of “private” and “governmental” powers. They suggest that the significant differences between a suburban municipality and a private community association should be reduced. The private status of a community association, for example, should not be allowed to shelter it from free speech and other constitutional requirements normally applied to local municipalities. Voting rights in private community associations perhaps should be newly extended to renters.

In this paper, I suggest the opposite tack. Instead of requiring private community associations to conform to the legal requirements and social expectations of a municipality, I propose to liberate the municipality to function in the manner of a private business. Local government in America will continue to evolve towards a new form of collective private property – and this will be a good thing.