The Corner

Neighborhood Associations, Private Ordering & Hart

I am solidly with Ramesh in believing that neighborhood associations are market institutions. That is, true neighborhood associations — like all voluntary and contractual associations — are build upon the very same institutional foundations as markets: private property and voluntary exchange protected by the rule of law. Where these institutions are protected, markets develop and rule economic affairs. At the same time, the existence of these institutions allows for individuals and families to band together in voluntary associations to provide for many of the goods that pure economic exchange does not. This sort of private ordering is the heart and soul of civil society. It cannot be duplicated by government (though, as Jonah notes, under the right conditions local governments may come closer that larger, more distant entities).

Efforts to control the market through the political process inherently undermine property rights and voluntary exchange, and thereby weaken the same institutions which protect those non-economic and non-material things that most conservatives hold dear. Limit the freedom of contract and personal control over property, and it has both economic and social effects. It is no coincidence that the likes of Richard Weaver embraced a near-absolutist position in defense of property — the “last metaphysical right” — despite having relatively little regard for questions of economic prosperity. This understanding is, in my view, the foundation for a lasting coalition between social and economic conservatives. Alas, I feel it is something that both sides seem to forget. [Insert plug for fusionism here.]

Jonathan H. Adler — Mr. Adler is an NRO contributing editor and the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. His latest book is Marijuana Federalism: Uncle Sam and Mary Jane.

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