The Theory of Consent
By Arnold Kling
Bart Hinkle poses an issue.
Last week a Chesterfield circuit court ruled Romito has no obligation to pay dues to the homeowners’ association in the tony Bexley neighborhood. Romito bought his property two decades ago, when membership in the association was voluntary. Last year the Bexley Association made membership and dues mandatory. To force Romito to pay dues now, ruled Judge Herbert C. Gill, would be “simply unjust.”
Thanks to Don Boudreaux for the pointer.
I would not necessarily support the judge’s ruling in all cases. Suppose that my neighborhood could obtain street repair and trash collection services at lower cost than is provided by the county. My neighbors would like to collect dues to pay for those services and have our taxes reduced accordingly. Assume that the neighborhood association now will arrange for trash collection at my house and also maintain our streets, and assume that the County will reduce my taxes. Should I have the right to opt out of paying dues to the neighborhood? What if I voted against the neighborhood’s decision?
I do not think that there is a perfect solution here. However, my idea of competitive government is to try to minimize the cost of exit. For that reason, I would like to see neighborhood associations allowed to opt out of county services. If I am fed up with my neighborhood association, it is easier for me to move to a nearby neighborhood than it is for me to move to a different county to escape bad county government. The larger the territory controlled by the government, the harder it is to use exit. To me, that argues for minimizing the power of larger governmental units.