COLORADO SPRINGS, March 24, 2013 — I live in a small rural community of about 130 homes built in a pine forest. The community, like many in America, is not within the city limits but is instead governed by a homeowner’s association.
The community was designed and built by a developer some fifteen years ago. There are a set of covenants which, according to state law, everyone buying or building a home must agree to. A Design Review Committee approves all architectural designs as being in conformance with the covenants.
The covenants are designed to maintain the rural nature of our community, to live in harmony with its natural beauty and wildlife. Natural beauty and harmony in a peaceful environment: what could go wrong?
People. People living together in community is politics.
Our small community reflects the problems of our nation as a whole. Whether it be a Constitution or a set of Covenants, our nation and its communities large and small were once given a set of laws sufficient for self-governance.
The problem is, we have lost our capacity for self-government.
After some fifteen years, the homeowner’s board, which should have nine members, has only five. The covenants committee, which should have three, has only one. He is accused of being capricious and arbitrary. When one person showed distain and disregard for the covenants, the community didn’t know how to respond.
The issue arose over the question of chickens. To maintain the environment, livestock—including chickens, horses, donkeys, sheep and goats—are not allowed. Domestic dogs and cats must be leashed.
Somebody decided they wanted to keep chickens regardless of the rules. Somebody else found out.
Many communities turn over the management of their HOA to professional management companies to avoid having to come to grips with issues like this. Some, like ours, hire lawyers for their opinions but still manage to self-govern.
On a snowy Saturday morning, the board and 28 members of the community met to discuss issues.
The person with the chickens wanted a variance. She clearly didn’t think much of the covenants, having sent every household a letter in advance telling us that the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs both allowed chickens. She felt the rules were too strict. She told us that we weren’t progressive enough.
One man stood to say that everyone agrees to the rules before joining the community. Another said that if you don’t like the rules you have three choices: obey them anyway, seek to have them amended, or move.
Willfully ignoring the rules and then later claiming some kind of right to do so does not sit well with law-abiding citizens. Not for chickens and not for in-state tuition for illegal aliens. Some people spoke up at the meeting, some listened. The vast number of households did not attend.
As it is in our small community, so it is in our state and the nation as a whole. Only 52% of eligible voters showed up in November 2012.
Political activists are fond of saying that government goes to those who show up. We cannot expect our elected leaders to reflect our views if we don’t participate in the political process. If we don’t know who they are and what they represent, they will tell us what they think we want to hear and then do as they please once elected.
Poll after poll shows that the views of the people and the political class are diametrically opposed on many issues. Just 17% approve of the job Congress is doing—yet we elect them ourselves every two years. Less one third of the population think the country is going in the right direction.
While overwhelming majorities of the people think the federal budget should be balanced, the deficit is a problem and the national debt is a serious issue, the elites ignore us.
The president says we don’t have a spending problem and proposes one new way after another to spend more. The senate passed their first budget proposal in four years: it calls for $1 trillion in new taxes but never balances the budget. The House isn’t much better: it balances in 10 years, which is the political equivalent of never.
Our elected officials are not listening. When are we the people going to rise up and say, “Enough!”
Thomas Jefferson said, when the people fear the government there is tyranny; when the government fears the people there is liberty.
But before we reform government, we must reform ourselves. Before we can hold our elected officials accountable, we must hold each other accountable. Before we can rebuild the nation, we must rebuild our institutions from the ground up.
The homeowners’ association might be a good place to start.
At The Voice of Liberty, we seek to advance the principles of liberty, because tyranny never sleeps.
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