Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spencer Heath MacCallum

I've recently discovered the work of MacCallum. It is extremely thought provoking. His primary work focuses on the idea of "entrepreneurial communities" as an alternative to subdivisions. Examples of entrecoms or multiple tenant income property (MTIP), as he calls them, include shopping malls and hotels, where a given space is bought or leased while the common areas (walk ways, etc.) and the land itself remain under the ownership and control of a developer. As it applies to housing developments, the basic idea is that you own the house, but someone else owns the land under the house. The home owner pays land rent which then finances streets, parks, and other common areas. According to MacCallum, the entrepreneur who owns the development has much better incentives and feedback mechanisms to manage the development, including the common areas, successfully than does a home owner's association or city planner, both of which rely on democratic decision making.

MacCallum contributes a chapter to The Voluntary City. Here are portions of a great paragraph which addresses voting (very relevant during this election year) from his essay "The Case for Land Lease versus Subdivision" in that volume:

"Voting, widely held to be democratic, serves as the great legitimizer of the political process. But the fact is that like the political process itself, it is a makeshift, like a coin toss, that people fall back upon in the absence of any better alternative... Jonathon Swift supposedly quipped that 'some people have no better idea of determining right from wrong than by counting noses.' Voting is not a procedure for discovering truth or for making informed decisions. It is an agreed-upon method for people to gang up on one another without overt violence... Instead of navigating toward a win-win situation, voting is a method of breaking resistance to a course of action while ignoring the differences underlying the resistance. Its zero-sum nature is starkly dramatized in that wonderful vignette, attributed to Mencken, of two wolves and a lamb voting on the question of what to have for dinner."
Here is one article of MaCallum's and here is another. About half way through both he begins to discuss entrecoms or MTIPs.

So maybe we would be better off if we owned our homes, but not the ground under them.

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