Can a roommate, condo community or town infringe freedom?

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Can a roommate, condo community or town infringe freedom?

Post Number:#1  Postby Scott » July 23rd, 2010, 7:58 pm

First of all, any discussion about freedom will likely be rendered pointless due to equivocation without first agreeing on a definition of freedom. Please see this definition of freedom which is the one I will be using in this thread. (If you disagree with that definition, please explain your disagrements in the thread Defining Freedom.)

When if ever can a roommate, condo community or small town infringe on one's freedom?

I believe the answer is never, unless the so-called roommate, condo community or small town is a governor/government.

In that regard, I think it is misleading though not always uncommon to refer to a governor or government merely as a roommate, condo community or small town.

For example, I think it would be dangerously misleading to to refer to a black house-slave and white slave-master who lived in the same house during the times of racial slavery merely as roommates.

For the same reason in reverse, I feel it is dangerously misleading to refer to a condo community or town's administrative department as a government or its hired representatives as governors or political rulers, even though this isn't uncommon. For example, it may not be uncommon for 5 roommates to vote on what to have for dinner and call it an act of democracy and thus government. Philosophically speaking, that is dangerously misleading if not outright incorrect. In reality, the typical roommate relationship is unanimous; they unanimously choose to live together and unanimously choose to use a vote to decide what to eat for dinner.

The slave-master who keeps his slave in the same house is governing the slave. If the house was made up of three white slave-masters and two black house-slaves, it may be a real democracy. That is incredibly different than what is more correctly called a roommate relationship. The definitional difference is in fact the lack of infringements on freedom.

So, in short, it is true by definition that a roommate, condo-community or small town does not infringe on ones freedom because insofar as it does it is not actually a roommate, condo-community or small town but rather a government/governor.

All of that above may just be semantics. (Indeed, philosophy itself may actually just be semantics and language games.) Nonetheless, I believe people commonly mistake freedom with its opposite by mistaking governmental/archistic relationships (such as that between the slave-master and slave in the same house) with non-governmental/anarchist a.k.a. self-governmental relationships (such as the one between the roommates who unanimously, voluntarily choose to live with each other and unanimously, voluntarily choose to vote on what to eat for dinner). The danger is obvious: Awful, destructive infringements on freedom (such as enslavement) get falsely supported as exercises of freedom (such as the roommates unanimously, voluntarily eating dinner together) AND freedoms get taken away or restricted by falsely being mistaken for infringements of freedom.

One main reason this mistake occurs is because of false, but common parallels between small organizations and countrywide governments. For example, when two out of three roommates choose to tell the other one he must either do X or move out as agreed upon by the roommate agreement he signed when he moved in we may incorrectly parallel that to when the millions of voters in a country as big as the United States choose to criminalize X all throughout the whole country. If X is a behavior like murder or rape, then the parallel is generally irrelevant (since most of us would want murder and rape to be illegal and discouraged and hopefully stopped regardless of whether a majority of voters or roommates voted against it). What about if X is a behavior like wearing a Yarmulke, wearing a cross, having frequent sex with different partners, criticizing the President or other celebrity, or picking one's nose? In all those cases, I think it would be a clear infringement on freedom for the act to be outlawed by a real government (e.g. for two-thirds of voters in the United States to vote to criminalize the act nationwide). However, it would not be an infringement on freedom for a homeowner to refuse to admit a person who engages in those activities into his home or otherwise interact with such people and thus would not be an infringement on freedom for a group of roommates or a group of people forming a condo community or small town who non-violently choose to live together unanimously and voluntarily to come to choose to disallow people from engaging in any or all of those activities in their collective home.

Consider a racist who lives in a small, modest-sized house in relative isolation and refuses to let anyone into his home who is not of his race or who says things that disagree with his racist views. We may indeed strongly disagree with that guy's views, his choice of how to live in his home, and his choice of who to invite over and who to disallow admittance. We may non-violently urge him and try very hard to persuade him to change his mind. We may think he is foolish and may recommend he behave otherwise. Nonetheless, he is not necessarily infringing anyone's freedom. That's fundamentally different than when a large majority of voters in the U.S. were strongly racist and made racist nationwide law.

Consider a group of Amish people or orthodox Jews who do not want to be around people who don't practice their religion and share their habits. Consider about 200 of them form a condo community or small town. Consider they do not let anyone live in their condo community or small town who does not share their religion. In that way, people who live in their condo community or town are required maybe to attend specific religious services at specific times even. Now consider if a country the size of the United States or Canada or Russia was theocratic and made a law requiring everyone in the country to become a certain religion or attend a certain type of religious service on a certain day. The latter case is a clear infringement on freedom but the first case is not an infringement on freedom.

Consider a non-smoker who lives in a small, modest-sized house in relative isolation and refuses to let visitors in his house smoke cigarettes and only lets a roommate move in under the condition that they do not smoke cigarettes. Consider a small voluntarily-formed condo-community made up of 25 families who collectively own all 25 houses and some shared property between them and who unanimously have agreed to prohibit any behavior on the collectively owned property that 15 or more families vote to prohibit. Consider they vote to prohibit cigarette smoking. Both those cases are fundamentally different than if the United States government (or some other large nationwide government) banned cigarettes throughout the whole country.

The fundamental difference is freedom. The rules derived from the conditions negotiated between roommates or members of a condo community unanimously choosing to live with each other under such conditions are not actually infringements on freedom even when incorrectly referred to as laws and governments. In contrast, nationwide and statewide bans and mandates are made by actual governments, which ban or mandate things with offensive violence and the threat of offensive violence as opposed to coming to unanimous agreement through non-violent negotiation. To go back to the previous example, whether or not we agree with the decision, the anti-smoking homeowners, roommates and condo-communities are not infringing anyone's freedom but rather are exercising their own freedom of choosing with whom to live and not live and choosing who to let enter or not enter their homes.

Just as it would be an infringement for the government to ban cigarettes nationwide, it would also be an infringement on freedom for the government to ban homeowners, roommates, condo communities and small towns from banning cigarettes in their own respective homes. This is what enables the voluntary, non-violent organization and diversity that makes freedom so great and so conducive to individual happiness, fairness and peace. In a free society, if you don't want to be anywhere near cigarettes, loud music or racists you can disallow them from your own isolated home or even join a condo community or small town with like-minded individuals who all agree to not smoke cigarettes, play loud music or say racist things. If you are a cigarette smoking, loud music playing racist, you can do that in your own home in isolation or in a condo community or small town that allows such a thing or you can even find a condo community or small town of like-minded individuals.

What do you think?
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Can a roommate, condo community or town infringe freedom?



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Post Number:#2  Postby Belinda » July 24th, 2010, 3:48 am

Scott, according to your definition of freedom,. which I think most of us will agree with. I think that all you have said is right.

I want to comment on your definition of freedom, and modify it. It's recoginised not only among Buddhists but also among psychologists and neurologists that there is no such entity as self. Therefore self is not some absolute entity. 'Self' may be a useful workable concept within your definition of freedom if self is taken to be relative to the reason,compassion and consequent judgement that that an individual has. For reason and compassion to be optimised into good enough moral judgement the society has to provide the individuals with education and health care as well as basic needs such as food and shelter.Self in the sense of an individual who is reasoning and compassionate will then be proportionate to the provision of needs, especially to the growing child.

To sum up, 'self ' is relative, not absolute, and any judge in a court of law should consider any deprivation in the criminal's background , which may amount to substantially altering sentencing in the justice process.
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Re: Can a roommate, condo community or town infringe freedom

Post Number:#3  Postby Unrealist42 » July 25th, 2010, 6:31 pm

Scott wrote:Just as it would be an infringement for the government to ban cigarettes nationwide, it would also be an infringement on freedom for the government to ban homeowners, roommates, condo communities and small towns from banning cigarettes in their own respective homes. This is what enables the voluntary, non-violent organization and diversity that makes freedom so great and so conducive to individual happiness, fairness and peace. In a free society, if you don't want to be anywhere near cigarettes, loud music or racists you can disallow them from your own isolated home or even join a condo community or small town with like-minded individuals who all agree to not smoke cigarettes, play loud music or say racist things. If you are a cigarette smoking, loud music playing racist, you can do that in your own home in isolation or in a condo community or small town that allows such a thing or you can even find a condo community or small town of like-minded individuals.

What do you think?


The problem here is that minorities like cigarette smokers and loud music players often find no place that they are accepted. Is this freedom? maybe for who wish to be free of them but not for those they exclude.

Pushing people out to the fringes and excluding them is not an exercise of freedom so much as an exercise of power to control the freedom of others.

For instance, is it really necessary to ban smoking everywhere? Is it really necessary to ban loud music everywhere?
Unfortunately that is the case in many places. People who smoke and like loud music are not allowed their freedom to gather together and smoke and listen to loud music in public or private venues anywhere except in their own homes or by traveling three states over.

Outright bans are an entirely inadequate response. It is one thing to not want smokers or loud music in your house or particular neighborhood bars but to ban them from entire towns cities and states is a gross exercise of raw power, not righteous, not right, and not in the service of justice. It is discrimination through the law pure and simple.

If people are really against this stuff they should try to make it illegal, not just force politicians make those who do it to hide from the public. It is the grossest sort of hypocrisy to do this.

I lived in a city where there was no smoking ban but some 80% pf the restaurants and bars had no smoking policies and that was OK. Bars that allowed smoking had large signs that said "Smoking Allowed". There was really no way for a non-smoker to miss them. They also booked a lot of good bands and were crowded.

It worked fine for years but apparently that was not enough for the no smoking fanatics. The city resisted for years but then passed a no smoking ordinance. All the bars where smoking was allowed and the good bands played went out of business within a year. The smokers stopped going and the non-smokers did not go either. The result, no more music scene.

Was that a good thing?

It is important that a balance be struck in these things so that everyone's freedoms be respected.
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Re:

Post Number:#4  Postby Scott » August 8th, 2010, 11:02 pm

Unrealist42 wrote:Outright bans are an entirely inadequate response. It is one thing to not want smokers or loud music in your house or particular neighborhood bars but to ban them from entire towns cities and states is a gross exercise of raw power, not righteous, not right, and not in the service of justice. It is discrimination through the law pure and simple.


I agree. This is what I am saying. Except one thing. I would lump small towns in with condo communities, houses and neighborhoods. Consider a small town that only has 1000 residents. Is it not inconceivable that a large condo community made up of a few very tall apartment buildings could have 1000 residents? So I think the members that voluntarily form that condo community or town have the same right to prohibit any person they want from joining or only allow people to join under certain conditions just as a family in a house in the woods has a right to refuse to let someone become their roommate or only allow that person to become a roommate under certain conditions. Of course, this wouldn't apply to whole cities or big towns. I think New York City has a bigger population than my whole state--Connecticut. There's 169 towns in CT. The town of Union in Connecticut only has about 700. By my calculation that is about 00.008% the population of New York City--City not State. A neighborhood or condo community made up of 00.008% of New York City would have just as much a right and just as little a right as that town in CT to decide who trespasses there and who doesn't and who lives there and who doesn't and under what conditions. My high school class had more than 700 people. There's plenty of hotels that have more than a thousand rooms let alone people.

-- Updated 03 Aug 2012 07:01 pm to add the following --

Scott wrote:[From the topic: Privacy in public space/street photography

[...] when people are coming together to be part of a town they can lay down whatever policies no matter how absurd or offensive they are by average national sensibilities regarding how the commons can be used just as is done by roommates who share kitchen and bathroom space. One town can make it so it's illegal to take photographs of anyone in the common space without explicit permission, another can make it a matter of policy that being in the commons means others can take your picture; many may come to more of a middle-ground in which pictures are allowed under various sets of particular circumstances and disallowed under others. One town can ban public nudity--or even require parkas--while another can make it illegal to wear clothes in the commons at all ever, and again most will have something of a middle-ground. The important part here is that it is happening within a single home or small town, not on a state-wide, national or worse of all global level.

Hereandnow wrote:Interesting Scott. But don't you think it is a little disturbing , this idea of legal coersion to conform to a social rule that is so arbitrary as the ones you mention? A town where you are required by law to wear a parka? Arbitrary because it violates Mill's harm principle: minimal government in the private lives of indviduals. Have you abandoned Mill?

I agree with the principle of minimal government in the private lives of individuals insofar as 'government' refers to non-defensive coercion or violence or a subset thereof. However, my argument is that the policies or terms of how one may use either their personal space or the commons in a shared house/apartment, condo community or small town are NOT instances of government or laws even though they may be called by such terms so at times (e.g. the board of a condo community being referred to as the government or 5 roommates in an apartment voting on what to have for dinner and calling it 'democracy') because those 'rules', more philosophically strictly speaking, are the terms and conditions of a voluntary social interaction and arrangement.

Hereandnow wrote:Also, This "when people are coming together" part smacks of dystopia. For no one comes together; they are already together. And the only way separate them an make rules "of the people" is to have some go here and others go there.

Saying it smacks of dystopia isn't much of a criticism; appearances can be deceiving. Anyway, I think I get your point. I think it is tantamount to the reason why I say the way roommate-relations, condo communities and small towns work does NOT extend to big cities, states, countries or the globe.

On the small level of roommate-relations, condo communities and small towns, people do come together. Most people do move from town-to-town already and do not just stay in the town they are in, and roommate-relationships and condo-communities are even more formalized relationships of coming-together. Indeed, in the latter two cases one generally signs an explicit contract and, in the case of condos or similar homeowner associations, forks over money to buy into the association with an explicit, written agreement to follow the behavioral policies including both a set that guide the commons and a set the guide more personal space (e.g. no loud music after X, no peeing in the swimming pool, no people who have a criminal record at all, no pets, etc.). Also, they often explicitly agree to a system upon which those policies can be modified, agreeing to follow the modified version even if they oppose the modification.

Yes, sometimes this means people will have to split up or move away because of irreconcilable differences. Maybe one roommate farts a lot and the others want to make a rule of no farting in the house but maybe the farter really dislikes the idea of having to go outside to fart all the time, so they decide to part ways and he moves out into a different apartment with other people who allow indoor farting. I think my proposed system works great at having people live together peacefully and stably with minimal need for actual violent, real governmental interference and oversight while having them split up and move around and rearrange in the most utilitarian way according to their own subjective preferences. In that way, it is a social, living arrangement equivalent of free market economics. If you like McDonald's hamburger more than Burger King then go to McDonald's; if someone else prefers Burger King they can go to Burger King. If you want fart indoors and want to live with roommates, then find some roommates that will allow indoor farting and agree to your other conditions and whose other conditions you find agreeable, or if you cannot take your roommate flatulence but are outvoted according to the arrangements you made when you moved in for determining use of the common space, then go find some roommates who are willing to agree to not fart and live with them. Indeed, a model of voluntaryism encourages some movement and reorganization, but I think the amount it leads to roughly lands on the utilitarian-ideal equilibrium between what would be subjectively wasteful via unproductive movement versus wasteful via destructive non-movement.

Hereandnow wrote:Well, if you want to have an abortion, bringing the issue to current controversy, you can go live in New York, but just leave our fair state of Tennessee.

My argument rests on the idea of voluntaryism, or in other words the idea that the ideal political situation is one as void of non-defensive violence and coercion as possible. (Presumably, this leads to theoretical minarchism or anarchism depending on whether or not one thinks even in theory a small amount of organized violence is a so-called "necessary evil" to maintain the otherwise peaceful near-anarchy, a difference we needn't get into here but that I do address in the topic: Is organized offensive violence necessary?) This is essentially a call for a global ban on any offensive violence including murder, rape, battery, enslavement and robbery and so forth.

The problem with issues like abortion and animal rights is that the debate is mostly about whether or not the would-be victim qualifies as a legal person and thus the action qualifies as, for instance, murder. So issues like abortion and animal rights fall onto a gray area between the things which, under my proposed model, could be banned or not in any given small town but could not be banned on the state-wide, national or global scale and the things that are automatically banned on the global scale an axiom of my model.

Hereandnow wrote:Same goes for the city level. Yo can't kick people out because they don't go along with the program (whihc is essentially what you would be doing if you declared something illegal that a minority did not go along with.

I agree. New York City has a population of over 8 million. It's practically its own country. I am adamantly opposed to state-wide, national-wide and global-wide outlawing of consensual (would-be) crime as I explain in my topic Macro-Criminalization of Consensual Crimes for the reasons you explain because I do not think the idea of a social contract holds up beyond the level of a small town, especially when considered implicit let alone implicit by birth in that place as opposed to a willful move to that place from another jurisdiction.

Hereandnow wrote:And by the way, what if his majority, and I assume it would be by some kind of direct democray that ideas came to be laws, wanted to burn certain books? Ever hear of Fahrenheit 451?) We all know this is impossible and no one would dare try it. But, as most utopian notions go, gee, wouldn't it be if nice everyone in our small part of the world thought the same about things.

Great example. Yes, my model would allow that. If some apartment building or condo-community wanted to ban books, and as a condition in the contract one signs when becoming a leaser or part of the homeowners association one agrees to not bring in books, to burn all books in their possession and maybe even agree to inspections in which any books found in anyone's condo within the association will be burned. That is tolerable just as it is tolerable to prohibit pets or to come up with and enforce any other number of unique policies. The infringement on freedom would be for that Big City, state, nation or global government to set a single policy about pet-allowance or book-burning in condo-communities that would apply to all condo-communities. That's why the freedom-preserving and best-in-utilitarian-measures is to allow for diversity at the local level via the voluntary social arrangements that are roommates, condo-communities and small towns.

If you want to keep your dog, then do not buy into a condo community that prohibits dogs. If you want to keep your books, then do not buy into a condo community that prohibits books. That's how things work in my proposed model. And neither pets nor books can be banned at the national or global level just like the local banning (via conditional terms of use of the shared commons in voluntary social arrangements of co-usage or co-ownership) of books or pets can itself be neither banned nor required at the Big City, national or global level.
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