Meanwhile, in Los Angeles….

Squatters are taking up residence in foreclosed homes.

Neighbors in the pricey areas are outraged, apparently.  They would prefer millions of empty homes, together with millions of homeless people?  They don’t say as much, but that’s the alternative.

Can all this foreclosed housing be re-allocated quickly and efficiently with a minimum of human suffering?  This is an easy question.  The answer is no.

I don’t approve of squatting.  It’s against the law.  But there has been so much law breaking leading to this point that singling out squatters for outrage is a too late half measure, at best.  Anyone feeling “outraged” should look in the mirror and take stock of his own role in making the world a place where these things are happening.  There’s more than enough blame to go around.

Happy Thanksgiving, though.  To the squatters and everyone else.

 

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6 Comments

Filed under financial crisis

6 responses to “Meanwhile, in Los Angeles….

  1. Rob

    Squatting is against the law. I’ve also read that the law ought to reflect a people’s ethical values. If enough people now believe squatting is ethical and right, then squatting ought no longer be unlawful. If a country can no longer trust in the ethical judgments of its citizenry, we have problems of a much larger magnitude than simple squatting.

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    • The point I was trying to make was that, pretty much. I’m not going to defend squatting, per se, but it’s a wrong that ought to be seen in context. Neighbors get upset at the squatters because they’re right there in front of them. But the wrongs that have gone into creating the situation that produces squatters are far more obscure and attenuated.

      It’s easy to come down on the squatters. It’s harder and more risky to analyze further, where you might encounter a far bigger and more powerful wrongdoer that is not so readily evicted and banished.

      There was one lawyer siding with some “squatters” that I referred to in one of my very early posts entitled “Whose house is it?” He was arrested. I think there should be more lawyers like him, and in a perfect world other lawyers would be outraged and disgusted that he was arrested.

      Not that he’s necessarily right – though he might be – but as a lawyer representing parties to a dispute in court he can raise the issues and ask the questions that the neighbors and the police and judges and other toadies for the lenders will otherwise never ask.

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      • Rob

        Suppose the squatters had no alternative living arraignment available and the people in the pricey neighborhood were told the weather called for severer snow and cold for the next month. They were further told the squatters could either continue staying in the abandoned houses or brave the elements and potentially freeze. I’d like to think I know what the pricey neighbors would say. Compassion, or at least guilt and shame, are strong motivators. But who knows? Some people are merciless.

        When we’re comfortable and feel we have much to lose, perhaps siding with institutions and corporations is the easy out. Or maybe deferring to power is easier than explicitly taking sides. That way one can say, “that’s the way of the world. I didn’t make the rules, I just follow them.”

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        • You bring up an important aspect of this. How does one reconcile the advent of tent cities in certain parts of California, and I’m sure elsewhere, with millions of vacant homes? You’re talking about a grotesque mis-allocation of resources at that point.

          Are homes an economic asset? In a sense they are, but that is secondary. Primarily, they are a place for human beings to live. Through a process of “securitization” that should have been seriously questioned long ago, those priorities have been reversed, dramatically in more recent years.

          The overrulers’ idea is that everyone living under the threat of homelessness is an incentive to productivity. I question that. Positive incentives are more effective in the long run than negative ones. Put a gun to someone’s head and he’ll do anything to make you take the gun away, good or bad. Often bad, because it doesn’t matter to him as much as getting rid of the gun. Then everyone’s a loser.

          In any case, in addition to all the other economic maladies, the current mess is throwing property rights into chaos, which undermines social stability far more than anything the overrulers fear on the other side of the equation.

          Hope I’m not being too cryptic.

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  2. Mike

    One cannot steal from a thief. Banks are thieves, and therefore squatting is not immoral.

    The life that “two wrongs don’t make a right” was invented by slave masters, and intended for slaves. If you don’t want me to “wrong” you, then don’t “wrong” me. Simple logic that should apply to moral equivalents.

    When you go around hurting others, then of course it is in your own interest to preach that another wrong will not right your own wrong.

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  3. I have to be careful not to sound equivocal or mealy mouthed.

    But it’s better in this circumstance to describe squatting as justified, not right in and of itself.

    Are banks thieves? Sort of. I realize this sounds equivocal and mealy mouthed, but it’s the best answer I can give. In historical context we are experiencing a relatively benign form of oppression. So far. It could become much worse, though.

    Give the devil his due.

    There was this sheriff in Chicago who stopped performing evictions attending foreclosures. There’s that lawyer in LA who told his clients to go back into their foreclosed and now otherwise empty homes.

    There are pockets of decency here and there. We should be grateful for that and think of ways to build upon them.

    Like lawyer strikes. But that’s a bust, so far.

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