anti-nomads

Based on a reddit post:

Who would think a vehicle, parked in a parking garage, would be so threatening? :/

It’s extremely threatening to a certain portion of the sub-population.   Unfortunately that group is vocal and motivated, to say the least.  Economic pressure makes their anxiety worse and the unhomed are a convenient (and defenseless) punching bag.

The threat is even higher when the vehicle is parked in a neighborhood.

economic factors

The Homevoter Hypothesis (Fischel, 2005) explains that homes are vulnerable investments because there is no formal way to insure against devaluation.  Property owners (especially homeowners) attempt to buttress their vulnerable investments by using the power of the local municipality / law enforcement against any real or imagined factor they worry might have negative impact. That is rent-seeking behavior in the sense Adam Smith referred to rent.

Interestingly, home values are only realized when the property is actually sold. So in effect the homevoters are saying “get rid of these transients because I am leaving the neighborhood someday”. Let’s not forget the willingness of homeowners to hire lawyers to devalue their own property when it serves their financial interest (tax skirting).

Bystanders might ponder the ethics of protecting property values of the relatively wealthy at the expense of informal shelter for homeless people.  Remember how Jesus threw the poor out of the temple courtyard so the money-changers wouldn’t suffer any losses? Yeah, me neither.

emotional/moral factors

Jonathan Haidt’s theory of moral foundations (see The Righteous Mind) says that political groups are motivated by different (and additive) criteria:

  • Liberals are motivated by care (vs. harm) and fairness (vs cheating).
  • Libertarians add liberty (vs. oppression) to the above, and focus on it.
  • Conservatives add loyalty to their ingroup (vs. betrayal), authority (vs subversion), and purity (vs. degradation)

It seems clear to me that additional factors important to conservative NIMBYs energize their objection to alternative lifestyles in general and vandwellers in particular.  Note:  there are liberal NIMBYs but their objections do not affect nomads.

psychological factors

[note:  this was the gist of the original article.  f/j]

NIMBYs have spent 1/3rd of their adult hours slaving away to pay for houses, cars, possessions, keeping up with neighbors, whatever. The way they cope with this is to say “this is the way it should be; any other way is unthinkable.” You are the unthinkable. Your existence challenges their understanding of the world and their place in it.

This starts a landslide of anxiety and emotion: If s/he’s doing it then maybe I could have done it. Sweet baby jebus, have I squandered my life? No. No. Not possible. The problem is with him. He must be banished because:

  • he is corrupting the youth of Athens dangerous / unsightly
  • he is pulling down housing values (throwing wooden shoes into the mortgage/refi machinery)
  • his presence reminds me of the the choices I made and continue to make

Vandwellers are not the only enemy.  Tiny house folks, hippies, and the homeless also cause the same anxieties.

We might also say that anti-nomad hostility is a form of cultural projection. That in a post-industrial world we social primates long for a more humane relationship to work, the land, and each other. But this longing is at odds with our choices and norms, so we lash out at marginal folk who do what we, collectively, dream about doing.

rubbing government the wrong way

Local governments have a vested interested in keeping property values up and homevoters happy;  it’s what their property taxes are based on.  They want residents buying houses, not selling them to move into an RV.

State governments prefer citizens who never consider moving to another state.   This eliminates interstate tax competition (income, sales, vehicle).

The federal government  prefer high earning, high consuming, high tax bracket citizens who keep their accounts within the borders.  Easier to track and eliminates international tax competition.

 

*Haidt says Libertarians focus almost solely on liberty.  I think that is a bit reductive — in my experience libertarians focus on liberty in the public sphere, and prefer to express care and fairness as a personal/individual matter.