Anarchy for the U.S.

Civil disobedience used to mean Ghandi facing down the British Empire, or elegantly dressed Southern blacks being hosed down by Bull Connnor's deputies. In 2009, it has devolved to  mean "reoccupying the house you were just evicted from" with the active assistance of non-profits: With Advocates’ Help, Squatters Call Foreclosures Home

Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said about a dozen advocacy groups around the country were actively moving homeless people into vacant homes — some working in secret, others, like Take Back the Land, operating openly.

In addition to squatting, some advocacy groups have organized civil disobedience actions in which borrowers or renters refuse to leave homes after foreclosure.

The groups say that they have sometimes received support from neighbors and that beleaguered police departments have not aggressively gone after squatters.

Technically, I don't approve of this. The homes are private property, after all. And, the non-profits are aiding and abetting a crime, admittedly a low-level one (why do they get to maintain their tax-preferred status as non-profits?). Still, I'm willing to turn a blind eye to this for now. The banks are hardly innocents. They sold expensive mortgages and too much house to people who couldn't afford them, and then refused to renegotiate terms, preferring to go through a foreclosure, presumably so they could tie a deficiency judgment to the home owners.

But, having out these residences through foreclosure, the anecdotal evidence suggests that the homes are then allowed to lie fallow for months on end. That makes no sense as social good. People are being dispossessed and yet homes are lying empty. And an empty home quickly becomes a blighted eyesore, even in the best neighborhoods. 

As long as regular people, not drug dealers or hoods, are engaging in this form of civil disobedience, I say: more power to them. Our government and financial institutions continue to prevaricate on the extent of bad assets that are weighing down the banks and our economy. The real life effects can be seen in neighborhoods where houses are emptied of people and then left to the elements. That's no way to run a society with pretensions toward justice and morality. Until the Deciders can create a mechanism to unite the dispossessed with rationally priced housing, ad hoc solutions like squatting will be the de facto solution. 

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