Religiously Exclusive Housing Projects

Over at Thoughts on Freedom, John Humphreys writes:

I believe in private property rights and the right to discriminate. Logically then, I believe that any group of people (including racial or religious groups) should be able to buy property and use it as they wish. If you are white and you only want to live with other whites, then you should NOT use political power to remove non-whites from Australia, but you should be allowed to join together and buy a block of units (or a farm, or whatever) which only accepts whites.

I would agree.  As a believer in property rights, I have to accept that some people will choose to exercise those rights in a manner that I might find disagreeable or discriminatory.

The scenario described by John is not so far fetched as it might seem.  Indeed, this appears to be what some Muslims are also trying to do.   The West Australian reports this week that some West Australian Muslims are planning to build a $10M Muslim-only enclave.

Islamic Council of WA spokesman Rahim Ghauri said the group had an architect-designed concept plan for a six-storey housing development, an underground carpark and a hall for weddings, conferences and religious and recreational activities.

The council’s religious adviser apparently draws inspiration from apartheid South Africa:

“In South Africa, because of apartheid, all different communities were set up and it worked well. It kept people separate. We can be together in terms of our contribution to the wider community.”

The extent to which apartheid-era South Africa should be considered a model for Australian Muslims is, of course, debatable.  And the thought of living in a culturally or religiously homogeneous enclave might not necessarily appeal to all Muslims.  However, if these people wish to build such an environment using their own money and exercise their property rights in this fashion then on what basis can one really object?

There might also be some advantages from such an approach.  As John Humphreys summarises:

One advantage of allowing people to pursue their own lifestyles voluntarily on their own property is that you take away the need for them to become politically active on the issues that annoy them. Instead of lobbying the government for fewer immigrants, anti-immigrants can choose to live in a “non-immigrant” area. Instead of lobbying the government for special rights and funding for minority cultures, those cultures can choose to live together and maintain their own culture.


#1 Aussie on 12.17.08 at 11:57 pm

I would disagree, I find this would create more problems than it would solve. It is bizarre that the leaders of the community used South Africa as an example that this idea would work well. They skipped a pretty important part of South African history, and the struggle the country went through to get rid of this system.

Creating puritan enclaves like this will not benefit our country, it is these same sorts of barriers we are meant to be working at bringing down, not building up.

#2 Amir on 12.18.08 at 12:04 am

I don’t think it’s a good idea but if people want to spend their own money on these sorts of projects then I don’t have a real issue with it. The alternative would be the government stepping in and telling people that they have to open up their property to everyone regardless of whether or not the owners want to.

#3 John Humphreys on 12.18.08 at 9:46 am

The reality is that this sort of stuff happens already. Many share-houses discriminate to keep the house culturally homogenous. One example that comes immediately to mind are asian students studying in Australia — who often prefer to live in an “asian-only” house, and pick their housemates accordingly.

I recommend against it because they’re missing the fun of diversity. But I wouldn’t want them arrested.

#4 Eudaemonion on 12.20.08 at 7:23 pm

Apartheid South Africa? Is he mad!?!

#5 antish on 12.21.08 at 9:11 am

It is surely ALREADY illegal to discriminate on the grounds of religion or race when selling property. And a good thing too.

“Property rights” is a bit of a slippery slope. At what point do the “property rights” become the right to form your own town that forbids (say) Aborigines to be in it after dark? That forbids synagogues? That forbids holding hands in public? That forbids women wearing burqas?

#6 GMan on 12.21.08 at 5:36 pm

This fellow was also trying to sell us the joys of Sharia in Western Australia awhile back. The reaction of local Muslims in the paper and letters to the editor has been overwhelmingly, but not entirely, outrage at the suggestion.

#7 Amir on 12.21.08 at 11:58 pm

If there are people in the community who hate Aborigines/Jews/Muslims/etc so much, I am not particularly fussed if they decided to build their own town and live separately to the rest of us. In fact, that might actually be a good thing. Let them pay for their own roads, community centres, shared infrastructure, and so on.

In any case, the social pressure that would be applied to any group who decided to do such a thing (boycotts, etc) would probably be more than enough to dissuade anyone from creating such a township.

And, btw, do you think the laws prohibiting discrimination in the sale of property would actually stop someone who didn’t like the race or religion of a prospective buyer from making the sale? Like anti-discrimination laws in employment, the smart racist/bigot would simply invent an alternative, more socially acceptable excuse for their behaviour rather than openly cite their racism as the reason.

#8 antish on 12.22.08 at 6:21 am

Amir, given the amount of money to be made out of sueing over racial discrimination, I doubt that a large community would get away with a racial/religious selling policy for long.

Also, why WOULD a large ghetto have to pay for its own roads etc? What does it take to be recognized as a local government and get state and federal funding? Presumably it’s merely a matter of the size of the population.

#9 Theo on 12.22.08 at 6:59 pm

It is highly questionable as to whether there should be any publicly funded roads at all.

#10 Eudaemonion on 12.22.08 at 10:31 pm

It is highly questionable to have publically funded anything, but that is an entirely different issue.

#11 antish on 12.23.08 at 6:41 am

Actually, I can’t imagine a system where the public did not fund roads (unless there were to be no roads at all). It’s merely a matter of whether the people who pay for those roads are called ‘taxpayers’ or ‘consumers’. I’d much prefer that the motivation of the people building the roads was ‘the public good’ rather than ‘this year’s dividend’.

#12 GMan on 12.23.08 at 11:15 pm

Especially given where pursuit of dividends has led us in recent times.. cough…

#13 Eudaemonion on 12.24.08 at 5:26 pm

There is no such quantifiable thing as ‘The Public Good‘. Therefore, there is no such motivation as for ‘The Public Good‘. The phrase implies that the entire public will benefit from whatever venture is being put forward, which is never the case. Its always a section of the public benefiting, already disqualifying the venture as being for ‘The Public Good‘. With the benefits being distributed by politicians, you can bet its geared towards securing votes, making it more a political exercise of patronage, which continues to make a mockery of the very idea of ‘The Public Good‘.

But then again, jingoistic political sloganeering is a favourite of the Statists.

#14 Cinna on 12.25.08 at 12:19 pm

“There is no such quantifiable thing as ‘The Public Good‘. Therefore, there is no such motivation as for ‘The Public Good‘.”
Is this an example of political sloganeering, perhaps? I doubt if anyone would argue that “The phrase implies that the entire public will benefit from whatever venture is being put forward” except the most ardent individualist or the most ardent statist for very different reasons, and surely it is probabilistic rather than quantifiable? Does the phraes derive from Bentham’s- equally unverifiable “greatest good of the greatest number”, perhaps? The fact that many things are advocated as being “for the public good”- meaning for the benefit of most of the public or being so much better for those members of the public that benefit than harmful to those members that do not benefit that the first easily outweighs the second- that are not actually “for the public good” means we should examine such claims carefully rather than accepting or discounting them uncritically. Perhaps a better and more easily verified measure is “the public harm”, but that needs a lot more thought and examination than there is time for here.
In the original instance here, people are entitled to live with who they please if they do so at their own expense and without requiring public subsidy; however, other people are entitled not to help them do so and are entitled to demand the right to live in non-exclusive areas. The main reason apartheid- and I agree it was curious to cite it as a positive example- collapsed was that it was economically inefficient and divisive where people did not want division.

#15 Harry on 12.25.08 at 9:23 pm

Apartheid is inherently inefficient and that is why it will always fail. The unions and left were the biggest supporters of apartheid btw, just as they supported the white australia policy.

#16 antish on 12.26.08 at 8:34 am

I can’t be bothered thinking about whether or not the public good can be quantified, but I don’t need to, as your argument implies that unless something can be quantified it doesn’t exist. That’s patently nonsense.

#17 antish on 12.26.08 at 8:39 am

Harry, can you elaborate on “the left” supporting apartheid? That isn’t how I remember it. In fact the big scare lie about Mandela was that he was a communist.

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