Talk to a real estate agent, who deals in mid-sized suburban properties, and they will tell you that the local schools sit atop their client’s list of concerns. A great house in a bad neighborhood usually means bad schools and no one will choose that on purpose. Instead, families will pay extra for a not so nice house in a great neighborhood because that means good schools. You can fix up your house, but you cannot make the local school better, if it is full of misbehaving knuckleheads or headed that way because of the neighborhood.
People instinctively understand a basic truth about education. That is, the quality of product coming in dictates the quality of product coming out. Despite generations of lectures from our betters, we still know that the apple does not fall far from the tree. If the parents are low-IQ losers, the kids are most likely going to be low-IQ losers. The schools are not correcting this. In fact, it is the opposite, because the other old saying about apples is also true. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
Everyone, including our hypothetical real estate agent, is too polite and too afraid to say what this means as a practical matter. For instance, I knew someone who lived in a mostly Jewish suburban neighborhood of starter homes. These were townhouses and ranchers. A black family moved in next door and they got along well with everyone. Then another black family moved in, but it was ghetto time, with parties into the late hours. Suddenly, the neighborhood sprouted “for sale” signs and the demographics changed within one summer.
In a prior age, this problem was mostly solved through free association, home owner associations and covenants. People in that neighborhood would have prevented the threat to their property values by prohibiting the sale of houses to people who did not belong. It was not entirely fair, of course, but it allowed people to protect their property rights without having to resort to lying. As is always the case, there were trade-offs, but at least their was a natural way for people to guard their rights as property owners and citizens.
Similarly, in a prior age the neighborhood association would have cracked down on the troublemakers. Even the “progressive” neighborhoods policed their ranks and used the rules to enforce standards. A couple generations of myth making have convinced everyone that these rules were used strictly by racists, and they often were, but they were more often used to maintain public order without having the government send in the police. With enforced diversity came the police state and that is not a coincidence.
Free association is illegal now. If a real estate agent is too obvious in how they handle these things, they face disciplinary action from the real estate board. A homeowner, who refuses to sell or rent to whoever shows up, can easily find themselves in front of a judge. Freedom of association is no longer a right in America. Everyone has to seek permission from the state before they can make these decisions. That means finding a place to live has become a game of cat and mouse for middle-class families.
It’s yet another example of the worthlessness of modern conservatism. They rolled over for this stuff long ago, accepting the Left’s assertions that discrimination was the vilest of sins and therefore required an extraordinary remedy. Once you accept that people don’t have a right to say with whom they will associate, addressing things like crime and the schools means begging the Left to make exceptions to their moral code in order to enforce anything resembling civic order. That’s where school choice and voucher programs come in. They are an appeal to the Left for an exception.
Of course, the Left hates the middle-class so any appeal on their behalf is denied. Instead, these appeals have to be decorated in such a way that appeals to the vanity of the Left and allows them to benefit. So-called charter schools that are for the “gifted and talented” are marketed to Lefty as a way to cull from the ghetto, all of those bright and creative minds, otherwise left to be raised by their parents. In realty it means those self-righteous progressive women get to send their kids to schools that are not so diverse.
School voucher programs attempt to expand on this by playing the Magic Dirt game. “If only those poor mothers can get their kids off that tragic dirt and onto the magic dirt.” They muster statistics and education studies to buttress the claims. It’s all nonsense, but it is the only way modern conservatism can frame the issue. They are begging the Left for an exception to the moral code. No one is fooled by it, which is why school voucher programs have gone nowhere. The Left will not tolerate them.
Freedom of association is not just forbidden. You’re not even allowed to talk about it anymore. Imagine what would happen if someone went on TV and said they don’t want to live next to Koreans or Somalis. They would have their life ruined. It’s why all those principled conservatives we keep hearing about were nowhere to be found when the queers started attacking bakers. Even libertarians sprint from the room when the topic of free association is raised. It’s the result of conceding the moral high ground to the Left.
It’s why the so-called Right is in a panic over Trump’s immigration talk. If it is acceptable for Americans to say “no” to Muslims on the grounds that we don’t want any more Muslims, then we’re back to discussing the limits, if there are any, to the freedom of association. Put another way, if we don’t need a reason to say “no” to Mohamed, then we don’t need to ask for permission in order to say “no” to diversity. That’s not a fight, or even a discussion, the so-called conservatives want to have with the Left.
It’s also why the hand-wringing over free speech on campus is a pointless distraction. You cannot have free speech without freedom of association. That’s the obvious lesson from the confines of the academy. Put a bunch of people in close quarters and you have to police what they say and where they go. Otherwise, you have violence. The same is true of all other rights. All natural rights are premised on freedom of people to live apart from those they do not wish to associate. Self-segregation requires little policing.
Bring back freedom of association and all the other rights follow.