Radio Commentary

Hippies Discover Property Rights

f you haven’t yet heard of "cohousing," you soon will. The media is starting to pick up on this cultural development as it grows exponentially.

Reporter Deborah Knight characterized cohousing as "meeting both the desire for privacy and the yearning for a greater sense of community." You own your own home in a cohousing development, but residents participate in a number of communal activities, such as a weekly dinner. Parking is restricted beyond a specific perimeter, so children may safely play. Oftentimes, families live next door to retired folks, so acquiring babysitting services is easy.

In a way, cohousing is a recreation of European-style village life. In fact, it originated on the continent, in Denmark. It came across the Atlantic in 1988. Since then, 28 cohousing projects have been built. One hundred and fifty are on the way, so it’s clear that many people are attracted to that way of life.

So am I here to deride the people who dwell in cohousing developments? Not at all. It’s none of my business where or how anyone lives. In fact, if you get a sense of peace and security by participating in cohousing, I’m happy for you. Having grown up in a big family, the benefits of cohousing do indeed appeal to me. But we shouldn’t let the central reasons why cohousing seems to work slip away:

People own their own homes, and earn their own incomes. There aren’t group dwellings and there isn’t income redistribution.

Those are fairly significant differences from the hippie communes formed in the 1960s. Cohousing seems to be providing the way of life the counterculture yearned for, but with a twist—it uses the tools of capitalism. u


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