I’d been thinking about disincorporation for a bit as a monkeywrenching technique when I came across a WSJ article on the phenomenon (Towns Rethink Self-Reliance as Finances Worsen) as conventionally conceived. Disincorporation has traditionally been adopted when a Town itself realizes that its continued existence doesn’t make sense.
Disincorporation as monkeywrenching is when the State realizes that its incorporated subsidiary (town, county, whatever you call it) is so mismanaged that a portion or even all of it would be better off unincorporated and has an established mechanism to remove territory and resources from the control of the dysfunctional government. As socialism is the major form of differential dysfunction in municipal government in the US today, it creates a firewall that strips out neighborhoods from a dysfunctional city and provides opportunities for more functional arrangements to take hold.
A disincorporation statute would set minimum standards of performance which, if violated, would result in city shrinkage. If you’ve got an urban area that’s returning to woodland (which seems to be happening in Detroit for instance) because nobody’s building on a significant number of lots and wild animals move in, create an unincorporated enclave and you have an instant change in incentives. Add in an obligation by the surrounding urban area to sell basic utilities at a reasonable (non-subsidized) price and you have a powerful stick that can be wielded against a dysfunctional socialist municipality that can no longer let significant chunks of their territory decay in favor of other sections. Under a properly formed disincorporation regime the favorite socialist past time of robbing Peter to pay Paul eventually leads to elimination as the decaying socialist city spawns more realistic capitalist mini-urbs.
Socialism doesn’t work. Experience has proven it. Creating a mechanism to shift back through disincorporation would create a powerful tool to end this sort of foolish socialist empire building.
6 thoughts on “Monkeywrenching Socialism – Disincorporation”
That should have been Discorporate.
Disincorporation can be tricky. Often, you escape a small political jurisdiction only to end up in a larger and less responsive jurisdiction. For example, you leave a city and end up controlled by the county or the state.
Texas has fairly lax laws about incorporation which leads to some interesting situations. Texas law allows individual precincts to vote on whether they will be wet or dry (allow the sale of alcohol or not). Back when dry areas where more common than not, enterprising business people would put some trailer houses out on a patch of land outside the city limits and have the residents vote to incorporate. Then they would vote their little town wet and the business people would open up a half-dozen liquor stores a five acre plot. Of course that only works were you’ve got low population densities outside of cities. Conversely, small towns often disincorporate to avoid annexation.
Shannon Love – What I’m aiming at is the use case where the city is a big government monstrosity, mismanages things badly and you end up with Detroit or 1970s New York. How do you disincorporate a major city? You don’t, instead you dismember it piece by rotting piece and repair the new small city or suburban enclave you’ve just created.
“How do you disincorporate a major city? You don’t … .”
Actually, you could.
Incorporation is a creature of state statute. Cities, towns, villages, whatever the state law provides for, could be disincorporated by statute. If a city or town was granted a charter, the charter could be revoked.
Precisely how this could be done is a question of law state by state, and this type of local government law is often arcane. So solutions would require legal hand-tailoring case by case.
But I see no reason this could not be done, until someone gives me a reason to think otherwise.
Lexington Green – You’re correct that in a technical sense you could disincorporate, let’s say, New York City, and attempt to redo the political lives of 8 million people simultaneously. As a practical matter, this far exceeds what is likely to ever happen. Monkeywrenching socialism means nothing if it’s not politically realistic. Tatyana’s criticism in my first post about futile action, while I rejected it as destiny, is a distinct possibility if action is not carefully tailored to be big enough to be effective and small enough to be practical.
Unincorporating Hell’s Kitchen straight out of NYC county or Bedford Stuyvesant out of Kings County putting them under state control would be a huge opportunity. Can you imagine Manhattan real estate without Manhattan zoning laws or NYC rent control? It would change the character of the places and quite likely for the better.
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