Imagine that you left town for an extended period of time to work, have a baby, take an overseas vacation, visit a terminally ill relative, settle an estate, wait for repairs to be made on your home, wander the earth or whatever. Let's say that upon your return, you discovered that someone (a previous tenant? mentally challenged write-in presidential candidate?) had moved into your home, changed the locks, altered the wiring and plumbing, taken out liens, thrown out or sold your belongings, and otherwise taken possession of the home that you bought and paid for. Now I think that even the most peaceful person on the planet might get a little upset. And let's say that when you called the police, fully expecting that that they would remove this insolent interloper and drag them away to a richly deserved jail cell, the police said "Hey this is a civil dispute. We're not qualified to make decisions about who owns what. Tell it to the judge. Don't do anything rash. Stop bothering us. Don't call us again!"
If this happened to me I think that someone (not me) would have a rather serious problem. I don't want to think about what other people I know who are not as levelheaded, peaceful and calm as I am would do in that situation. This hard to believe event allegedly occurred in an area I know very well. Watch the video.
To be blunt, this is why many people have fled Detroit. In Detroit, there is a serious chronic problem with lack of respect for law and for other people's property. I have occasionally considered investing in Detroit property or in certain Detroit business opportunities. However I would have to spend an inordinate amount of money on lawyers, insurance and security. All else equal, who would do that if they could invest in another city where there's some basic understanding of the difference between yours and mine?
simply can not have a functioning market place without the ability to make and keep contracts and own property. You can't. Economic activity will move to places where people don't think that they somehow deserve to just take your property. I don't mean to sound like a crazed Ayn Rand disciple but even a broken clock is right twice a day. It's almost enough to make you vote for Mitt Romney.* If this attitude spreads, and it has, Detroit will remain largely bereft of good businesses, good schools, and young families. Property tax revenue will continue to dwindle and Detroiters will wonder why their city continues its long decline. About a decade ago area home prices were close to eight to ten times the price quoted in the story. I wonder if increased crime, poor city services and squatters had anything to do with that price fall? Nah. Couldn't be. Could it?