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See other History Articles

Title: How "Squatter Democracy" Created America's First Welfare Program
Source: [None]
URL Source: https://www.lewrockwell.com/2023/06 ... mericas-first-welfare-program/
Published: Jun 14, 2023
Author: Ryan McMaken
Post Date: 2023-06-14 11:05:39 by Ada
Keywords: None
Views: 43

With the rise of homeless camps and tent cities in many American cities, the issue of squatting has become a cause for alarm among many residents and policymakers. In many cases parks, sidewalks, and other public rights-of-way have been taken over by people living in tents or makeshift shelters, rendering the areas unusable to most area residents. In other cases, some of these homeless people have taken over empty businesses and homes that were left unattended long enough for squatters to take over.

The use of the term “squatter” to refer to those living on land they never paid for is generally not used to suggest approval. In modern parlance, squatters are often regarded as equivalent to trespassers. There once was a time, however, when supporting squatters was de facto federal policy in the United States. Indeed, some of the legislation still on the books supporting “squatters’ rights” is a relic of this past era during which many corners of the country regarded squatters more as heroic settlers rather than as thieves and trespassers.

In the days of westward expansion, squatters—white squatters only, of course—offered a convenient tool for expanding the US’s political boundaries westward. Specifically, squatters helped push aside Indians, Mexicans, and other impediments to Manifest Destiny. In return, squatters received the tacit support of many ordinary Americans as well as populist leaders in Congress. Beyond these cultural and geopolitical aspects, however, official support for squatters from within the Democratic Party also offered a convenient method of buying votes. Jacksonian populists arranged to transfer land to squatters as prices well below market rates. In return, pro-squatter politicians received political support from squatters and their allies. This wealth transfer was paid by those who lost their land to the squatters, but few of those people were voters in US elections. Thus, the Jacksonians were rewarded with growing support from poor whites throughout much of the frontier as it moved westward. This was, in other words, an enormous welfare scheme.

When Squatting Was Celebrated in America

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