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View Diary: Ownership Societies – Part III (55 comments)

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  •  As an architect I have a different perspective (13+ / 0-)

    Though I recognize that with seven billion people on the planet not everyone can be an owner, in an ownership society by definition the owners will be the have's and have mores. The renters will be students, apprentices, wage slaves or serfs with lower more ephemeral status.

    The acquisition of property should grant higher or more invested and thereby permanent status. I say should because obviously that's not the way things are right now.

    If you go back to the point when people first started discriminating between mine and thine, up to that point everyone owned everything, so the concept of ownership involves a taking of control; an encumbrance I think of as something like a leash.

    Its against our nature to give up our freedom without some compensation so the idea of granting land in return for service originated. Essentially its that principle whereby we become wage slaves and have to work for a living.

    The ownership of our rights of passage whereby we improve our status from birth, marriage, or death brought to religion the same sort of leash, that came along with the divine rights of kings. There is a close syntax linkage between Sumerian "lugal" (litteraly big man), legal and regal.

    Religion provides the authority of the creator el or al; (we are endowed by our creator with inalienable rights) in modern context of the lobbyiest or thinktank that writes the legislation that creates the agency.

    The concept of landowners originated with social stratification, generally starting with the precept that he who controlled the water (because he had organized people to dig the ditches that irrigated the fields) controlled the land. People worked for him so that in return for their service they would be entitled to a share of the crop and their sustenance.

    Obviously, from most perspectives being an owner is better than being a renter and we all ought to have just as much right as anyone else to that status; so for a long time people organized into groups (gene, oinkos and phratre) whereby they might collectively be have mores. From groups of kin to collectives, guilds, trading houses, unions, bands of robbers and brotherhoods, people found ways to network their ownership.

    Even after groups or tribes, (in modern parlence gangs) began claiming turf so they could control a set of resources, hunting or fishing grounds, the best places to get obsidian or clay for pots; even after that there were common lands; beaches where everyone could fish or fowl up to the highwater mark, forests where everyone could hunt and gather.

    The difference between land held in common and land that had an owner tended to be whether it was plowed; more exactly whether it was groomed as park or left wild as chase.

    As societies developed into kingdoms, nations and empires the essentially feudal concept of the community or state owning the land and granting its use to individuals who would be responsible to better it, and/ or as good earners to kick up to the boss either by tax or tithe some return on the investment or to provide some service in return for the land made all owners renters as far as the state was concerned.

    In terms of housing eminent domain still allows the state to take property for the common good. The idea that there is some sort of common good in keeping banks solvent so that their investment in a property should be protected by the right of foreclosure even over the owners mechanics lien for his time and labor in maintaining its value seems wrong somehow.

    I can see that a renter has less investment in a property than a landlord and thus understand that if renters don't pay their rent they may be evicted, but I don't buy it that a bank's mortgage creates the same encumbrance over a farm that a family has been working and improving for generations.

    An ownership society socially stratifies its owners and sharecroppers, serfs or tenants so that all people are not equal, do not have equal rights, so that the renters can be exploited by the owners.

    Home ownership is an investment not just in one families home but in a community and as such ought to be valued in the same way that we value marriage.

    Just as marriage ought to be for better or worse for life with that commitment recognized as a substantial  investment in a community, so should home ownership.

    The banks mortgage, the states eminent domain ought to be seen as having the same encumbrance on the fruits of property as they have encumbrance on the fruits of marriage to for example pass a firstborn through the fire or draft a child to serve in the military; the taking must be for the common good of the community.

    For me personally you never own anything if you can't give it away.

    Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

    by rktect on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 03:02:13 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  The logic underlying your comment (8+ / 0-)

      is well-known to many of us and serves to make this position appear to be both reasonable and commonly accepted.  On the surface, yes, I agree with much of what you say.

      However, the key to this diary, imo, is the way it turns my attention to the societal trade-offs which is something we really examine in public discussions of this issue, because our ideological attachment to individualism as a value extends into using it as a theorizing tool, to the degree that it allows and sometimes encourages us to overlook actual evidence.

      Theories about individual behavior and psychology are less useful as explanatory tools when so many of the social and economic factors that actually contribute to the reality of homeownership are overlooked.  If taken to the extreme this excessive focus on individualism can just act as an ideological blinder rather than an effective explanatory tool. As a theory, it is simply a self-reifiying exercise.

      I write this not to be critical of your comment, but to thank you, because it is only in the combination of reading this series and then reading your comment that the extent of this phenomenon has become clear to me.  

      Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

      by a gilas girl on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 05:48:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  And yet (10+ / 0-)

      The German case which Marie sites is ample evidence to the contrary.  The commitment to and experience of community is just as great in Germany regardless of ownership status.

      When renting is the norm (and not somehow ideologically marked as a "lesser" category), communities can and do still prosper.  

      I think Marie's very excellent point should lead us to ask what kind of an ideological blinder is "ownership" that it leads us to ignore actual economic data and indicators?

      Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

      by a gilas girl on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 05:59:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you. While I personally truly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a gilas girl, Words In Action

        disliked being a "homeowner," I didn't question the CW that its good for the economy, social stability, and personal financial security.  Not until last week when I stumbled on the home ownership rate in Germany.  It was a WTF moment for me.  How to explain it first to myself and then toss it out for others to consider.  

    •  All societies are ownership societies; (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rktect

      it's just how we divvy up the assets and goods and define who gets to own that differ.  Another negative that I didn't include in the discussion is that high home ownership rates are correlated with high income inequality.  The US and UK are highly unequal in comparison with other industrialized countries.  A better measure would be wealth -- but the numbers on wealth accumulation within countries is difficult to collect and therefore, not well reported.    

      •  All societies are not ownership societies (0+ / 0-)

        Some societies are theocracies where monks or priests live without possessions. Other societies are professional, all about setting continuing education standards for a profession. In some cases its an artists commune where its all about the arts and crafts, in others it might be all about gaming with gold farmers banned.

        There are just too many people doing too many things to claim they all think of assets as things to be divided up and individually owned.

        Recently I was looking at a web page by a luthier about lutemaking. I'm sure that what luthiers produce has value to some, and no value at all to others who might wonder what's a lute? Why would I want to buy one?

        Given the amount of time involved and the end result I'm inclined to think of the value of the lutes I looked at as priceless, but I'm equally sure that the people who made them would rather have their lute end up in a museum where they could share what they made with other luthiers for years to come and make their living some other way so that the craft itself would improve.  
        Is that really an ownership society?

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Sat Feb 18, 2012 at 03:16:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Allow me to rephrase: all societies own (0+ / 0-)

          properties that feed, clothe, house the people within the society.  You're seem a bit too focused on who owns what which is only, after all, a human construction.  Just as the high home ownership rate in Spain and low ownership rate in Germany were creations of governmental policies.

          •  If your focus is on home ownership rates (0+ / 0-)

            As an architect I find it disturbing that the places we live in are taking the same haves and have mores vs substandard disparity as everything else in our modern western society.

            Back before the housing bubble at one end of the spectrum  the size of houses had begun to inflate from perhaps 1000 SF to upwards of twenty times that. Two and three car garages were typical. Many rooms were multistory, three 600 SF bedroom suites each with master bath and walk in closet were common, living room, great, room, dining room, media room, gym, 600 SF kitchen with pantry, breakfast nook, wine room, elevators as well as stairs, greenhouses and saunas, workshops, music rooms, studios, galleries;... with landscaping and pool the costs escalated into the tens of millions.

            At the other end building codes eliminated a lot of little houses, shacks that weren't properly insulated, had substandard MEP and HVAC were demolished. Urban housing projects that had been taken over by gangs were demolished. Family farms couldn't cut the competition with industrial farming became shopping malls. What's left to rent is pricy and tiny with few amenities.

            People do want to own homes but like cars they need to be more efficiently designed to be smaller, cluster zoned and and less expensive.

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 05:39:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  People want lots of things that aren't (0+ / 0-)

              necessarily good for them.  Particularly when government and social policies encourage the purchase.

              Reciting the litany of bad outcomes in US housing without even considering that much of that comes from public policies favoring home ownership and the belief among Americans that home ownership is financially and socially desirable leaves you unable to explain why those houses got bigger and bigger, etc.

              •  The explanation back then was bigger = better (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Marie

                The bigger and better deal was seen as more bang for the buck. Green houses are starting to be seen. Little houses, small cars, good design, handmade details that are intimate in a way that mass produced by giant company off the rack stuff can never be.

                Energy efficiency has been around since the seventies but is still waiting for US energy prices to go the way they have in Europe. I think that's a datum you should take into consideration when comparing markets.

                Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

                by rktect on Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 06:46:06 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  You may be reading more into (0+ / 0-)

                  the diary than I intended or wrote.  Not disagreeing with what you've said, but I only sought to answer the question of why high homeownership rates correlated with a vulnerability to housing bubbles.  In China as well and now its bubble is popping.  

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