Monday, May 14, 2012

Basic Ideas: Housing

Back to a real post. It's been too long.

I have been troubled by hearing anarcho-libertariany people pick up the meme of bemoaning the last few decades' policy of ostensibly encouraging home-ownership. Don't get me wrong--I have a lot of contempt for convoluted liberal statism that works through banks and employers and tax revenue and the housing industry* to basically create conditions that, for me anyway, could be imposed in much easier ways (that probably require greater forms of despotism).

* Still puzzled that this has become the thing that it has, but I don't know economics. Anyway.

So anyway, I think the housing scheme, with Johnsonian governmental orgs and business exploiters and I guess a few people who ended up with homes, is eminently questionable. But that's not where it stops. There seems to be a degree of offense to the idea that everyone who wants one ought to have a house, like one they quasi-own. And we deviate into a lot of classism and other -ism that some people ought to just rent. And let me say how I understand renting.

Renting is fine, I suppose. There've been times in my life I've done it, no doubt. But basically it's paying money to stay in a place, and once the money ends, you're out. You haven't gained anything but the time you had. You maybe take your furniture unless you, God forbid, rented that too. But basically you're just paying money to somebody else who owns it.

In the last way, it's the same as a mortgage. Banks own it and you say that you do, but again, in our convoluted system, there are things like equity that you do take with you and there's also something you can sell potentially, at least in part. At least owning it becomes an option. Straight-up renting is nothing but a fee for living space. It's a penalty that some of us are willing to soak and some of us even able to. But it's inherently inferior.

So anyway, if you don't support our system of housing, fine, but if you reject an owned or one day ownable home for all who want it, I wonder what alternative there is. I mean, if you're a small state conservative, this appears to be the renter way, which makes sense, because the bourgeois love renting out houses to pay the mortgages on them so that they can own two or more homes when they retire from their jobs looking busy. And... what else is there?

I have come to the position that even if I don't support the current housing schemes, I believe that everyone--everyone--is entitled to some room that is just theirs. I don't know if these should be block housing or what. I think everyone should have a place that is reasonably fire-proofed, with a locking door, where they can rest or pass out or spend time without fear of rape, assault, or murder. If we can say that the state is overly complex in its housing schemes then I would add that this is true and that I see the idea of expending time and effort in order to earn coupons that can be used in exchange for temporary housing is workable but no less complex and morally questionable. I do not see why my service to wealthier citizens is required for housing, and I think that state housing is abysmal and purposefully miserable.

Obviously constructing this or reassigning space for this is a very hard thing to achieve. Call it a pipe dream. But while I consider tactics, I believe I have the ethics right. Housing is the first means of production, for it houses and allows the ongoing construction of the self. It is as fundamental as food, its lack as detrimental as any other. When you see the behavior of individuals who have lacked for individual space, it is not entirely upbringing or mentality or situation or choice that can be credited. It is a curious combination of vigilance and carelessness, lack of boundaries and potential for aggression. People suffer when they do not have space. That so many manage in the system we have is to their credit, not to the system itself.


  1. But thats the point of our 'civil discourse', isn't it? Is it not to disconnect ethics from things like housing, health care and food commoditys? They then can be based on a system of scarcity that is doled out at the whim of the powerful.

    I mean, shit, I have discussions with libertarian friends all the time. They often refer to Fanny and Freddie and I simply point out all the empty houses they pass with "Bank Owned" or "Bank approved price" on the way to the bar. Why the fuck is it 'bad' to make it a priority that people live in these homes?

    I find it funny that these friends of mine can see the ethical appeal of Ron Paul concerning not incinerating brown people but they lose their lunch when you talk ethics as it pertains to the all mighty 'Market'.

  2. Well, the war(s) may well be our biggest human rights issue at any time, but I'm not sure Paul cares about that in and of itself. Either way, as you say, the human rights stuff seems to end at war and weed. Both are significant, but I don't think they're enough. I object basically to the notion that I have to jump through hoops so that others will give me tokens that I can exchange for food and shelter. I want to know how we justify that morally. Seems artificial.

  3. "I have come to the position that even if I don't support the current housing schemes, I believe that everyone--everyone--is entitled to some room that is just theirs."

    Agreed completely, and this is coming from some who thinks the philosophy of land ownership is an indefensible position (partially because it by its very nature denies people this entitlement, property is theft and all that jazz). I have no idea how someone could rightly fault the mortgage system and not the landed gentry with it.