Q: What's the easiest way to get rich?
A: Steal or claim land in the name of the King
Given the big money to be made in California real estate, lately I have been thinking about property rights. I mean, you buy a house, you get a deed and what does that mean? It means that some government somewhere is giving you a piece of paper that says you own the land upon which your house sits and that it is yours to sell or leave to your progeny upon your demise, which happens to be well and good if the government that is guaranteeing your right to the property is stable and has a good size army or police force to back up the words on the piece of paper. Buying a house in California: good. Buying a house in the Sudan: bad.
But, let's reflect a minute as we walk back through the chain of homeownership: I own a house, which I bought from a previous owner, who in turn bought it from a previous owner who ..... bought it from a previous owner .... back through to a time when it was built on land settled during some sort of homesteading thing ....or if we go further back, land that that was "granted” by favor of some monarch somewhere. I mean, Columbus “claimed” his real estate in the name of the Queen and King of Spain. Henry Hudson and John Cabot weighed in on the side of England. That people were living on the land prior to claim was of marginal interest to the claimant. After all, finders keepers, losers weepers.
Now as many of us know, the rules that make the world go 'round are different for Big Business and Big Government than the rules for us little common folks trying to make sure that there's enough money in the 401k so that we can have enough hot dogs and oatmeal in our old age. But even so, out here on the terrain every kid in Sunday School is taught that taking that which is not your is stealing. So it seems to me that in this country, each and everyone of us is living on stolen land or to be more Newspeak-like, claimed land.
No big deal really. You can't change the past and there really is honor among thieves. Regardless of the crimes of the government(s) of our ancestors, house owners tend to keep the yard tidy, the fences mended and pay their 30 year mortgages on time, unless you live in California and need a 40 year mortgage to cover your $400,000, 1300 sq. ft condo. House ownership is good for society. It promotes stability, responsibility and a line of equity credit that you can use to pay off your 13% Visa cards. That the primary benefactors in this financial house of cards that we call home refinancing are a few Big Banks is incidental. After all, how can you argue that we seem to be a society gripped at the balls in revolving credit, when your revolving credit allows you to sleep in a master bedroom with two baths and eat in a dining room with a 17 ft. vaulted ceiling? Besides, without these few Big Banks, we would not have the technological infrastructure in place to fork over $10 a month via plastic to listen to hours and hours of Grateful Dead music via Rhapsody.
But, I'll share a secret with you. I am a little irked. It still bothers me more than a tad that with all the stealing that went on the past and all the money that's been made in the present, we would have at least figured out how to make it so that the Average Joe could earn a good living working at any job thirty hours work week and a health system that would allow every American to see a quality doctor at least once a year just for the price of a tax return.