Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness [Real Estate Edition]

"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are among the inalienable rights of people according to the Declaration of Independence. Yes, I said the Declaration even though most people mistakenly attribute the phrase to the Constitution [1]. Still, because these rights have been mentioned in the Declaration, giving them a certain degree of forcefulness, they have been used in arguments against government regulations (particularly that "pursuit of happiness" thing [2]. Now, I actually had a reason for bringing up what is perhaps the most famous phrase of the Declaration of Independence. And that is something I have heard my father say often in reference to government foolishness: "The Founding Fathers said people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Food, shelter, clothing ... that's up to you. Period." Speaking of government foolishness, it would appear that our new President disagrees with my father:
President Barack Obama’s plan to confront the housing and foreclosure crisis is even more ambitious than first expected — committing as much as $275 billion in an effort to keep as many as 9 million Americans from losing their homes. []
Now, the Heathen perspective on this housing situation is one of personal responsibility. But, no, it's so much easier to swim with the tides of victimhood and declare, "It's not my fault. Someone has to do something to help me out of this mess!" Yes, the promise of owning one's own home was dangled in front of alot of people. Banks and other lenders pushed through huge loans to people who had no business receiving them. But did anyone actually twist the arms of these homeowners-to-be? At some point, these folks should have been able to realize that the so-called prevailing wisdom of buying "as much home as you can possibly afford" with the hope of increased income or increased property value that pays for itself down the road was simply spurious, if not completely irresponsible. Where did these people learn the basic principles of economics and budgeting? Mrs. Brainwise and I passed on a number of homes, and even dropped out of few bidding wars, simply because we were determined to not be "house poor" or overpay on the value of a piece of property. Yes, we have a smallish home, and we have had to do some work on it. But much of the work pays dividends in value. We're sitting fairly comfortably and there is very little danger that we'll lose the house. If you can't set yourself up in a similar manner, then you're probably better off continuing to rent instead of sinking money into a losing prospect and then waiting for the government to bail you out. Stop using my tax dollars to help folks who cannot handle money in the first place! --------------- [1] The 5th Amendment does offer protections to our "life, liberty, or property," noting we cannot be deprived of any of them without due process of law. (Reference: Things That Are Not In The U.S. Constitution). [2] Barron's Law Dictionary, 2nd Ed, pg.378.


Benjamin son of Steven said...

Brainwise. Long time Reader, first time commenter.

Could you explain the Heathen perspective of personal responsibility for me, and where you got it? I had a different perspective, which is one of communal responsibility. Neighbor helping neighbor. Everybody working together to solve a common problem.

And since we're both Heathens I'm wondering where we got our two different ideas. I don't know if they are entirely incompatible, but let's see. I just thought I would ask.

Brainwise said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Benjamin!

I think we are talking about two parallel rather than mutually exclusive views. In fact, depending on the angle, these views could appear to be quite closer than a first glance would reveal. When I talk about the Heathen perspective of personal responsibility, I am referring to a personal application of the “We are our deeds” kind of thought form. Being ready to take on the consequences of individual actions and not blaming the circumstances one finds oneself in is the bedrock of that mentality. That does not mean that we cannot accept help when offered; but it does mean we don’t go looking for or expecting it -- particularly not from a government institution.

Now, maybe I am quick to go into the personal responsibility mode because I was a solitary Heathen for several years before engaging in the growing community around me. In fact, it has only been within the last year that I’ve known of a physical Heathen community in which I could be active. Perhaps the communal way of thinking has not become natural for me … yet.

And even though one could infer a dichotomy between personal and communal responsibility from your comment, I don’t see it that way (and I’m not saying you actually implied it … I am suggesting how a third party might perceive this). To me, the basis of the communal perspective is still far, far removed from the victimhood that mandates governmental aid. It’s actually just the next step up from personal responsibility. Sort of a “I need to ensure that my actions are correct and that my affairs in order because of how it reflects on my community” vibe. Just as I took “We are our deeds” down to the personal, “I am what I have done,” we can expand it to “We take care of our own.”

Does that help at all?

Benjamin son of Steven said...

It does help, especially the last part which resolves as "We take care of our own."

I think that brings up another interesting set of questions, though. If we say that we take care of our own, who are "our own"? Our pre-Christian ancestors would probably have said people who follow the same laws that we do would be the basic definition of "our own" in terms of a nation.

So if I am part of this "our own" and you are too, wouldn't the people who are suffering the housing crisis part of "our own" too? And isn't the government too part of "our own"? Or is it something else?

If we granted that all of these things are part of "our own" since we all live under common law, then what does "care for" mean? Does it mean that we just feel bad about the people who lost their homes due to their own incompetence and the bankers willingness to take advantage of that lack of competence? Or do we completely give people a pass on the consequences for their actions? Or is it somewhere in between there?

So many questions!

megha said...

Everybody is free to have their own perspectivefd.

commercial real estate,

Brainwise said...

Benjamin: I apologize for not getting back to this thread sooner. Unfortunately, this is only a quick post to let you know that I *will* reply to your last comments. I'm up against some other deadlines and they're taking longer than anticipated. I just didn't want you to think I was ignoring you.

Brainwise said...

Hey Benjamin,

I apologize for the delay in my reply to your excellent questions. I'll do my best share my ideas on this.

Regarding the concept of "our own", I think our pre-Christian ancestors would have held to a rather local view. If this is the case, then defining our own as "all who follow the same laws that we do" does not lend itself to equating with the nation-state. It is, rather, a smaller unit, down to the kindred-clan-tribe aspect. In Wodening's excellent book, _We Are Our Deeds_, this would follow the model of the inner versus the outer garths. True, these smaller units would voluntarily self-organize and attend larger events such as the All-Thing, but it was difficult to sustain that collection over longer terms.

(If I am not mistaken, it was our ancestors' inability to organize and sustain a larger collective that was a major reason for their defeats at the hands of the Romans).

Those smaller units, then, were a matter of family and choice (by that I mean choosing to ally with another group or choosing to adopt others and bring them into their midst). By the same token, although it may be said that "we are the government", the gov't is truly outside of "our own" -- it is too far removed. It is an institution for developing and sustaining the means by which a varied people can live together (laws, enforcement, infrastructure). I don't see the gov't as something that should be actively involved in the people's welfare in terms of food, shelter, and clothing. (But they shouldn't put too many obstacles in front of those who *do* want to be involved in helping others in those areas.)

Now, as to the question of what do we do about people who lost their homes due to their own incompetence or a financial institution's idiocy, there are no easy answers. Most of the homes involved in this snafu were purchased as investments. There is a small group of people who are in mortgage problems due to job loss or some other misfortune, and perhaps there should be a means of identifying them and providing some means of "help over the hurdle".

But we have to be careful. Many of the affected homes were overvalued, and if they are bailed out *at that value*, then the market is not permitted to correct itself, and those folks will still be stuck in mortgages they cannot afford and will be in the same problem just a short ways down the road, and looking for another bailout.

So, "do we completely give people a pass on the consequences for their actions? Or is it somewhere in between there?" I'm inclined to say it's in between. But I do not have the financial wherewithal to figure out exactly where that is. I'm hoping to see more people come to this conclusion so that we can pool our thoughts and resources and figure out what that middle road is.

SiegfriedGoodfellow said...

I think looking towards Amish practices can be a good way at getting a fairly basic heathen baseline, even though some of their practices have obviously been mixed with an Anabaptist theology.

Communal mutual aid would then supplement individual responsibility with things like "barn raisings" and so forth. In some Amish communities, married couples are not only given housing, but also buggy and land by family so they can be self-sufficient. This has a strong Teutonic ancestry to it.

Confronting the issue of real estate in America from a heathen perspective without addressing odal property versus feudal property to me seems doomed to a superficial approach. A heathen approach must always go deep, and examine roots, the very things that most social and political discourse fails to do. That means we must ask basic questions that everyone says you can't ask about land, land access, building codes, building your own home, land and the market, etc.

We also have to look at the fact that our ancestors did not charge interest, and therefore take a critical look at interest and how that impinges on loans and loan repayments.

We also have to look at Teutonic principles affirmed in Magna Charta, which is the basis for Homestead Exemption Laws, as amercements were never to impinge upon a person's contenement or waynage.

Those people who bought homes THAT WERE NOT THEIR HOMESTEAD obviously are not protected under Homestead Exemption Rights, and we know that a lot of people doing "flipping" were not living in homes bought as primary residents. These people must take full responsibility for their actions.

But that people should be kicked out of home because of inability to make payments raised due to interest is not only barbaric, but contrary to Teutonic principles.

Said Senator Benton: "The freeholder is the natural supporter of a free government. Tenantry is unfavorable to freedom. The tenant has in fact no country, no hearth, no domestic altar, no household god. It should be the policy of republics to multiply their freeholders."

A heathen perspective will use ancestral concepts and practices to look with a very critical eye at modern mortgage and finance schemes relative to something as central and important as the family homestead.