Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Diplomatic Arsenal

One thing I love about European politics is that people, moreso than over here, say what they think. In this case, the topic is the natural cuisine of some of my ancestors, the Scottish, which is universally (and I think rightly so) considered to be awful. Na klar, Chirac was speaking of the British isles in general, but Scottish food and English food are awful in quite distinct ways -- English because it's bland and nasty, and Scottish because it's quite disgusting. It would be considered impolitic to comment too frankly about this, but Chirac doesn't seem to care. Some quotes and paraphrases from him about food in the UK:

  • Only Finland has worse food than Britain
  • "We can't trust people who have such bad food"
  • Mad cow disease was Britain's sole contribution to European agriculture

A bit of reformulation..

From an extended conversation with a friend, I've come to a conclusion regarding investing. Until revolution can be had, transitional socialist ethics suggest that we pay close attention to our investments, whether they be money or other forms of "investment-type property", such as homes (especially beyond the first), rental property, and businesses. Such investments must not be considered purely in light of benefit to the person -- they must include concern for the good of society. We should not pursue forms of wealth that are harmful to society, and we should be very wary of patronising businesses that are, viewed as a whole, harmful. For example, I have decided, in difference from many friends and others, that becoming a landlord as an investment is bad for society and thus something I will not participate in. A hint that it is incompatible with my ethics is that it is an analogue of the core idea of capitalism that separates it from prior economic systems -- to be a capitalist, one acquires means of production (capital) that, ideally mostly or completely independent of the action of the owner, brings more resources under their control (usually meant as bringing in money). This is harmful in the specific case of being a landlord because it increases the scarcity of land (raises costs) that should more ideally be available for purchase by those who need it. Part of their plans include buying property to improve and resell it -- I see no issues with that, but part of that includes the end of owning a lot of land in order to have a large income from that. I believe allocation of resources (wealth) should reflect the work one puts into that acquisition, and that we should view continual sources of wealth that require little input as being unearned wealth that, by and large, is damaging to society. Some amount of living "off the fat" may be necessary in society, especially when it comes to retirement -- one cannot work one's entire life. Retirement planning should also be done with the good of society considered, but the harm involved is less severe because there is less danger, with most retirement accounts, for the degree of centralization of privilege that individual investing leads to.

Related to this, effort should be taken to oppose and ideally shut down the damaging social institutions and traditions that lead to these kinds of harm. This opposition can take place through changing laws, selective purchase and boycott, and presumably through collectives that aim to encumber property titles to prevent consolidation. On the first front, it would be great to see progressive property taxes, with special taxes on landlords. These would presumably drive property costs down as land ceases so much to be capital. On the third front, it would be great to see provisions like the GPL start to make their way into title in property sales, preventing recipients of such property from selling it to renters, those who already own more than two (or X) pieces of real estate, or those who would tear it down to build higher-occupancy dwellings. In cases where high-occupancy dwellings are necessary, they should be managed by the state as a utility to prevent their use as capital.

Actually, the idea of socially-responsible encumberances on property titles really interests me. I wonder if our current legal framework makes that possible. I don't think it's necessary (nor am I sure it's desirable) to have personally owned dwellings be fully collective/shared, but incorporating some base protections against the spread of commercial interest and land-as-capital would be great. It might make an interesting opposing chess move against recent worrying legal trends to allow private capital to be seized to push private interests.

I'm still recovering from the car trips, but I'm being a lot more productive at work today than I was yesterday.

Tags: philosophy, politics

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