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October 15, 2008

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Greg Feirman

That might be taking it a little too far! LOL

The whole securities business depends on individuals owning things. And those securities represent ownership in real assets.

So if we accept Rousseau, we're talking about a copmletely radical reorganization of society.

Kent @ The Financial Philosopher

Greg:

I must say that when I hit the "Publish Now" button for this particular post, my tongue was slightly in my cheek.

Rousseau's words certainly add a different perspective to this somewhat illusory thing we call "land ownership."

I am sure that if there were no real ownership claims to property, the world would be a bit chaotic to say the least!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts...

Cedric Yau

Even before man, animal violence was reduced when marking territory was respected.

Kent @ The Financial Philosopher

Cedric:

Thanks for adding this perspective: Ultimately, man is an animal and we all need our own space or territory.

Unlike our animal brethren, I believe where us humans get into trouble is when we view our property, such as a house and the land it sits on, as a reflection of our own identity.

What makes a person with a larger home and more land any better than some one with less?

Not all of us humans think this way but I would venture to bet that most of us do, at least to some degree...

Thanks again for the interesting perspective...

J

It's an interesting idea in a Marxist kind of way. It only works if everyone agrees on and respects what is "fair."

I don't see how you have an economy without the concept of land ownership. After all, economics is based on scarce resources that result in a supply and demand. Land is a scarce resource, their is only so much, so there is a need for value and ownership for a functioning economy.

Kent @ The Financial Philosopher

J:

I agree. Rousseau's thoughts highlighted in this post are quite romantic, if not arguably Marxist, as you say.

As with the greatest of philosophical thought, we are able to pause to think for ourselves, which is why I resist the temptation to add many thoughts of my own in posts like this; but simply ask questions so that others may freely form their own thoughts...

Perhaps this post will have us realize that there is not a better alternative to capitalism...

Cedric Yau

There are two questions here: the ego and its need for consumption. And the comparison between individual abilities and needs versus those of society.

When an individual produces more for a society through fruits of his intellect and labor, two things should happen:

1) His responsibilities within the society should be increased so that he can maximize society's output.

2) He should be rewarded more for his increased output.

It is important for this contract between the individual and society to exist, otherwise an unfairness is born to either side.

Property is merely one form of capital. In feudal society, it was the primary form, more important than gold. But now, we are able to convert land to cash to goods and services. In fact, it is any form of capital or stored value that we are protecting.

Meritocracy is a great societal ideal. We want the geniuses who can drive productivity to deliver more output for less input to control more.

We want to reward innovation. Capital labor is consumed in pursuit of innovation. Thus, when it is successful, its creators should enjoy the rewards.

Capitalism respects the above reward system. Unfortunately, there are times when society tends to fool itself. In the subprime bubble, we wrongly believed that financial innovation could eliminate risks, and not just redistribute them. Everyone from Wall Street financial engineers, to debt traders, to investment bankers and executives, to credit investors who bought CDOs and SIVs, to the home buyers whose homes rose due to the availability of credit and low-interest rates participated in this system, to the real estate brokers, appraisers, and mortgage brokers who financed them (and back to the beginning). There were millions of participants in this formerly benign and now vicious circle.

In essence, we rewarded those who did not create and must now face the consequences.

We also believed that as a nation, we could consume more than individuals from other nations, even though we produced less. This will also come to haunt us. The invisible hand rewards and punishes. The fact that we as a society are suffering is only proof that capitalism does work. There are no free lunches, and using government to soften the landing adds a tax on future creation. If we want to benefit from the economic gains of capitalism, we must be willing to lose a bit once in a while.

A little rambling, I know. I'm still collecting my thoughts on the matter.

Frank Farbenbloom

In the early days of Israel democratic Socialism was the ruling system. The Kibbutz was the ultimate expression of this ethic.

In those days a person who was somewhat richer than his neighbor was considered "better off" but not a "better person".

Sadly that has disappeared as consumerism, emulating America, has become the norm.

There is little doubt that the change to a free market economy from a completly managed economy has worked wonders in raising the standard of living in Israel for the whole country.

Still there are enough controls in force that have seemingly helped Israel avoid the excesses that have created this global crisis.

In the end it comes down to responsible leadership. America has been badly served by leaders in all spheres - politics, business, finances and media.

Capitalism has to evolve so that it can serve the needs of all segments of society. In America fear of using the "S" word has effectively stifled any meaningful debate on this subject. Instead we have made a god of "profit for the sake of profit".

Now the unthinkable has happened and the State becomes the lender of last resort.

Maybe out of all of this will come a better understanding of the need to adjust the norms of society so that excessive consumption will not be valued more than other worthwhile human activity such as family and justice.


Jeremy Day

Hi Kent,

Great blog you got here. I love how the design and writing and everything connects and flows so well.
As per this post, I would say there is something in the idea of the noble savage where the land is anyone's and they take only as needed.
However, most societies have had land ownership in some form or another. Even if it was only with the ruling class.
As always, good food for thought...

Cheers,
Jeremy

Mortgage Points

i agree with jeremy. Great blog you got here. Even I loved how the design and writing and everything connects and flows so well. Why did the mortgage market melt down so badly? Why were there so many defaults when the economy was not particularly weak? Why were the securities based upon these mortgages not considered anywhere as risky as they actually turned out to be?
The recent rise in foreclosures is not related empirically to the distinction between subprime and prime loans since both sustained the same percentage increase of foreclosures and at the same time.
source: http://www.mortgagefit.com
Nor is it consistent with the “nasty subprime lender” hypothesis currently considered to be the cause of the mortgage meltdown. Instead, the important factor is the distinction between adjustable-rate and fixed-rate mortgages. This evidence is consistent with speculators turning and running when housing prices stopped rising.

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