Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Land
From time to time in the newspaper we read a lament about rents and housing prices being increased, driving citizens out of their homes. Nothing new about this, it is established real estate practice. In America, your fellow citizen exists to be used and then discarded, like an old T-shirt used to change your oil. When a citizen is pitched out onto the street, it certainly nullifies any concept of community.
Virginia and Massachusetts are each officially described as a commonwealth, but it happens there too. Each of these commonwealth is certainly no stranger to the bastardization of language, a practice well-known to those of us in the State of California. It’s good that accurate definitions of such terms — community, commonwealth, citizen — are not required for our new Common Core curriculum; if so required, our young students would be more confused than they already are, more confused, even, than their parents are (which would be saying a lot!)
A 1992 history of our nation’s founding, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Land by David Friedenberg, puts these things in perspective. The book is a great follow-up to that classic post-Watergate treatment of the same culprits “The Founding Finaglers by Nathan Miller. Our founders were not pretty people. They set up a game in which real-estate speculation became the way to easy money and power. The king with his crown lands was in the way; let’s make a revolution so we can get our hands on the land and make a killing. Each time we buy and sell, we make more. It became a way of life. Our constitution is built around it.
The most prominent, if not the most successful speculator, was the father of our country, George Washington, who managed to get the capital of the new nation named for him. Washington started as a humble surveyor in the Western lands beyond the Allegheny Mountains. He went out into the French-Indian War and surveyed the properties, then made a fortune speculating on land that was supposed to go to the soldiers under his command. He took the proceeds from that and bought a plantation in Virginia with 200 slaves. You could say that he “made a killing.” Talk about a young, ambitious man rising from humble origins!
After witnessing Washington’s mercurial rise, one can easily understand how a master of 200 slaves could believe in the principle that all men are created equal. And also how, as president, he could later lead the federal militia against fellow citizens who were protesting a confiscatory tax on whiskey in those same districts where he made his original fortune. There’s a monument to him in Washington with a very sharp point. The point is highly symbolic. It’s definitely not there to keep pigeons and seagulls from roosting, as at your favorite dock piling down by the marina.
Another forthright speculator was the famous and iconic Patrick Henry, who reportedly stated in a speech, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Apparently death was not dramatic enough for him. Henry had a long career in wheeling and dealing, a great bit of it illegal, or at least shady. But he wasn’t the only one. Speechifiers, revolutionaries, conspirators against the king, lawyers, stock jobbers, presidents, senators, congressmen, prominent new Americans of all kinds were on the take. Wherever speculation was to be had, our heroes were there.
The nation’s motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one — look for it on your dollar bill) has always had a tough time of it. We should get rid of that one and trot out one more familiar, and more real to life: “Every man (and woman) for him- (her-) self and God against all.” That’s the one that belongs in the Common Core. That’s what we really have in common.
With the game as it is, no one in the lower classes should expect any mercy from our modern-day Washingtons and Henrys. You (we) are going to be replaced, that’s clear. Sunny coastal California has been chosen as the new home of millions of Chinese and Hindus and app developers and expatriates from the frozen north and east and west, all of whom have money to burn and can pay in cash. The weather’s just too nice here to leave it to the existing citizenry. The current task of the real estate “industry” is to facilitate this property transfer and population removal/replacement.
So, you are to be replaced: live it up! Enjoy your domicile while you can; soon enough you’ll be living under a bridge with so many of your former fellow citizens. Forget about the drought. Take long showers! Shower with a friend, you’ll use more water.
Any water you save will only go to benefit your replacement, who because of the culture he or she grew up in, does not have a word for “conservation.” Keep your lawn green, and roll around in it. You might as well — your replacement’s dog will do the same, and a lot of other things, once you’re gone.
Forget about carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses. Why save the earth when you’re going to be dumped out of your building? That’s a task better suited for your replacement. You yourself will welcome global warming — it will make nights under your bridge easier to withstand. If scientists are right about carbon dioxide and its properties, you’ll stay warm enough. If those “scientists” are wrong and it turns colder, don’t despair.
Think of it as 1776; you’ll be like George and his merry men freezing their assets at Valley Forge in the dead of winter. George at least could daydream about his next killing while braving the ice and snow. You yourself can daydream about what’s going to happen to asset bubbles after the next economic downturn.