Monday, 14 December 2009

Home ownership - The core of our stability?

I wrote the following in my diary way before the subprime crisis:

George W. Bush Jr once said that owning a home is the center of the American Dream.

Not only of the American! Many Europeans, eg my parents, have home ownership at the center of their "living philosophy".

I do not. Am I "heretical"? Am I wrong? Is selling my flat a "stupid move", an irreversible stupid move?

Many own their home. It gives them and all other homeowners around the world a stable place to "stand", that I do appreciate and I can empathise with.

But in these global, interesting, volatile times, is building a tangible "fortress" ("my home is my fortress") the way to best deal with the dynamics - challenges of the times? Or is it a "life strategy" defensive measure which is not in line with the dynamics of the times?

For one, owning a home ties you down, reduces your mobility. Not only do the things we own wind up owning us (a quote from "The Fight Club") and a home is indeed "a thing" (rather than an intangible or mobile asset). Real estate property, along with alcohol, cigarettes and cars (another key symbol of "having") are the core taxable and red taped things in most systems. For obvious reasons.

But when one moves from state to state (eg USA) or country to country (eg EU) or region to region (eg Canada), does it make sense to have "property" and "taxable assets etc" in more than one locations? Who has time for dealing with more than one tax authorities? Or fees to spend for inter-national tax expertise?

Is relocation a privilege for the very rich (who can afford all the experts) and the have-nothings (who relocate with nothing, thus do not have issues of double taxation avoidance and do not need to file in more than one admins)?

In the EU, owning a car is a barrier to mobility too. For tax revenue related reasons, as well.

Does owning a home or car today make economic or strategic sense for anyone who wants to be "light" enough to be able to deal with the winds of globalisation?

Mobility of social security rights is another major issue. Eg how does a not impoverished old person get hospital insurance is he/she moves to the US or within the US? Can one take one's social security scheme with him/her (not to the after life, but to a new location), be it state or private or a mix?

Capital is mobile these global days. Products too. Services, as well, to some extent. Jobs too. But does one have to be desperate enough to liquidate everything in order to relocate or willing to spend a lot of time in red tape activities. Kind of defeats the relocation rationale, does it not?

What is more core then these days to any modern living strategy? Home ownership or a geo mobile health plan?

1 comment:

  1. "Winds of change "

    Those Winds were getting harder ,since you wrote this note.I can see that it is not only a question of our own needs and decisions today, but for a lot of people rather a question of earning chance.Precar living people are forced to move and give up property or to be in a welfare trap`s unchangeable status quo.As long as it is no free will behind,what could be possible under certain conditions,it is just a sad story.
    I welcome your idea of a movable Health Plan:
    Next Project for our Europe in case of survival of the project and achieving a narrative which is not only based on economy.
    Με θερμούς χαιρετισμούς
    Sabine

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