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Debt has become a national epidemic.

We, individuals, are slaves to the myth of universal home ownership, and the debt that comes with it. You don’t own your house. Only a part of it. And if you’ve paid it off, the community still owns it. Don’t believe me? Quit paying your property tax (a form of rent). The very term “real estate” comes from the Spanish “re-al” which means “royal land.” No one owns land free and clear in the USA.

We, as a nation, are slaves to chronic government debt. We have started to think of it as normal.

The United States of (Neo) Slavery.

We, as a society, are buying more than we produce, creating a trade imbalance which…you guessed it….enslaves us at all kinds of levels.

When our real (adjusted for inflation) wages don’t go up, they push credit cards on us to keep demand for goods and services up.

We are a debtor nation of debtors.

When the bubbles burst (and the gold bubble could be next), we are left “owing our souls to the company store” with no means to pay it back.

Hardly a way to live up to the ideal of “The land of the free and the home of the brave.”

My grandfather and my father-in-law, the two people in my family who rented (rather than bought) homes, for most of their lives, died richer than anyone else in our clan. They only bought homes when they retired–and paid cash.

Paying interest (along with paying taxes) is pouring money down a black hole.

And the tax credit on mortgage interest is a joke, unless you are really, really bad at math. If you think it’s a good deal, please, I beg you, never go to Vegas. I hear, all the time, “I don’t want to pay off my house because I would lose my deduction.” Good Lord. Go ahead and continue to pay more interest than you will ever get deducted from your taxes. Every month.

It happens to churches too. I have actually heard the phrase: “If you are serious about mission you will take out a mortgage on your church property.” The Crystal Cathedral is collapsing in a morass of 8-figure debt.

We lethally destroyed the British army at Yorktown, and won our freedom. We took a HUGE blood-hit as a nation to free our African slaves. We hit the beaches, facing machine gun nests and barbed wire, at Normandy to free Europe.

Only to enslave ourselves.

The government, in the early 21st century, made it far too simple to go massively into debt and the result is the Great Recession. Today in LA, tens of thousands of people are gathering outside a sports arena to get help with mortgages they cannot pay. It’s a huge nut to crack every month.

My cynical side believes that perhaps those in charge in the 1930’s were tired of labor unrest and demonstrations. So they made it (too) easy to buy a house, knowing that those with endless mortgage (Latin-French for “until you die”) payments were less likely to hit the barricades in protest. Big mortgage payments would keep us docile.

Ever notice how the unrest of the late 60’s and early 70’s was calmed with a deluge of easy-credit plastic cards? I owe, I owe, so off to work I go….

Debt is out of control in America.

We need a national makeover.

There is something un-American about gated communities.

Have a look at this short video clip of San Francisco before the earthquake.  The freedom you see there is quintessential American.

We are, supposedly, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Latin America has a lot of gated “pink zones” surrounded by barrios of poverty.  Is that the direction in which we want to go?

I can understand private property, but that doesn’t include streets.  Streets belong to everyone–that’s the whole idea of a street.  We could argue for getting rid of tollways, too (which we should), but that’s a whole ‘nother blog topic.

We should all be able to stroll through any neighborhood in the USA, unhindered, as long as we are minding our own business and respecting the property of others.

We have the right to lock our homes, but not our streets.

How can we claim to be a free society if more and more of our neighborhoods are built with gate houses?

And have you ever driven through a gated community?  It looks like a neutron bomb went off–everything is perfect, but the people are missing.  Occasionally you see a human with a leaf blower.

Peaceful free passage through any residential neighborhood should be a basic human right.  In fact, we should find a way to enhance security in airports without having to ID everyone all the way into the plane.  We should have the technology to do so by now.  A citizen should be able to travel peacefully and freely throughout the US without showing identification.

Mobility and interaction do much to increase a sense of community and mutuality.  The safest streets are the ones with the most pedestrians.  “Quiet and dead” neighborhoods are idea magnets for crime.  Studies have shown (you can look it up) that gated communities actually offer a false sense of security.

It is small wonder that gated communities appear the most often in areas of the world where the canyon between rich and poor is the widest; and it helps to petrify this gap with security systems.  Why would we want to reinforce those differences?  Is the disappearance of a middle class something that we want to institutionalize, geographically?

In Sweden, there is a custom called “allemansrecht” or free access.  Check this website for details.  In a nutshell, you can cross anyone’s property (not just walk by on the street) as long as you are not being a nuisance.

And while we’re at it, let’s build sidewalks and create more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.  A community of garage doors does little to enhance livability.  In most American suburbs, children without drivers’ licenses have no way to get anywhere–everything is built to the scale of the automobile.  Small wonder that our suburban young people feel isolated.

By the way, Hell is a gated community!   Matthew 16:18 (via Hal Seed)

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