Tyler Cowen on the joy of ownership.
I have an intrinsic desire to collect and flood my house with nuggets of joy (not Natasha's phrase), but that doesn't explain everyone. Often people own books and DVDs for reasons of identity and self-expression; that is why iTunes outcompeted Rhapsody, even though the latter in some ways offered a better deal. Ownership, especially of the non-digital kind, also allows you to lend out, to send to friends, and to show off. The ownership puzzle is related to the "why do we buy mostly new music" puzzle.
It makes the most sense to own songs and CDs, if only because the desire to hear them is more spontaneous, and renting them is harder. The costs of renting are falling, but the costs of personal storage are falling too, as houses become larger. The mail isn't getting much quicker, but the demand for immediacy is growing. Ownership remains robust.
There is a personal satisfaction to ownership but there's also the philosophical justification. After all, we humans have to work to survive and if we can't keep what we've worked for, then aren't we, in effect, slaves? Now, don't take that last statement too far. I'm not saying we shouldn't pay taxes, for example. But we should certainly agree amongst ourselves how much taxation is justified.
Ownership seems such a basic concept of human existence, but to some, evidently, it isn't.
A ban was initiated at the Hilltop Children's Center in Seattle. According to an article in the winter 2006-07 issue of "Rethinking Schools" magazine, the teachers at the private school wanted their students to learn that private property ownership is evil.
According to the article, the students had been building an elaborate "Legotown," but it was accidentally demolished. The teachers decided its destruction was an opportunity to explore "the inequities of private ownership." According to the teachers, "Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation."
The children were allegedly incorporating into Legotown "their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys." These assumptions "mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society -- a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive."
They claimed as their role shaping the children's "social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity ... from a perspective of social justice.
The teachers at Hilltop are teaching these tiny tots that their lives are insignificant -- everyone else matters more. At the same time, I suspect, the staff praises every burp and every fart in an effort to bolster the self-esteem of their young charges.
But the message here is clear. Whatever you accomplish for yourself through your own intelligence and hard work is selfish and meaningless. Why? Because we wish it to be and besides, it's unfair to those who
can't won't do better. How do you think the kids of Hilltop will come out of this experience?