Enlightened ramblings of a minarchist libertarian with Objectivist tendencies

Friday, November 12, 2004

Ownership Society

As President Bush begins his second term, he is setting forth an extremely ambitious agenda. With plans to overhaul the tax system, Social Security, and the abysmal legal system at the top of his to do list, I figured I would do a post about each of these.

In order to set those up however, it is important to understand the basic thought and reasoning behind these plans, namely Bush's call for an "Ownership" society.
President Bush understands correctly, the impact that ownership has on someone. Of course, it doesn't take a world class economist to understand this. Just take a look around yourself at both your own actions and those of others. Who takes better care of their homes, those who own their homes or those who rent their homes? When you take a trip and rent a car, do you treat it with less deference than you do you own car sitting safely back in your driveway? The answers of course are that owners take better care of their own things.

David Boaz, in a paper written for the Cato Institute, "Defining an Ownership Society" takes note of this phenomenon:


People have known for a long time that individuals take better care of things they own. Aristotle wrote, "What belongs in common to the most people is accorded the least care: they take thought for their own things above all, and less about things common, or only so much as falls to each individually." And we all observe that homeowners take better care of their houses than renters do. That's not because renters are bad people; it's just that you're more attentive to details when you stand to profit from your house's rising value or to suffer if it deteriorates.


Indeed, this concept goes beyond the limited examples I have provided. It readily permeates to virtually every facet of life. In virtually every situation, a person will take more care and responsibility for something when that person has a direct stake in the care or performance of item, be it their retirement situation, their health, or their children's future.

From the same Cato paper:

An ownership society values responsibility, liberty, and property. Individuals are empowered by freeing them from dependence on government handouts and making them owners instead, in control of their own lives and destinies. In the ownership society, patients control their own health care, parents control their own children's education, and workers control their retirement savings.


Of course, it is not enough that President Bush understands this concept. He must now have the resolve and courage to fight for the needed reform. The fight will not be an easy one, but it is a necessary one. There will be those on both sides of the aisle working to prevent such reform. Fortunately, Bush has a little bit of experience in fighting the naysayers.

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