An Essay on Wealth and Freedom

Historically, the “wealthy” in society were always land owners. Rental income provided enough wealth that the owners need not work, and in turn they became members of the elite of the country. Capable of running administrations, splurging on the best, taking hunting excursions, and historically the only ones capable of influencing government (i.e. vote). 

Fast forward a couple hundred years. The millennial generation is striving to own nothing, not property, not their music, not their phones, not even their cars[1]. Perhaps this is an unfair stereotype, I’m sure there are some out there. However, for the majority it is clear no one wants to own anything, streaming services are the new thing, and pretty much anything that is “Uber for X.”

On the other hand we have the Baby Boomer generation strives generally towards security and a quick return in their old age. It’s impossible to blame them, they’ve earned their retirement. However, this leads to just further loss of concern about ownership.

Worse, most of the millennial generation has no knowledge of nor the will to fight for ownership. This leaves the majority of the society, young and old unwilling to make any reasonable change towards ownership of property.

The real question is:

Is this really a big deal?

What I don’t think people realize, is that lack of ownership leads to a whole slew of problems.

Take cell phones, we technically don’t own the right to modify them[2]. Part of this is because the carrier subsidizes the purchase, of course most carriers in the U.S. don’t allow you to even use a phone off contract (or make it excessively complicated). Meaning… I literally cannot modify the majority of the software on a device I purchased, if I want to use it on a network. It’s like giving up my right to use my old Linux PC, because I signed up with Comcast. It’s insane, yet the country readily accepts it.

Ownership provides privacy, the ability to not be tracked, not be monitored, and do as you please. If you own your house you can own 5 dogs if you want, and knock out a wall to build a bigger room (of course… if the city lets you[3]). It seems millennials, the baby boomers, and really everyone seems miss this, or don’t care and are willing to give up privacy for convenience/security.

What we all seem to forget is when privacy is gone, so is freedom.

Ownership buys privacy and power (be it man power, wealth, influence), and thus independence. What this means is that the more we “purchase” (really rent) ebooks through Amazon, rely on Uber, chose renting, sign tens to hundred page contracts for phones, and so on… the more we lose power.

On the other side, those who own those services, who own the properties, who allow the renting of their music or temporary transportation via their car; they are the ones who are gaining power. The real horror I feel when watching pretty much every industrialized country go this route stems from the fact that the majority are losing power over our lives, and they don’t realize or care.

Everything about this age seems to be convenience, not hard work, not long lasting items, not privacy, truly this age seems to be all about getting what we want with a click of a button (regardless of the costs). Like the Stanford marshmallow experiment, most children and adults are unwilling to wait for future rewards – i.e. renting now instead of living with your parents for a year and owning a property later.

Luckily, all is not lost! Realizing this trend, I have already set my eye on buying properties as baby boomers sell. At the same time, other baby boomers will be looking to downsize (to apartments without yards), and millennials, who already don’t want to own homes will also be looking to rent. Basically, this means there is a lot of money to be made in real-estate in the next 10 years or so.

Regardless, I wrote this as a warning. I have read many articles and participated in many conversations condemning home ownership, purchasing music, buying books, etc. However, the fact remains that ownership provides the freedom to choose and without it we are little more than slaves.

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