Homestead Amendment

This is, you know, the “outside the box” category.

Some time ago – quite a lot of time, actually – we decided to float the idea of a “jubilee” constitutional amendment.  We felt there was no end game to the debt trap our country and indeed the world was in.  We liked a gold standard for sound money.  We objected to central banks, and the basically socialist-collectivist, yet oddly oligarchical political regime they fostered.

There were many drawbacks, however.  One was intrinsic:  it took a lot of verbiage to get the idea out.  It would have been the longest constitutional amendment ever.  That is not good, because (for example) each additional word is fuel for judicial mischief undermining the whole thing.

Another was extrinsic.  People who felt they had lived a virtuous life and had been financially responsible and paid their debts objected, often emphatically, to the idea of an across the board debt forgiveness for those who have been less responsible and virtuous.  This one is, we think, close to insurmountable.  The objection does not withstand even a modicum of sober and logical reflection but it has a stubborn, if irrational, political power.

Stubborn and irrational political power, it should go without saying, is the worst possible way to be governed.  It’s a synonym for tyranny.

But let us move on.  We think that by scaling back our ambition regarding what, precisely, we might accomplish with a constitutional amendment we can effectively address the intrinsic problem.  We have another idea, in other words.  And more specifically, in far fewer words.  This amendment would not accomplish nearly so much as the jubilee amendment but it would accomplish something very significant – far more than, say, what a lot of people seem to believe a Trump administration ever would.  Or could.

The goal here is to secure the places people reside – that is, their actual real estate and dwelling, their “homes” – so that they can never be involuntarily taken away.  This is a profound change from the regime we currently live under, where the security of one’s home is always in doubt.  We consider that current regime – how shall we put this – extremely unhealthy.  Morally, politically, socially, personally, emotionally and rationally.  We submit that “natural reason” – our preferred method for viewing and interacting with the world around us – regards the “home” primarily as a stable and secure place for people to live, and that a political regime that undermines this principle of natural reason is fundamentally dysfunctional and induces cognitive dissonance among the rulers and populace alike.

So undoing that dysfunction would be no small thing.

We set forth the text of the amendment below, all two sentences.  We invite commentary from interested readers.  All three of them.  We especially appreciate commentary directed to a) whether the reader thinks the amendment will accomplish the goal set forth; b) any significant problems the amendment has; and c) any objections to the goal along with any alternative goals the reader believes would be more suitable.

HOMESTEAD AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES

Neither the United States nor any State shall tax residential real property, or permit the encumbrance of residential real property by reason of any debt. Neither the United States nor any State shall evict any person from their principal residence for non-payment of rent.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Homestead Amendment

  1. Zarepheth

    I have a serious problem with that amendment – from two points of view.

    First point of view: Earth belongs, equally and without division to ALL people, everywhere, for all time. From this point of view, land and natural resources belong to everyone and if anyone claims even a tiny piece for themselves they should be required to fully compensate the rest of the community for what they have taken. And because the value of what they have taken changes over time there and we humans cannot accurately predict the future, there is no way to accurately appraise the value for a single, lump sum purchase. Instead, it needs to be evaluated and paid for on a periodic basis – in other words, rent or taxes.

    Second point of view: as a Landlord, I would immediately lose my properties as soon as a lease them, since the only way I could ensure receipt of rent is to threaten a far more important right: the right to life.

    Instead, I propose that the use of Eminent Domain require that the government fully compensate (make whole) those from whom it takes something. In other words, if the government forces someone to vacate their home, business, or turn over pieces of land for some other communal use, they need to not only pay for the fair market price of the property that take, but also the costs of moving, storage, procuring a new place (maybe even the construction of new buildings) with the new place being of similar value (and if possible, in similar location) to the original place. This doesn’t guarantee that anyone gets to stay in the family homestead, but at least the value built up by themselves and their ancestors is not lost. Since my first point of view would result in taxes (rent to the community) on the raw land under the buildings and improvements, if the community wanted the land for another purpose, they have to figure in the cost of moving the buildings to a new location or the cost of tear down and rebuild. Eminent Domain will be more expensive – but rightfully so, we’re making the community respect the individual members of the community.

    If my first point of view were enacted into law, I may lose income as a landlord, but at least I could get rent from the value of the improvements on the land.

    Like

    • Z! Good to hear from you.

      Let me ask you the first question, which you didn’t answer. Do you think the goal of securing people’s homes so that they can’t be taken away involuntarily (under the law, that is, not counting war, natural disaster, that kind of thing) is a worthy goal? Why or why not?

      Next, renting one’s home wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be greatly disfavored. Evictions would be unconstitutional, but only for non-payment. Thus evictions because a lease had expired, or because of waste or damage or nuisance for example, would be permissible.

      Thus landlords would be wise to rent only when they collect all the rent for whatever term the lease is up front.

      I understand that your position is that private property is illegitimate. That may be a viable position, but it’s also a long discussion and at this point at least in the US it contrary to the law. So if you’d like to engage on the questions presented you should suspend your advocacy of the “no private property” position for purposes of critiquing the proposed amendment.

      Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

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