In A Free Society , You Don ’t Own Your Neighborhood Or Country
by Adam OzimekTwo groups who I think share a lot of unappreciated similarities are liberal gentrification critics and conservative immigration critics. Both want to take a dynamic and free society and freeze it in time, because they like it how it is now. And both assume we have a high level of ownership over our neighborhoods and our country.It’s true both neighborhoods and the country overall exist within democracies and so we have some legitimate say in what happens there, but it’s simply not the case that we own it. Both contain homes and property owned by others, which you don’t own. As a result, your neighbors are free to sell their homes to whoever they please, and for gentrification critics and immigration critics this can be a problem. The United States is not our shared property, but a free country and free society where we have various rights.Perhaps all the existing residents could decide that to the best of their abilities they want to legally freeze everything in time and keep it just how it is. But remember that the country looks how it does today because past residents were willing to accept change. The desire to freeze it now, to block new entrants and stop change, is a selfish act that denies future generations the right to see their country and neighborhoods evolve, just as they have evolved to this point.
Actually, gentrification usually involves going back toward the best of the past. For example, when I was a teenager in the 1970s, “Hollywood and Vine ”
was still a byword for urban glamor … but the actual corner of Hollywood and Vine had become a dump. In 2015, fortunately, Hollywood and Vine has been gentrified, and the place now looks more like it did in 1928 than in 1975.
Of course, the luckiest places were those, like Beverly Hills , that never had to undergo gentrification because they weren’t allowed to fall apart in the first place.
Imagine if every neighborhood from the 1950s remained frozen in place, and strict laws managed to mandate static relative socioeconomic status and ethnic and cultural makeup. In retrospect of course it seems silly and hubristic to pick a singular point in time, -say 1955- and declare that everything is perfected now compared to all prior states and all possible future states. Of course when we’re talking about now instead of then, many find the right to preserve current conditions to be obvious and not silly at all.Maybe this message is wholly unneeded for the sophisticated readers of the blogosphere, but I think for sure it is broadly under-appreciated.
I’m always amused by how people congratulate themselves on how sophisticated their simplistic ideas are. The concept of diminishing marginal returns
appears to be unknown to them, for example, but that doesn’t dent their self-confidence.
The only reason we have have gotten to this current state that you wish to preserve forever is that past generations resisted that impulse.
In other words, we should be slaves to the past (or at least to Adam Ozimek ’s interpretation of the past as filtered through Emma Lazarus rather than, say, Ben Franklin
It’s a free country, and that means we don’t own it.
That would make a helluva political slogan: “America … you don’t own it.”
It’s George Soros ’s country and you’re only renting it from him.