Hidden judgments

The difficulties people face, both internal and external, in forming wealth is a subject I think about a lot.  I keep on thinking that the size of the gap you have to jump over to make it from renting to buying is a major factor in preventing many people from pursuing wealth-accumulating habits. Imagine you could buy a 4′ by 8′ plot of land for a month’s pay and tent there rent-free from then on. You want more space, buy an adjacent plot for another month’s pay. With the next month’s pay you sell that land and buy a capsule in a condominium version of a capsule hotel, if one existed. The link between the saving and the owning would be so close that many more people would do it.

It therefore follows that many laws, fees and customs– certificates of habitability, for example, or minimum lot size requirements, or social assumptions about lifestyle– are actually hindering wealth formation.  Frictional costs in trading land, like those tiny plots of ground, are another obstacle.

Why is this?  Well, I suspect being able to live at the rock-bottom minimum of expense will attract not only good people that are trying to get richer quickly by living cheaply while working hard, but also a lot of the “dregs of society” that lawmakers and richer constituents don’t want around, and since they can’t simply pass laws against individuals, they have to pass laws that make it more expensive to live.  They limit rental housing for much the same reason.  But nobody actually stops and thinks about this enough to realize that this is happening, apart from the occasional odd porcupine.  It’s a form of discrimination, though I consider that word to be merely a pejorative for “judgment the speaker doesn’t like”, and came to be hidden as an effect of the unresolvable clash between the importance of judgment in life and the moralistic drive to squelch judgment that “society” doesn’t like.