I try not to write about personal news in this column, both for reasons of journalistic craft and because that’s how creditors find you. On rare occasions, however, I must put these interests aside and consider the reader. Today is one such occasion. I am pleased to report that I closed on a house Monday. I am now a homeowner, and you should be advised that my opinions on local issues have changed accordingly.
For example, regular readers may remember that I have historically favored increased funding for schools and roads. No longer. As of approximately 10 a.m. Monday, the education of children is best left to their parents, and drivers who operate on city roads do so at their own risk. I have studied these issues and concluded that both school privatization and potholes from whose depths can be heard the splashing of eyeless fishes are matters of individual freedom, i.e., lower property taxes.
By the same token, I have rethought my position on parks and trails. Yes, these amenities increase quality of life and provide valuable communal spaces for Missoula residents. But at the same time, no: Those people should stay in their yards. Providing green spaces and paths to get to them only encourages dependence on government, i.e., property taxes. Missoulians who wish to host barbecues but lack the foresight to own homes can lower their hibachis into the pothole at Broadway and Ryman, if they can find a rope.
The reader should also be advised that I have changed my position on non-wage income. Previously, I was shocked to learn that 41 percent of the income generated in Missoula County last year came from rents, investments and inheritances. In my haste, I opined that it would be a bad thing if our housing market became disconnected from the work economy. After researching certain landmark works of economic science and the brochure that came with my loan, however, I have concluded that the jobless rich should come to Missoula in droves. At first they should just rent — ideally on weekends via Airbnb — but they should consider buying in eight to 10 years.
“Both school privatization and potholes from whose depths can be heard the splashing of eyeless fishes are matters of individual freedom, i.e., lower property taxes.”
As a homeowner, I will of course resent these people. I previously believed that renters stimulated the economy and introduced to Missoula fresh personalities and perspectives, i.e., sexual partners. Now, though, I realize they are parking on the street in front of my house. I used to think everyone had the right to park on the street, but it turns out that this practice, which I now call “squat parking,” also fosters dependency on the government. In order to increase personal freedom, the city should issue permits for street parking or, better yet, charge on a per-minute basis. The proceeds should be used to fund a property-tax rebate.
The sidewalks should be destroyed. They encourage house gawking. This project has actually been underway for quite some time, but now I support it.
Not all city services are bad, of course. I’m not some misanthrope who resents every instance of cooperation, i.e., a libertarian. For example, the city should own the water company. It was a great idea to buy that, despite what I said earlier, and shifting the cost of this infrastructure investment to renters via rate increases is actually the only fair way to do it. Thirty years from now, when we have paid off the city’s debt along with any other fixed-rate mortgages we happen to have contracted today, we’ll be glad we did.
Finally, the reader should be advised that I have changed my position on the University of Montana. I previously supported UM’s academic and cultural programs, which brought to Missoula a vibrant mix of young people, accomplished professionals and world-renowned scholars. Now I hate that, on the grounds that it attracts bicycles. I am for the Griz, however, who attract Airbnb renters.
These changes in my positions may jar you, but I assure you they are grounded in sound political and socioeconomic theory. Ask anyone who has read Milton Friedman or owns a house and they will tell you that government should be run like a business. So should the university. The town, too, should be run like a business, i.e., for the enrichment of those who own it. Now that I own a piece of Missoula, I realize that our generosity is only harming those who don’t.
If we truly want to help our fellow citizens who do not own homes, i.e., serfs, we should work to lower property taxes so we don’t have to raise their rent. If we fail in this critical project, we will only pass the costs of our failure on to them. In the meantime, I shall prepare next week’s column, in which I will discuss which real estate developers make the best candidates for City Council.
Dan Brooks is on Twitter at @DangerBrooks. Please do not try to find his house.