Why is home ownership so popular?

I was out dethatching the front yard this morning, taking advantage of the unusually sunny weather that has come our way, and, as is often the case when I’m left alone with my thoughts and a witless task, my mind wandered to the obvious place, wondering why on earth I ever agreed to buy this house that consumes so much of my time and energy.

When you consider all the costs of owning a house (taxes, interest on a mortgage, gas, electricity, renovations, maintenance, time, etc), there’s no way that it could possibly be a better investment than renting an apartment and investing the difference in mutual funds. It’s like having a second job, except instead of being paid to work, you pay to do it. So why do so many people own houses?

The answer is obvious to anybody whose ever given a few moments of consideration: control.

In his talk at EclipseCon, Joel Spolsky touched on Martin E. P. Seligman’s theory of learned helplessness, which as I undertstand it states that depression is a result of a lack of control over one’s environment. When you feel that you can’t influence the world around you, you tend to feel depressed.

In today’s society, what better way of exerting control over your environment is there than owning a house? Unlike a rented apartment, you can paint the walls whatever colour you like; plant a garden if you have the thumb for it, or as in my case, rip one out because you haven’t; change the floors; fill it with furniture; etc. Apparently, for most people that sense of control is worth all the afternoons mowing lawns; raking leaves; shoveling driveways; wiring basements; etc.

Thoreau, when he left Concord for a simple life in a hand-built shed on Walden pond, noted that “Men do not own their homes, but rather the homes own the men.” Maybe so, but it seems to be a type of slavery most are willing settle for.

Eating my words on William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition

Last week, I beat up William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, calling it “terribly contrived” story, and suggested that it was a mediocre novel.

I’ve since finished reading it and I have to say I’ve had a change of heart. In all fairness, it finishes better than I expected. By the time I reached the end, I’d even say that I was, gasp, enjoying it.

I still wouldn’t consider it to be a great novel, but it was certainly better than mediocre, and not at all deserving of my initial comments.

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Power hikes could hit 16 per cent: analyst

CBC Toronto is reporting that power hikes could hit 16%:

An energy expert is predicting an electricity rate increase of up to 16 per cent per cent May 1, though the bump in price will vary across the province.

Tom Adams from Energy Probe said rates will increase by at least five per cent to allow the province to recover money it lost because last year because [sic] the wholesale or commodity price of electricity was higher than expected.

No need to worry, though. Just inform your boss that your hourly rates will increase at least five percent to allow you to recover money you lost because last year the wholesale price of beer was higher than expected.

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Ottawa stops funding One Tonne Challenge

Martin Mittelstaedt reports for the Globe and Mail that Ottawa has stopped funding the One Tonne Challenge:

The new Conservative government in Ottawa has abruptly stopped funding groups across the country that have been promoting the One Tonne Challenge, the quirky program to persuade Canadians to do their bit to help the environment by cutting their greenhouse gas emissions.

Reportedly, the Conservatives have proposed a new program known as POETWIMP (Piss On Everything; The World Is My Pooper).

Tip of the hat to Treehugger.