In 2005 during the height of the real estate boom here in the states, my wife and I found ourselves looking for a home. With seminary coming to an end and two ministry job offers hanging in the air a move was inevitable. Our first option was taking a Sr. Pastor role at a church in Columbia South Carolina. With this position came a nice salary and an affordable way of life. In fact, while house hunting, we found a nice 2000 square foot four bedroom colonial on one acre, in the ground swimming pool for $110,000 dollars. Great location and a great price.
Two weeks later Naomi and I found ourselves on a fact finding mission for the second potential position. This option found us taking on a Professorship at a Bible college in Pennsylvania. With this position came a poor salary and an even more unaffordable way of life. While looking at homes near the Bible college, our real estate agent took us into a home he felt we could afford. As we entered the three bedroom ranch home sitting on 1/10 of an acre of land, butted up against a noisy highway, he exclaimed, “Isn’t it a great deal! Only $330,000 dollars. Before the words finished leaving his mouth, I said, “Your smoking crack, this house is worth $70,000”. After a few minutes of squabbling we finally agreed to disagree. Bad location and a bad price.
How could a market go so unchecked?
This past week while reading the Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi a was struck by his concept of market and nature. Most critical is how the element of land is most interwoven with the organizations and institutions of man’s production. As Polanyi stated, “To isolate land and form a market for it was perhaps the weirdest of all the undertakings of our ancestors”. While reading these concepts the following three keys emerged from this “One Big Market”.
Location provides stability… Land is of great significance. For those who own, it may provide safety, stability, habitation or even the means of growing food. Location and land ownership provides stability and structure. This location also provides a way for an individual to be identified with a land, tribe or people group. Within this structure a person can provide for their physical well being, as well as the very formation of their soul. It is within this concept where the worker becomes connected to nature. All becomes worship and formation.
Location dictates prices… You have all heard it said, “Location, Location, Location.” Within this concept their are two controlling elements. First, supply and demand. When supply is low, and demand is high, the price goes up. Not because it has to, but rather those selling often want to capitalize on the amount they can gain from another. Example, beachfront property. Second, the economic culture of the area in which you are looking for a home. In our 2005 search for a home, we realized very quick that South Carolina has great poverty issues. For the most part, South Carolina has two classes, upper and lower. Pennsylvania on the other hand has almost all middle and upper class people groups. That combined with being 1 hour from Philadelphia and 2 1/2 hours away from New York city has driven pricing through the roof. Location dictates prices, for the good or the bad.
Location unregulated leads to consumption… A few years ago Naomi and I traveled to Napa Valley California for our tenth anniversary. We had an amazing week visiting key sites throughout Napa and Sonoma wine country. During one of our excursions in Sonoma, we noticed an open house for a small bungalow which was being sold. After entering the small 900 square ft. bungalow located on 1/8 th of an acre of land. The host shouted, great one day price cut to $999,900! What, the place was a dump. No sooner did I laugh, when the host said, “You do know we offer 50 year mortgages?”. Though owning land is good, a market unregulated places individuals in bondage to the very same market. In the end, if unregulated, this concept leads to a consumption of nature and people.
A market unchecked or the natural consequences of making land fully market?
Traditionally, land and labor are not separated; labor forms part of life, land remains part of nature, life and nature form an articulate whole. Land is thus tied up with the organizations of kinship, neighborhood, craft, and creed – with tribe and temple, village, guild, and church. Karl Polanyi
Do you own land?
Do you see your land as market value or formation given by God?
How does your location further kingdom principles in your life and others?