Not All is Fungible that has Value

From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 [gcide]:

Fungibles \Fun”gi*bles\, n. pl. [LL. (res) fungibiles, probably fr. L. fungi to discharge…

1. (Civ. Law) Things which may be furnished or restored in kind, as distinguished from specific things; — called also {fungible things}. –Burrill. [1913 Webster]

A house is fungible, a home isn’t. Goods can be moved in to build a subdivision but not a neighborhood. Even if the residents of an existing neighborhood were to move from New York to Montana and built houses near one another, it wouldn’t be a neighborhood until the various relationships between individuals and households settled down into proper sorts of patterns. It would take some time and might not happen at all. If a neighborhood did re-form, it would be a far different neighborhood than it was in New York. In general, an existing neighborhood can be deserted but a new one can’t be purchased.

Grandpa’s tools are fungible in the sense that they can be sold out of his estate but the living attached to those tools, or his workshop, isn’t fungible. It can die but can’t be sold.

If we had economists and political scientists who could understand the above statements and develop them into a system of thought, we might have an understanding of truly free forms of capitalism and that understanding might help us to find ways to form stable and tradition-based systems capable of dynamically responding to legitimate opportunities.

Instead, we are burdened with economists who teach us that freedom and prosperity are to be found by always being willing to sell that property which grounds our ways of life. In opposition to that, I’ll note that ways of life are built upon ways of making livings and to sell out those small family businesses on Main Street or to sell out the traditional family home to move to a subdivision is to sell out a way of life. To be sure, change is constant and sometimes we might find ourselves a better way of life. But we modern Americans seem to have done little but sell out our heritage — and that of our children — and end up with little to show for it.

We Americans have sold our ways of life in return for promises of soft and comfortable lives from cradle to grave. Now those promises are showing their worth with each bit of bad news about the economy and about our miscellaneous wars in countries we and our leaders know little about. But we and our parents and our grandparents should have been suspicious from the moment that our politicians at war (especially Lincoln and Wilson) so willingly and so easily took up the powers of a tyrant and, in fact, exercised those powers with greater ruthlessness than all but a few kings in European history. We certainly should have been suspicious of the New Deal which was not an effort to help troubled people but rather an effort to make the United States safe for large corporations which are in cahoots with politicians and government bureaucrats. We most certainly should have been suspicious when family businesses were burdened with all the regulation laid upon corporations. One particularly absurd example was the imposition upon local dairies of the sanitary codes necessary for those corporations which were trucking large amounts of milk from various sources and trucking that milk many miles to be sold days later.

It took many generations to build up the communities and habits and customs which we threw away for a chance at winter homes in Florida and for SUV’s with heated leather seats. Should I mention our desire to buy lots of stuff at Walmart as cheaply as possible, stuff that we didn’t really need? I just fried some bacon and came to wonder why I need floral printed paper towels to drain the grease? I’m old enough to remember that newspapers did the job fine. But now I live in a town where I can buy those pretty paper towels at a large supermarket and then return to a neighborhood where I don’t know even the name of most of the families that live in a block or two of my residence. And we don’t even really want most of the stuff we buy. It’s the buying experience we seek and much of that stuff is disposable. Much ends up being stored in attics or given away after light use. Most Americans would have needed a warehouse to store all the stuff they bought over the past decade.

The party is drawing to an end, but we may have enough resources to keep it going in a low-key way for a decade or more. Will we try to just live as well as possible and hope we escape this life before more is demanded of us? Will we instead have the guts and the moral integrity to sacrifice for the future? Will we continue to play the role of barbarians looting our own civilization or will we be willing to roll up our sleeves and become builders?

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