Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 8:00 am
By Christopher Ketcham, Columnist
“Buy land,” the adage goes, “they’re not making any more of it.” True enough: Land is an economic factor like no other, what economists call an “inelastic commodity.”
Demand for land goes up, yet there can be no increase in supply. According to the law of supply and demand, rising demand produces rising prices, which is offset by manufacturing more supply, which lowers prices.
In the case of land, the iron law of supply and demand is tossed out the window.
One can of course develop more land, but this does not produce more of the basic resource upon which development depends.
Control of the resource, then, is where opportunity lies, an opportunity which involves nothing more than the willingness to gamble that the value of land will continually rise. In Moab all landowners – which is to say all homeowners along with owners of undeveloped plots – know this. In places where population is increasing, where the demand for land is rising, the trick to getting rich is to buy a plot of soil, sit on it, and watch the value grow as demand for the commodity grows.
Ketcham ends with,
I encourage you to go read the original to see the middle section. Ketcham, if memory serves, was the author of a very good article in Harper's about Monopoly.
And therein lies the problem.
Like the speculator with his bare lot, when I sell my property I get to keep for myself, barring a few taxes, the entire increase in value, an increase that resulted in part, yes, from my own labor and upkeep, but also, to a far larger degree, from communal labor and social investment (along with the simple fact of inelastic supply in the face of rising demand).
The homeowner who manages to make a killing upon selling his house minces in the mirror and says, “I earned it, I and I alone!”
Such self-delusion, needless to say, is one of the keystones of the real estate market on which so much of our economy is predicated.