Readers Write: Homeownership isn't all bad – or good; EU is a model for peace
Letters to the Editor for the weekly issue of January 30, 2011: One reader takes issue with an op-ed's reasoning on why Americans should rent, not buy. Another points out that the global reduction in war is largely attributable to the union of previous enemies in Europe.
Homeownership isn't all bad
Justin Martin's Jan. 16 commentary "Why I rent, despite low mortgage rates" is engaging. On the one hand, his diagnosis of the continued dismal state of the housing market is spot on, where renting certainly represents a safe option for a host of persons.
On the other hand, it does not follow that a stagnant housing market and unsettled employment situation can be brought together so breezily. The vast majority of workers can't set out for other countries for new work. Even within the United States, being a renter doesn't equate with being able to "easily move around."
Historically, a home does appreciate in value over time, and it also proves useful to those who can afford one and go into the process clear-eyed. Granted, there are risks. But there are risks to renters as well. There are risks anytime one places a bet on financial return.
There is really no need to force a dichotomy where one doesn't exist. Buying a house isn't a "spending binge." And being a renter isn't a miracle salve for complex economic woes.
EU as model for peace
In the Dec. 26 issue, two articles deal with the global reduction in war and violence: "Wars grind on; but statistically, violence declines" and "Are we getting better?" The latter features an interview with Harvard professor Steven Pinker about his new book "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined."
Neither, however, mentions a major reason for the reduction in the frequency and magnitude of war, namely, that the nations responsible for one of history's greatest carnages, particularly France and Germany, have been, since the end of World War II, bound together with others in an arrangement of shared sovereignty.
Despite the challenges currently facing the European Union over its common currency and other issues, it still constitutes the closest thing we have on the planet to Immanuel Kant's system of "perpetual peace." Accession to the EU also ensures collaborative resolution of domestic and cross-border conflicts. And it is an example to states in other regions of the world.
These are among the core reasons why nations have increasingly discovered that cooperation and collaboration are the optimal ways forward in addressing complex problems that defy the efforts of any one nation to deal with on its own.
Still, this may not be enough to stop the occasional martyr from attempting to destroy the utility of this model by strapping on an explosive device and detonating it in some city center. Obviously, we still have our work cut out for us!