In order to maintain a healthy republic, there are certain conditions that must be preserved amongst the citizens. Some of these conditions, such as the importance of an informed electorate, are talked about frequently. Others, such as the importance of property-owning citizens, are discussed less often but are nevertheless essential to the preservation of a republic.
Owning property is important because it ties a person to a specific place within the country. They are still an American, but they are not just an American. They are now also an invested citizen in their town and their neighborhood. The fact that they own property in an area means that they are much more likely to become involved in that community and, as part of that involvement, work to improve their home community.
More community involvement like this would go a long way toward achieving conservatives’ political goals. The more problems that can be solved on a local level, the less people will look toward the federal government to step in and offer their “help.” Additionally, much of the problem-solving done at the local level in this way can be done without even the local government. In a healthy community, concerned property owners will find that their problems can usually be solved more effectively by local churches and other community organizations.
By contrast, if few people in an area own property, the majority of residents will not have a long-term stake in that community. Although one does not have to own property to be an involved citizen, it becomes much easier to ignore local problems if they do not have a significant financial impact on you.
Areas with few property owners then to lack involved citizens who have little incentive to volunteer their own time or money to improve the community. They will, however, still expect a certain amount of security and service from that community. When that expectation is not met through voluntary community organizations, they will turn to the ballot box and elect politicians who promise to fill those gaps through new government programs.
If conservatives want to see electoral success in the future they should embrace policies that encourage property ownership. In their attempts to do so, they should be guided by the words of Ronald Reagan, who advised us that “If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it.” We should, therefore, consider a reduction in the tax burden faced by homeowners. One way to do this, which would also encourage homeowners to invest in their property, would be to make home improvement expenses tax deductible. Under the current law, these expenses are not tax deductible unless done for medical reasons or the installation of a green energy generator.
This small change to the tax code would not accomplish much by itself, but would be an important step toward a larger policy of encouraging property ownership that conservatives should actively pursue. If successful, this policy could provide extremely compelling evidence that community-based solutions are better than government intervention.