My maternal grandfather, who spent most of his existence living in an apartment of almost 200 meters located in the center of a provincial capital, never even thought of buying a car. The idea did not even cross his mind because that luxury seemed prohibitive for him. And he was. My father, on the other hand, did manage to acquire one, well into the prodigious decade of the 70s. It was a Seat 124 that would get more than one look of silent admiration from the neighborhood. For my part, I now drive myself with an SUV, the most cumbersome I found on the second-hand market, something halfway between a tractor and a tank. Thus, my grandfather’s grandson can today enjoy his tank without major impediment, but he does not even allow himself, on the other hand, to dream of a house similar to the one in which his ancestor saw his days run by. That luxury would be unattainable.
And it is that capitalism constitutes an economic system endowed with a prodigious capacity to cheapen any merchandise as time goes by. Something, the increasingly lower costs of producing a unit of whatever, that capitalism achieves by increasing its production volume. That’s why cars are much more affordable today than they were in my father’s day. And also for that reason, in my father’s time they were, in turn, much cheaper than in my grandfather’s. This permanent process of cheapening capitalism can carry out with any merchandise, except with non-reproducible ones. And hence the cars are becoming more and more accessible, but the original frames of picassoOn the contrary, they become more and more expensive.
It happens, and by definition, that an original by Picasso cannot be reproduced. And the same thing happens with urban land: it cannot be reproduced either. That is the ultimate reason that any housing located within the M-30 of Madrid tends to become more expensive more and more as the years go by. And in the face of that, capitalism, that is, the market, is totally impotent.
Nothing, absolutely nothing you can do about it. nothing can do because the land of urban centers gives way to a book monopoly. And in monopolies the power to fix prices always falls on the supply side.
A Picasso original cannot be reproduced. And the same thing happens with urban land: it cannot be reproduced either.
From all of which it seems to be inferred that the automobile industry constitutes an activity that should be left in the hands of private initiative, but that in the provision of a collective need as basic as housing, the active intervention of the public sector will be justified in order to try to alleviate the proven inefficiency of the market in this area.
And even more so now, in this very disconcerting time in which all the great metropolises of Europe –Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, Lisbonalso Madrid and Barcelona– re-experience a phenomenon that has not been remembered with a similar intensity since the fall of the Roman Empire, namely: the humblest strata have begun to abandon them since they can no longer afford their exorbitant real estate prices. A growing popular asphalt diaspora that is coinciding with another accelerated disruptive trend, that associated with the concentration in the very epicenter of the big cities of the bulk of the emerging economic activities.
If the prototypical image of the productive space in the 20th century was a monotonous factory agglomeration stocked with uniformed workers and ubiquitous assembly lines, all located well away from the select noble centers of the capitals, in which a populated landscape now dominates of areas of coworking and fab labs installed in glass buildings with avant-garde architecture. With them, startup that give renewed life to old stately buildings of luxurious nineteenth-century invoice, innumerable universities and other higher education institutions that attract a wealthy cosmopolitan clientele eager to combine studies and recreational offer of the metropolitan environment, in addition to the unstoppable touristification with its well-known corollary, gentrification and further disneylandization of the oldest neighborhoods of the traditional nuclei.
Now a ‘disneylandization’ of the oldest neighborhoods of the traditional nuclei is imposed
Trends, all of them, that come together in the same common havoc: expel, via runaway prices, many former historical inhabitants, on the one hand, and impoverish, in the same way, the rest of those who remain, small and large entrepreneurs included. Because the salaries that employers pay today to their less educated staff may be low, yes, but the leases that they are forced to assume if they want to stay in a large global city, for example Madrid or Barcelona, are increasing more and more. A process repeated in all the large internationalized cities of the West where the end result is always the same: a transfer of growing wealth from companies and their employees to the pockets of real estate rentiers.
A stubborn statistical evidence that believers in market solutions still think they can correct through the usual land liberalization. Nothing, apparently, has been learned from the Land Law promoted by in its day, when the bubbleby the Government of Aznar.
Extremely intense liberalization, that, after which, and very shortly after being approved, housing prices throughout Spain would manage to crown their highest historical level. For the rest, what easy and viable solution is there for this problem in places like my city, Barcelona, where 15,000 people live together in each square kilometer, a calculation that does not take into account the tens of thousands of tourists and other foreigners who Do they spend the night daily within their municipal area? It is the great paradox: our great cities open to the world are being killed by their own success.
*** José García Domínguez is an economist and journalist.