I've been at times frustrated and at times disappointed at the tone of most media coverage about the rising cost of real estate in Vancouver. So much of what is being published is written with barely disguised racism. I wonder how people of Asian descent feel when they read the online discussions about the "Asian Invasion"?
Have we learned nothing from history? Is this 1907 all over again? Should we expect angry mobs soon?
Perhaps a philosophical perspective would be to see the rising price of real estate as a kind of karmic justice, a century after Canada's imposition of the Chinese Head Tax.
Today, China has over 2,378,000 millionaires and 213 billionaires. The population of B.C. is 4.67 million.
Imagine half of the population of B.C. being millionaires. What do you suppose those millionaires would do with their wealth? Would buying real estate in one of the most beautiful cities in the world not be a logical step to take?
Because of the kind of ideology that dominates our economy these days, people with lots of money are more powerful and have more choices than do people who are poor. There is nothing fair about that, but that's not the fault of the people who have played the economic game according the rules of how to capitalize on investment.
And yes, you can make the case that some rich people have not always played the game legally. In fact, if you look into the history of some of the richest families in Canada, you will see that there are many unsavoury practices that they indulged in on their way to becoming millionaires.
Money has been laundered in Canada since the birth of our country. The only difference between now and then is that back then it was people of European descent doing it.
Rather than speak of Chinese investors, I wish people would talk about millionaires who are from China. It may seem like that's a small difference -- but it's actually a huge one.
"Millionaires who are from China" focuses on wealth whereas "Chinese investors" focuses on ethnicity. And that's a problematic focus given the history of racism in Canada.
Did you know that until quite recently, only white people could live in the tony British Properties in West Vancouver?
The more logical target for outrage is the economic ideology that makes it possible for wealth to determine as much as it does in our society. It's no secret that if a rich person and a poor person were guilty of the same crime, the latter is more likely to go to jail.
We measure the value of a person on whether or not they have the ability to shop for pleasure, not need. We consider people who are poor, lazy, and those who are rich, hard-working. We are enraptured with the lives of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton but completely ignore the plight of the working poor who, despite working two or three jobs, still struggle to feed, clothe and shelter their families.
Yes, shelter is expensive in Vancouver. And yes, many of the people who are rich and are able to afford a home in Vancouver are from Asia. But neither of those facts has got anything at all to do with ethnicity, and everything to do with economic ideology.
We can't have our cake and eat it too. Either we ensure that social justice is a priority in our society, or we allow wealth to determine who gets to live a good life or not.
Why isn't the prevalence of homelessness in Vancouver a reason for outrage as much as the rising cost of real estate is? Where is the outrage about B.C. having the highest rate of childhood poverty in Canada ?
We have an economic ideology that provides investors everywhere with the means to determine what is of value in our society. We should not be surprised with the choices they make, whether in the stock market or in real estate.
And that's got nothing to do with whether those investors are Chinese or not. It's just the rules of the game.
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