Put me down firmly on the side of those who see “You’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy” as more of a threat; I see “You will be happy” with special emphasis on “will” and the unstated addendum to that statement as “You damn peasants better be happy, or else!”
The simple fact is that owning things – especially things which can be construed as tools – allow one a degree of independence, and even a mild degree of comfort over and above the norm. This was suggested to me in a college class four decades and more since. I think it must have been the required readings for medieval history course; dedicated medievalists had gone into various probate records and wills in England or France and studied the inventories of barely-above-survival peasant households. Nothing really notable in the main – just basic tools, household and farm implements like butter churns, cheese presses, cooking pots, some simple furniture. But at least one of the readings pointed out how possession of certain tools like a cheese-press, hinted that the owner of that item –was in fact, making cheese, possibly for their own use or for the market. The very fact that they owned something with which to turn a farm product like milk, into something to sell or barter for in the marketplace implied a slightly higher level of comfort and security for that household.
The fact is, owning things permits a degree of social independence and economic freedom. The medieval household who owned that cheese press were able to better themselves economically and live slightly more comfortable lives. Owning a spinning wheel, or a loom meant that household could turn sheep wool or flax into thread and cloth. A simple plow and a team to pull it meant being able to farm and raise a crop sufficient to support a small household. Owning a house with a yard in this present day means possibly having space for a vegetable plot, or a bearing fruit tree or two. (This was the common practice where I lived briefly in Utah, a regional culture with a local tradition of domestic self-sufficiency. Most suburban houses had a garden plot and a fruit tree or two.) Owning a sewing machine and having the ability to use it to best advantage means one is not dependent on the whims of retail clothing merchants. Owning a car (or truck, bicycle, or historically, a horse and buggy) means that one isn’t dependent on the availability or scheduling of public transport. Owning a coffee mill and an expresso machine means that one is not dependent on Starbucks for your morning caffeine fix. Owning certain items permits a wide range of self-sufficiency, personal choice, and the ability to cater to your own taste, comfort and convenience.
Visualizing a world where no one owns anything and is wholly dependent on renting the necessities – from an apartment to the contents, a computer, or whatever – still doesn’t seem a very stable arrangement. Someone or some entity will own the goods and property that you will have to rent – so, who will that be? So much for abolishing ownership – this just moves ownership to a corporate level, rather than a personal one. And what renter is really motivated to maintain the rented/loaned items in pristine, tip-top prime condition? It is an axiom relative to this concept, that no one washes a rented car, and that in driving through a suburban neighborhood, one can almost always pick out the rental properties held by indifferent landlords and equally indifferent tenants. And an added caveat to all of this – is who decides what rental price, and who is worthy? The natural suspicion among us natural independent small capitalists is that this is just another scheme by the new economic overlords to reduce us all to readily controllable and obedient serfs.
Keep the cheese press. Keep it as your own property.
Discuss as you wish. How far will this flight of international authoritarian fancy fly, or will it crash in stupendous flames, as it collides with reality?