walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Regulatory Uncertainty

Here is an extended excerpt from Klassen's _Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia_, which I am hugely enjoying because it's an academic development of the "and then they moved around Europe alternately being persecuted and being encouraged to live somewhere so they would reclaim land by building dikes and windmills) that I grew up with. Mmmm. Family history. Mmmm. Academic development. Good times. For me, anyway.

Recently, AvalonBay decided _not_ to do a project they started during the boom and then put on hold during the bust. It was a pricey for-rent development on Manhattan next to a garbage truck facility and on leased land. This news item -- when it came out a month or more ago -- led to extended speculation between R. and I about very-long-term land leases. Today, Klassen has supplied a name for at least one way of doing these leases: emphyteusis (actually, he wrote emphyteutic tenure, and it isn't in a the kindle dictionary or whatever LJ uses to spellcheck while typing). You can look that up as easily as I and maybe you'll even be able to understand it.

Here's the excerpt. "In the 1550s, Michael Loitz, a city councilor in Danzig and member of a wealthy family that owned a noted banking house, was given a thirty-year lease by the crown on land near the Tiege (Tuja) River. He had made numerous loans to King Sigismund II Augustus, and when the loans were not repaid, he was given emphyteutic tenure of the village of Schonsee (Jeziernik) and surrounding land. Under emphyteutic tenure, leases were granted for an extended period of time, usually thirty or forty years, and were inheritable ... The Loitz brothers of the banking firm wanted to improve the condition of their unusable [walkitout sez: mostly underwater] land and felt that the newcomers from the Netherlands were most capable of doing this. In 1562 they invited such Mennonites to transform swamps into fertile, productive farmland. ... [Summary of intensive water engineering involved.] ... For several years, the Loitz family gave these Dutch Mennonites free use of the land and later emphyteutic leases ... [explanation of how the Mennonite side of lease handled] ... Unfortunately for the Loitz family, the king, Sigismund II Augustus, died in 1572 without having paid his debts. The Polish Sejm [legislative body/parliament/diet] was soon caught up in a difficult succession quarrel [yes, they elect their kings] and refused to accept responsibility for the royal debt. This default on the king's accumulated debt brought bankruptcy to the Loitz family. In 1575 a new king, Stefan Bathory, gained the Polish crown and became involved in a power struggle with Danzig [everything described previous occurred in environs of Danzig/Gdansk; Danzig had _lots_ of trade and thus tax revenue]. When the proud city refused to bend to the king's will, a military confrontation resulted in which Danzig mercenaries fought the king's army. Neither side gained a clear victory [and probably a good thing, too; clear victories in this time frame are not pretty], but Danzig agreed to pay homage to the king and swore allegiance to him. In turn, the king continued the traditional privileges of the city and also recognized Danzig's right to observe the Lutheran faith.

"During the struggle, Ernst von Weiher, one of the king's commanders, distinguished himself. The king rewarded him by giving him the land that had been leased to the Loitz family and that was now home to many Mennonites. [You might want to look up emphyteusis and really try hard to understand it at this point because I think it matters.] The new administrator demonstrated his control by canceling existing contracts and demanding initial payments from the Mennonite settlers. He then allowed them to acquire twenty-year leases. In 1601 the leases were extended for the more usual forty years."

Moral: People who are sufficiently motivated (viz. everyone else is persecuting/killing them) will engage in complex, productive work even if there is a lot of uncertainty about their ability to benefit from that productive work and even more about their ability to pass it along to their children. But if you stress them enough, they will engage in communism. [Yeah, I edited that part out.] Good news, tho: you can shake them down occasionally. I didn't really need to tell a story about early modern Poland and Dutch immigrant Mennonites to make that point, however. I could have told you about T., who has been in her apartment for 17 years and has replaced all the kitchen appliances as they broke and the landlord was nonresponsive and is now contemplating redoing the crooked countertops. The appliances she can take with her should she ever move; the countertop not so much.

Applicable lesson today: people who whine about regulatory uncertainty have no _idea_ what true regulatory uncertainty is all about.
Tags: genealogy, not-a-book-review, real estate

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