Be careful what you own

We have a strange relationship with ownership.

We talk casually, and with pride about the house we own, the car we own, the company we own.

There’s a Buddhist exhortation to be careful about what we own, because often it will end up owning us.

No matter the legal niceties, if we have used debt to buy what we “own”, we don’t really own it at all – we’re renting it. Our name may be on the title document, but we all have landlords – a bank, a finance company, a major client – all of whom we must satisfy in order for what we own to remain ours whilst we pay for it.

The same is true of the promises we make. As individuals, with people we know, we’re mostly reasonably careful. There’s a relationship at stake. As a business, it’s easy to be more cavalier. I wonder what the discount rate is on a Bank’s promise?

We are about to go into an extraordinary period. As the economy writhes, the promises – financial, and moral – we made will increasingly be called in, and our futures will be heavily affected by the way we honour them.