… a house, or a right to housing?
Professor Thio Li-Ann asked me this at my admission interview to NUS law this morning. (I’m applying for the GLB.) I gave a disappointing answer, in my opinion. I pointed out that a house could always be repossessed or expropriated whereas a right to housing was protected by the law. She replied that resources might be constrained, and that right to housing wouldn’t always be fulfilled. Moreover, the resources which had to be devoted to fulfilling this right to housing would have to be taken from someone else. We went back and forth a bit, and I brought out my standard argument: this is a society that has solved the problem of scarcity, and if we wanted to, everyone could have a good standard of living. Our problem is therefore not overcoming scarcity, the way it has been for millennia, but distributing abundance. (The idea of a post-scarcity society is something I found in JK Galbraith’s The Affluent Society, if anyone’s interested.) At that point we switched to a different line of questioning.