[FOUNTAIN]Free to move ― not really

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[FOUNTAIN]Free to move ― not really

There is something that exists in the Constitution, but not in reality. It is the freedom of relocation. According to Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, all citizens have the freedom to choose and change their residence. However, not many people believe in that.
Taxes have long been the biggest obstacle to the freedom of relocation. It was especially so in the east, where the development of cities came late. It was easier for the government to collect taxes when the people stayed in one place.
Chinese people still do not have freedom of movement by law. However, there are many exceptions.
In Shanghai, if you buy a house for more than 1 million yuan ($127,500) you can obtain a citizen card. You can get a Suzhou citizen card if your tax payment is large, and Beijing gives citizen cards to professionals in high-tech jobs. If you are rich, powerful or well-educated, you can have the freedom to change yourresidence.
According to “A Source Book for Medieval History” by F.A. Ogg, French King Louis VII granted a charter to the city of Lorris in 1155. “Anyone who shall dwell a year and a day in the parish of Lorris, without any claim having pursued him there, and without having refused to lay his case before us or our provost, shall abide there freely and without molestation.”
Taxes can change the form of a dwelling. Many houses in New Orleans are designed to resemble a camel’s back. In late 19th century Louisiana, houses were taxed based on the number of stories seen from the front. The camelback house is one story when viewed from the front, but they have multiple levels in the back. Tim Harford wrote in the “Undercover Economist” that people’s response to the tax signals something different from the policy’s intention. That is called the New Orleans effect.
Those who created the “tax bomb” believe real estate prices will stabilize soon due to fears of the high taxes. However, the New Orleans effect is already showing. The deposit for a lease is soaring, and moving has slowed. Recently, the Korean National Statistics Office announced that the population movement in the third quarter of this year was 2 million, the smallest since the third quarter of 2004.
“The constitutional freedom to change residences can only be enjoyed when you have money and power. If you do not have them, the freedom of movement only means the freedom to move to a worse residence, not to a better one,” wrote Kang Myung-kwan in “Scenes of the Back Alleys from the Joseon Dynasty.”

The writer is a deputy business news editor
at the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yi Jung-jae
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