Between A Rock and a Hard Place: American Anxiety

I’ve not been one to wax political in public (though I am a rabid idealogue in private) as politics doesn’t always relate to the business of real estate.  And in a sense, my comments here will not be so much politcal as they are societal, and a connection absolutely can be made in this case to real estate and such, and I will do so.

I believe that a case can be made that Americans are feeling a great deal of anxiety right now over both their own circumstances, those of their neighbors and friends, and those of the entire country (and economy) at large.  I think that Americans are caught beween a rock and a hard place.  Or perhaps a better metaphor would be that Americans are at a “fork in the road,” and both roads seem to lead to hell.  Let me explain:

When gasoline was $4 per/gallon it really hit Americans where it hurt: in the pocket.  There was a national uproar. Now consider the problem in the housing market. It’s been bad for 4 years already, and it only seems to be getting worse.  And unlike an expensive tank of gasoline, the foreclosure of a  family’s home is much more personal, emotional, and powerfully troubling. And here is where we come to the fork in the road.

The first road is the public road. This road is run and maintained by the federal government.  The road is wide, and branches off in seemingly endless directions.  There are tolls to pay at every fork in this road, and taking any given fork will theoretically take you to your destination. The problem with this road is that like all government roads it is semi-maintained, the signs are confusing, and once you do get to your destination, you’ve paid dearly for the trip, and you have the nagging sensation that your destination looks a lot like your starting-point. 

The American people have lost faith in the ability of government to actually solve problems.  They have come to understand that government will simply take their money,  throw it at some aspect of the problem, and report success with charts, graphs, and cryptograms that show the problem has been solved, or will be solved “shortly.”

When President Obama came to office in 2009, the people seemed persuaded to give the government one more chance to fix things. It seemed that Obama maybe could make positive changes to the way things were done in Washington. He called for transparency, openness, coming together to solve problems, and offering real solutions.  Instead, what we got was less transparency, more seeming corruption, and a whole lot of the people’s money spend on stimulous that didn’t seem to stimulate anything or anybody except the bureaucrats in Washington and their corporate lobbyists on Wall Street.

Once again, government has failed to fix anything. Just like we secretly knew in our hearts that it would.  But what is our alternative? What is the “other road,” or the “hard place”?  The private sector.

The people’s only other choice is to get the government out of the way, and allow the private sector to fix its own economic problems. Capitalist free markets are harsh in the glare of reality.  If the people allow the market to correct itself, the pain could be intense.  Many people do not trust capitalism because they have been lead to believe that capitalism equals greed and corrution. They believe that if capitalism is given free reign, the rich will simply take all the money, and everybody who’s poor and disenfrachised will become moreso. 

I believe this stems from a misconception people have about the road of capitalism.  The capitalist road is almost always straight. It has to be, because the goal is always to get from point “A” to point “B” as quickly, efficiently, and cheaply as possible.  On the capitalist road, if the people decide that a particular branch of the road is no longer useful or desireable, they will abandon it, or use it for something else.

In regard to the housing crisis, I woud like to make the following proposition: “The Government’s Meddling in the Private Sector caused the housing crisis.” You see, the road in the private sector that represents housing was a large road, and many people were on it. It was a well maintained road, the speed limits were set correctly to provide safety to the people on the road, and there were very few “accidents” on this road.

But then, along comes mister government. He has an observation to make, and just like any government observation, it always comes with consequences. The government suddenly mandated that the road be widened, the speed limit be increased to a reckless 150 miles per hour, those who couldn’t pay the toll for this road were subsidized. Union government contractors took over road maintenance, and the rules of the road were expanded, duplicated, and codified into a 12,000 page document that normal Americans couldn’t even understand. 

And just like government always does when its bungling causes misery for the poeple who used to enjoy the road, it blames the former owners of the road. The government’s good intentions are never to be questioned. The outcomes of the government’s bungling always goes bad, and it’s almost always the private sector’s fault when things crumble. It is a strange and wonderful thing that our government feels the need to confound, confuse, and destroy the very system that props it up and gives it its power.

Thus, there are indeed only two roads we can take, and both are scary, but for different reasons. The laws of nature are manipulated and not allowed to function correctly on the private road. The government is determined to make the private road look and feel and function like other government roads. But allow me to ask this:

“Which road will you travel on?”

Unfortunately, the government road is freshly paved, and decorated beautifully. In spite of its confusion, corruption, cost, and unknown destination, people may choose to use this road rather than the people’s road.  The people’s road has a 3 million car pile-up, the roads are in disrepair, the signs and speed limits need to be redone, and it is certainly not safe.  But can we realize that we need to take the road back from the bumbling bureaucrats and fix it ourselves, so it goes where we need it to, and the rules make sense?

Until we determine to fix our own road, and get the government OUT OF THE HOUSING BUSINESS, our choices will look pretty bleak. I for one will be shouting loudly and clearly on the side of the private road:

“Give me my damn road back!”

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