Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Reading About the Economic Crisis

Here's a prediction from The Atlantic about how the economic crisis will reshape America:

I don't agree with this article in several places, but at least it's the kind of broad discussion that I think is actually useful. I've gotta like anything that compares cities to organisms, each with a distinctive "metabolism"! Part of posting it here is to remind myself to come back to it in a few years and think about what it got right and what it got wrong.

Near the end it brings out a contested point: we should remove home ownership from the center of our economic model. I really don't go along with that. Obviously the idea of home ownership was associated with unsustainable growth economics in the 2004-2007 range of years. But don't tell me "studies show renters and owners are just as happy and have similar levels of stress" and use that to justify something as complex as homeownership -- that argument's only useful for deciding between Pepsi and Coke.

I do think that have someone be "tied down" to a region because they can't get rid of their house is a problem. But the "rootedness" of home ownership is an important intangible. The stress of moving, and then moving again, can't really be underestimated in my book. We aren't little robots that move around the country like game pieces. If the first part of the article is right, that place is still important and will continue to be, then rootedness in a place should be important as well.

In any case, this is the kind of article that gives me something to chew on, as I disagree with many of its points and solutions (one other thing: if we're moving toward an idea-based economy, then who's making all the stuff we eat and drive and live in? And are they happy about that?). I'll be thinking about this as the day goes on ... so I'll let you try it too.

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