Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The "American Dream", revised & updated

My last post was optimistic about the US economy. Here's the other side of the story: the bad news. Here's a CBS 60 Minutes story of people walking out on their morgages:

"We should all be acting like bankers", i.e. have no shame. The claim is that this is "just an economic decision". That is true. But if society marches into this "libertarian wet dream" where all relationships are "just a contract" will erode a society by gutting its morality.

The comment at the end is telling. When asked about immorality in walking away, the interviewee says "that's for the professionals to decide". In other words, in the libertarian "brave new world" we contract out old fashioned ideas like morality, responsibility, duty, love, etc. to "the professionals". Just who are they?

Both Bush and Obama have claimed to have worked hard to help keep people in their houses, but their programs to bring home owners and banks together have failed. The moral responsibility for this failing lies not just in one place but many:
  • With the initiators of the problem: the banks, the mortagage brokers, the ratings agencies.

  • With the government: the regulators who failed and two administrations who have failed to take the problem seriously.

  • With the home owners who walk away with a shrug saying "it's their problem" as if there is no consequence to their actions. They remind me of the kids in the 1970s who would "rip off" stores (rob them) and claim their was no victim because the stores were big corporation and petty theft was "just a cost of doing business".
The fault lies everywhere. I have great sympathy for those who are stuck with houses worth less than they paid. I sure wish the banks would sit down and renegotiate seriously. And I sure with the government took this problem more seriously. Since they haven't, then I'm willing to accept that people should just "walk away". But it worries me greatly because this creates the libertarian "dream" of little monads with no responsibility towards anybody else. I don't want to live in that world. That is a cruel and heartless, dog-eat-dog world.

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