Thursday, May 31, 2007
Boom and Bust
I went for a walk with my son yesterday evening. We strolled around the subdivision where we now live and marvelled at how quickly hundreds of homes have been built, dozens alone in the time since we moved there last August. Many of the homes are huge, beautifully landscaped, with custom features galore and with shiny new vehicles in the driveway. As we walked around, I wondered to myself how everyone is paying for their homes and cars and furniture and country club memberships and private schools and vacations and who knows what else.
It's none of my business, of course, what these people do and how they earn their money. It will be my business however, if some of these people crash and burn under their immense debt load and won't be able to take care of themselves when they retire. I am a taxpayer, after all, and taxpayers are going to have to foot the retirement bill for those who no longer work. I'm sure that a sizable percentage of the home owners in our area have lots of income and that many of them might even have their homes paid for, in full, with money they have saved from hard work and fruitful investments. I'm not worried about them. I'm worried about the ones who think property values are going to go up forever and that they will be able to build equity in their homes, for years to come, with which to fund their retirement.
The future doesn't look good, folks. We, here in Canada, have yet to see the somewhat dramatic drop in real estate values evidenced in parts of the United States and elsewhere, but oversupply coupled with lessening demand will guarantee that at some point, probably in the not too distant future, values will fall. Then there will be the inevitable recession that comes around every so often. Some people will lose their jobs. Some businesses will see profits diminish or disappear altogether. There will be defaults on mortgages and other loans.
Boom and bust. That's the cycle. Always has been and always will be. And during every cycle it is the same. Those least able to afford to gamble pile on to the madness at the worst possible time, just when the smart money is leaving the table and cashing in. Are these people victims or fools? I won't make that pronouncement, but there is always abundant information available, for anyone who will take the time to digest and understand it, that explains how things work in our economies. The problem is is that too many people believe that the government will somehow always take care of them and that the managed and manipulated economies we now have are being overseen by intelligent, responsible and trustworthy people in government.
That is, of course, nonsense. People in government don't care about us. They only care about being reelected and about having their names on as many bridges and public buildings as possible. To blindly put our 'golden years' into the hands of these buffoons is insane.
What is worse than placing that degree of trust in government? To act in ill-considered fashion yourself, without doing the proper research. And research means not only reading and listening to those whose points of view are in sync with yours. It means understanding both sides.
Most of us, unfortunately, act in concert with our prejudices and preconceptions. And that is dangerous.
The line for the soup kitchen forms on the left.