Thingish Things

Telltale Sidewalks

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jan• 21•11

I couldn’t help noticing while walking to my train this morning something I’ve noticed countless times before.

The sidewalks in front of owner-occupied homes in my town are, for the most part, neatly shoveled and salted, while those collectively occupied remain piled with snow.

This is hardly a groundbreaking observation. Individual responsibility and the inherent failure of collectivism lie at the heart of American conservative thought.

But it got me thinking again about the failed experiment from which the country is now  recovering.

There has been plenty of finger pointing over the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market, but truth be told, there were a lot of voices on both sides of the aisle advocating for ubiquitous home ownership throughout the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s. (Remember the Community Reinvestment Act and low-income housing tax credits?)

On the GOP side it was led by Kemp conservatives who saw privatization — rightly I think — as a solution to urban blight. And on the Democratic side it was Chuck Schumer and others demanding equal access to credit in poor neighborhoods.

Both had noble goals, but the result was disastrous.  We ignored two key human elements: group think and greed. Buyers, watching their neighbors get rich, became numb to risk, and profiteers learned how to dump that risk onto other people and get rich doing it.

It’s too bad. Because the idea of private ownership remains appealing, especially while trudging through eight inches of snow.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.