Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Social Darwinism and the Housing Bubble

A comment left by a reader in a previous post got me thinking and suggested itself as this rather unconventional blog post:

One reader said (and I paraphrase) 'one way people are able to afford houses these days in California is by choosing to not have babies or else having babies later in life when fertility becomes questionable'. Another reader then responded to this saying "So what is wrong with that? Darwin in action IMO!"

Now I know I got grilled pretty dang hard for once saying that if people knowing get a loan that they cannot really afford and subsequently find themselves "underwater", then they get what they deserve. That was a rather darwinistic thing for me to say.

So, is social darwinism relevant in today's housing bubble? If so, are we under no obligation to help people by trying to constrain this and future housing bubbles? Should the free-for-all market be allowed to run its course no matter what the consequences? Is appealing to social darwinism a form of denial and avoidance?

And are you more fit if:
  • you can afford these crazy loans?
  • or you cannot afford these crazy loans, you know you cannot afford them, and you therefore choose to rent?
  • or you sell and/or choose to save your money and rent (even though you can afford to buy) when everyone else and their brother is buying, and then buy when everyone else is selling?
Are you unfit if:
  • you get a loan that you cannot really afford and at some later time find yourself "underwater"?

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of natural selection so popularized by Darwin, we can think of this as Capitalistic Selection. Just as with the natural selection theory, only the cunning and/or lucky will survive.

Cheers

Mar 21, 2006, 5:45:00 PM  
Blogger Athena said...

I think it comes down to how you define "fittest."

I mean... if fittest is defined as he who can juggle financial risks and defy the odds... well then we have a different ballgame.

Can you be fit and be practical? Or do you have to be a leveraged risk taker?

It is a value judgment. Kind of like Ontological or Deontological debate.

Does the end justify the means? or are the means and end in themselves?

Mar 21, 2006, 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger moonvalley said...

I suppose if you find yourself "underwater", and so you grow legs and drag yourself onto land you're fit, Darwin-wise.

Mar 21, 2006, 11:28:00 PM  
Anonymous dave s said...

Well, in evolutionary theory, an individual is fit if it reproduces. You discover fitness by results. So you are equally 'fit' if you are Donald Trump, with his five kids, or a welfare mom with her five kids. You are unfit if you die at 75 at home alone childless in your condo, to be dimly missed by your cats. Who maybe gnaw on your cadaver some before your death is discovered.

I think it's too bad that that's a life trajectory a lot of people will fall into. I adore my kids, can't imagine life without them, would rather live in a crummy rental with them than in a swell Bay view condo without them.

How to fix things so that folks can have it all? I thing neg-am ARMS are part of the problem, not part of the solution. I think better transit and school vouchers which lessen the scarcity value of some houses relative to others probably helps. But mostly I think people have to think what they want their lives to be like when they are 50, and whether what they are doing now will take them where they want to go.

Mar 22, 2006, 6:30:00 AM  
Blogger fredtobik said...

The ability to adapt quickly to changing environments is the key to self preservation, and more importantly advancement. I think you are fit if you can take advantage of situations to better yourself.

People making odd financial decisions will lose their place on the fiscal ladder, someone has to replace them, wealth lost is wealth gained.

Maybe Marinites are too educated to possibly fathom the ignorance of the majority.

Mar 22, 2006, 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous astrid said...

You're thinking one level too high. Very few American babies starve to death and the lower economic strata here tend to have more kids. This is just a case of DINKs chosing to be DINKs. I see no clear harm to society. As for the DINKs... genetic suicide is a defensible choice.

On the other hand, people who have kids and unsupportable mortgage are a public menace.

Mar 22, 2006, 9:05:00 PM  

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