Friday, October 31, 2008

Riot?

Riot?”, asks Sudhir Venkatesh.

He lists a lot of reasons he thinks there haven't been riots or even protests surrounding financial institutions, responding to the generally irresponsible practices leading to a financial meltdown and massive taxpayer-funded bailout. He cites anger from pundits on the radio and on blogs, but no popular uprising.

I'll submit another reason: introspection. We all fucked up. Sure, government failed to regulate, and investment houses took bad risks. And there was out-and-out fraud on all sides of the sub-prime market. But people, too, took out lots of risky mortgages on houses they couldn't afford when they should have known that housing prices were in a bubble. It wasn't like it was a secret that we were in a housing bubble. I'm no economist, but I listened to the news when I lived in California and heard all about housing prices staying high as the bottom fell out of the pre-fab market. It seemed like pretty conventional wisdom to me that that was a harbinger of the bubble's collapse, but people kept buying houses at ridiculous prices. I worked with one. Everyone at the lunch table told him to wait for the bubble to burst (including a guy who'd been studying the market for years). He had all kinds of advice telling him to wait and to act rationally and he ignored it.

I bet a lot of the angry voices are people with an agenda to push. Certainly not everyone whose house has been foreclosed borrowed irresponsibly, but I think among many of them there's more introspection than anger. What is the American dream that I was chasing? What is the foundation of my personal finance, and of our economy as a whole? It gives us pause.

OK, I have yet another reason: the suburbs. Suburbs and exurbs have been hit hardest in the financial crisis, and it's hard to organize in the suburbs. This is because they're not dense and emphasize private spaces over public ones in every aspect of life.

1 comment:

Aaron Sheldon said...

I hate the suburbs anyway