The cost of housing, on average is 45% of take-home pay for Americans. This is astonishing mis-allocation of resources and I’m pleased to see it crashing. Thoreau, long ago, identified our real needs and put them in stark perspective: Strictly speaking, he said, we have just one essential–bodily heat. We eat food to maintain it, clothe ourselves to hold it in and house ourselves to supplement clothing. How much trouble can it be, he asked, to keep our bodies heated? Not much trouble at all if we are wise. Thoreau found by experiment that six weeks of work a year was sufficient. He thus had lots of free time to write WALDEN’S POND and his world-changing essay ON CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.
The housing bubble is the latest in a long history of monstrous value distortions:
1. Tattoos achieved bubble status in some south sea islands last century; so frenzied a focus of tribal energy that other concerns were neglected.
2. Statue making on Easter Island is another example. Making ever more gigantic Moai (basically status symbols) ecologically bankrupted them contributing to social collapse, savagery, warfare and cannibalism. Read Jared Diamond’s COLLAPSE for details.
3. Pyramid building in Egypt is another bubble of stupidity. Don’t be conned by admiring archaeologist into believing that pyramids are anything but a vast waste of human energy. Thoreau called them tombstones for boobies. He would like to have known those who were beyond such trifling.
4. Angor Watt and central American pyramids are also examples. Can’t you think of a hundred better things to do with human energy.
5. Tulip mania and the Louisiana bubble are historic parallels to housemania.
6. Now housemania is the obsession of our time. Fear and greed have driven the price of housing to bubble status. All over America people are mortgaging their futures for a roof over their head. No house is worth 45% of your income–or even 25% in my opinion. All over the land budgets are distorted with terrible consequences.
The bubble has burst! Good! Now we’ll wake up and regain some proportionality. What we really need is inexpensive shelter and not expensive housing.
To earn a living and enjoy a good life is ridiculously easy in our technological age. I take some pride in the fact that I only worked 10 years of my life and have enjoyed my freedom for 37 years. You could too if you followed Thoreau’s advice to live simply and wisely.
I do not say you should live like me in a cozy little trailer. No! No! No! I say use your own “good genius” to find the lifestyle appropriate to your deeper fascinations.
I think everyone wants in some degree to be engaged in creative endeavors. (Creativity = concept transfer) Drudgery is the enemy of creativity and owning expensive housing very often compels drudgery. Google small houses for some alternatives.
Randy Vining 2/27/08