Monday, February 23, 2009

Scapegoats and the mortgage crisis

When my wife and I were shopping for houses a few years ago, an originator preapproved us for a loan amount so ridiculously high that I knew a mistake must have happened somewhere.

"But you have no debt," the agent insisted.

At this point, I could have patted myself on the back for having arrived, for being a success, for Being Somebody, for having Achieved The American Dream.

I'm sure the agent would have been quite pleased to bank the commission check on such a monster. My family, on the other hand, would have been so house-poor that developing a taste for licking paint off the walls would have become a necessity.

The agent was doing her job. She has zero responsibility for me or my family: that's my job. Had I plunged so deeply into debt, I would have been the fool. I'd have been even more foolish to do so willingly but then turn around and charge "Predatory Lending!"

The same thing happens on car lots. For most people, buying new cars is stupid, and leasing cars even worse. Wise people don't go to car lots seeking financial advice from car salesmen. For good reason: it's not their job! A car salesmen is there to sell you the car you want, regardless of what a lead weight around your neck it'll end up being and the enormous opportunity cost you'll pay.

That cute girl at the office whose marriage is on the rocks and likes to make flirty comments, you could easily throw away your own marriage and your own family over her. Keeping it in your pants is your job, not hers.

Opportunities to screw up royally are everywhere. Children and the incompetent must depend on others to prevent them from making stupid mistakes. It's part of being adults for the rest of us.


Bo said...

Bravo. Amen.

saintseester said...

What's bothering me more than anything are the sheer numbers of people I used to think of as intelligent, bemoaning the poor people suckered into too-big, ARM loans.

Off to beat the drum of personal responsibility...