Lord Gonchar said:
Somewhere between there and here in life, I've come across the idea that it's nice to have things I want. I'm on pretty much the complete opposite end of the spectrum from someone like millrace (who seems to prefer a simple life and is happy with needs being met and nothing more).
You know I luv ya, Joe. But you know me well enough to know that I have to agree with Gonch, and even Jeff, on this one. Call it expensive taste, call it being spoiled, call it whatever, but I think it's nice to have nice things even if some of them walk the fine line that defines excess. You also know me well enough to know this rant isn't directed at you.
I could get by with a Honda Civic or a Toyota Corolla, but I want a sportier and more luxurious car. I could get by with a one-bedroom, 900 sq. foot condo, but I want something with more room that I don't necessarily need. I could get by with a 13" B&W TV but I want big and I want HD. If I wasn't in a reasonably good financial situation, perhaps those wants might be just that- wants- but since I'm in a position to have those things, I went out and got them. I don't think that defines me as environmentally irresponsible or anything like that. When I see 18-wheelers spewing black clouds of smoke into their air as they merge onto a highway and a family with 17 children on The Today Show, I suddenly don't feel that my slightly-selfish ways are the world's biggest problem.
Of course, there are ways to counter excess. Don't drive a gas-guzzler more than you have to, and drive with a light foot. Take shorter showers, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs and keep the heat and A/C down in a big house. Remember to turn the TV off when you leave the room for an extended period of time. All stuff like that. The true villains are the ones that have the selfish stuff and act selfish ;)
*** Edited 9/21/2007 6:14:02 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***
I could extrapolate the argument a bit further and opine that many people living in small homes would be hurt a lot if the guys in big homes suddenly got all soft and down-sized. There is a lot of construction, furniture, maintenance, etc that goes into large homes which creates a lot of work opportunities and taxable events. This is good for the little guy and good for the government.
As a guy harping on a dynamic outlook, I agree anything COULD happen. But I’ve got many a doubt on so many different levels that we could/would ever see a massive change in societal wants/needs the likes of which MR opines.
We had a client come in and ask if we had any house plans in our office. We usually don't, but happened to have a set from one client who wanted us to fit the house on his lot. The second client looked at this 4000+ sq ft. plan, shook us head and said his wife wanted at least 8000. WTF? One couple, no kids, what do they need 8000 sq ft for? 1) Status-- mine is bigger than yours. And we want that kitchen we saw in the magazine, even though we seldom eat at home. 2) To fill it with stuff. Two people don't need 5 or 6 bedrooms-- until one becomes an office, another becomes a media room, you have to put the exercise equipment somewhere, and what about all the clothes and shoes?
Of course people need a large house to be comfortable. If people had a normal size house, there'd be no place to walk or sit with all the stuff they have crammed in there. Multiple TVs, stereo systems, and computers. Every appliance and machine known to man, every gadget advertised on those multiple TVs.
The large house will cost more to heat and cool. It will probably be assessed and taxed at a higher rate. Lots more maintenance (wait till you have to replace the roof on one of those suckers with the 7 gables). Weekends devoted entirely to mowing the 3-4 acre lawn. The humongous decks that have to be stained and sealed every few years. Most people don't even think about how much it costs in time and money to maintain a property once they own it.
I'm not telling people they should subsist on the bare minimum-- although I think Mr. Gore and the rest of those high-living celebrities are. I don't live that way myself. However, when the idea of collecting and consuming things becomes so powerful you might lose everything you do have, then those things are no longer luxuries, they're millstones around your neck. It is possible to live comfortably without the extremes of being either wasteful or stingy.
Don't you think you're painting a bit of a grim picture? Not everyone moving into these houses is over-extending themselves or living beyond their means. I'm living the subdivision life and most of my neighbors are the same people who moved in with me six years ago. No defaults on my street.
Or they buy a big house and it sits empty because they are spending all their money and then some in an attempt to avoid defaulting on all those sub-prime no-money down mortgages.
Trying to debate big vs small or luxuries vs austerity is not the issue. The folly of a society living in unsustainable means supported exclusively by cheap energy is going to force a change, and it doesn't matter what society *prefers* or thinks it prefers.
And it doesn't have to be "doing without", just doing things differently. Instead of somebody in Ohio eating Florida corn, you can eat local corn. Instead of cheap particle board furniture from China, have locally crafted furniture or refinished old furniture. There could be a whole lot of new opportunities.
...but quite a lot of people are sourned on by dubious tactics from the tract-home building industry and shady lenders.
I just don't like that line because it puts the blame in the wrong place.
If you bought more home than you could afford, it's your own fault...not someone else's for letting you...or even coericing you.
Sure, I'd like that 4000 sq ft, 5 bed, 4 bath house too...I'm just smart enough to know my limits.
No sympathy from Gonch to all these people supposedly getting burned on their ARM's.
So when everybody is feeling so sorry for us poor souls who were duped into ARM loans, know that I willingly signed up for an ARM, with advice from my financial planner, knowing full well that the downside risk was not that bad...because Uncle Sam will save me. Uncle Sam should let me fall on my butt (note that I can afford the increase on the ARM w/o refinancing if needed)...but he won't. There are plenty of voters and a overzealous media willing to paint every personal decision as some unfair business practice.
This is a clear case of "if you can't beat them...join them." If government wants to help me out, even when I don't need the help and am not asking for it...who am I to turn them down. I guess this is my payback for all those taxes they spend on programs I do not support.
Free markets my butt...:)
*** Edited 9/21/2007 11:07:51 PM UTC by Jeffrey R Smith***
I'd love to have a geothermal system but I can't find anyone to put one in at a reasonable price--$10k (or more) premium with me moving into a new house every few years means I have to find a buyer who sees the value in it. I'm not sure I can. (My brother couldn't convince himself to go geo. 2 years ago when I built his house, and he plans to be there a long time.)
I'm surprised Gonch doesn't have a huge house--I thought he had everything.
My truck gets maybe 10 mpg the way I drive it(local, short trips) but I'm looking to replace it. No, not a Prius--I want a V10.
I'd argue our cheap energy society isn't changing soon--OIL may not be cheap, but most of the energy in this country is not oil based. (So I can build the big house, just don't put in an oil burner.)
I, apparently, live in Gonch's dream house. 4 bedrooms (we converted the 5th one into a library), 3.5 baths, 4,000+ finished sq. feet, on an acre lot in a small town 20 miles from my place of employment (30+ miles for my wife). We're evil, pure evil I tell ya! Except for the fact that we pay far less in gas and electric bills than houses half our sized due to having a lot of fires in the winter for heat and just generally keeping the thermostat at more energy friendly settings than the apparant norm around here.
Like millrace, I also use my canvas bags to bring home groceries as often as possible (with hippy logo and all). I recycle a lot around the house (not as much as possible), but we still tend to take as much to the recycler (no home pick up here) as we put out on the curb. Or at least we did until we had diapers. ;)
With the arrival of our first child, my wife needed a new vehicle. Our requirements were that it could carry two adults, the baby, two dogs (1 medium size, 1 large) and all of the needed luggage for a weekend at our lake house. We wanted to do that in the most fuel efficient method possible without getting a mini-van. We ended up buying a Subaru Outback and it's been averaging 28 mpg.
My next car will most likely be a diesel wagon. Those things will get upwards of 40 mpg and diesel doesn't go through the price spikes that gas does. Around here diesel is within a 30 cent window all year round. Plus I can fill it with biodiesel without the reduction in performance that gassers get with E85. Not to mention that diesel is a less refined product meaning that it takes less energy to process it than any gasoline.
Historically it has been a dirtier burning fuel, but with the new emission standards instituted by the EPA it's not the smelly diesel we all remember from our youth. I don't think it's the end all be all answer, but I think it helps more than many of our other options available today.
In the end, I want nice things and I can afford nice things. But I'm not so self centered that I do everything with my eyes closed to the greater picture. I'm not sure I'm willing to completely change my lifestyle, but I am willing to take some additional steps to lessen my overall impact.
Unfortunately I know far too many people who won't do a thing to help reduce our wastefulness, but they are more than willing to complain about increasing prices. *** Edited 9/22/2007 4:39:00 AM UTC by Incidentalist***
I'm surprised Gonch doesn't have a huge house--I thought he had everything.
You know, it's funny - I have a feeling you're not the only one who thinks that way. Somehow my ability to see and try to understand things from the corporate side coupled with a willingness to pay for what I want seems to gets translated into something it's not.
I don't want to get too personal, but judging from this and a few other threads - I'm a pauper compared to a lot of you. (but I'm apparently having a lot more fun ;) )
Predatory lending and foreclosures are hot in the news, but I haven't seen stats that suggest it's any bigger of a problem than usual. And even then, most of the stories I see target lower middle class or poorer, people in the cities, not the burbs.
But in a way you're right, environmental sensitivity and personal finance aren't related. Except that for the person who's only into "gimme" and "I want" or "I need" or "I gotta have" there is usually little thought or concern put into whether they can afford their wants or what effect their wants have on anyone beyond their own space. And the idea that for both, someone somehow will come along (is obligated to come along) and save them from their bad decisions.
RGB...we are in the middle of an election season. The economy has been through the roof (Ohio and Mich exception) despite media attempts to downplay it. Unemployment has been low, wages have been up, stock market at or near historic levels etc... While I'm no Bush supporter or apologist, the fact is that the economy and market have done well. There needs to be something that the mainstream media can point to for doom and gloom on the economy front. The housing market is their ticket. Emotion is much more powerful than rational thought. Bush sucks, the economy sucks, yada yada...
Fear driven by media reporting is much more powerful than the data...
But I'm sure our clients and employees would feel much better if they heard from two guys on a coaster enthusiast website who told them it's all just the media overblowing things, and things look good on the street where they live, so all is well.
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