Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Suburban Legend: Wasting Resources

From Whiskey & Gunpowder:
As Americans continue to strive everyday to conserve, it’s hard not to notice the sweeping changes that still need to be met. Below is an excerpt from James Howard Kunstler’s talk at this year’s Agora Financial Investment Symposium.
The American suburb was the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world… Why? Because it has no future, because we’re not going to be able to run it…. We don’t have the resource base to run it.

A lot of the delusions that are now rampant in the country all focus on the alternative energy scene. I want to be very clear about this, I am in favor of alternative energy. I think we’re going to do everything we possibly can. But the key to understanding alternative energy is this: First of all, we are going to be disappointed by what it can do for us, and second, it is not going to change the fact that we have to make other arrangements for all the important activities of daily life…

We’re having an incoherent conversation about that in our society right now because of the psychology of previous investment. We’ve invested so much of our wealth and even our identity in the [existing American] way of life that we can’t imagine letting go of it… But the “project of suburbia” is over as a period in our history and the homebuilders are going down and they will not be coming back.

We’re in the process now of losing somewhere between $1.5 and $3 trillion worth of capital. That capital is going to be lost. It went into a black hole and things don’t come out of black holes. We’re not going to have money to lend to people, least of all for mortgages. In fact, the whole idea of mortgage in America may be similar to what happened back in France after the Mississippi bubble. They didn’t even use the word “bank” for 150 years, it was such a toxic word....MORE