Even more than my normal Random thoughts, these thoughts are a bit disorganized. I wanted to post something. I was going to post these thoughts (including ones on property prices) before but saved work by posting the real-estate roller coaster thing.
But, for what its worth (as much as a campaign promise, at least) here are my thoughts on politics, property, and population.
What does the recent election mean? I suspect little. With some upsets, it was mostly a victory for the establishment. There was a change of power but I imagine there will be less change of policy. Rand Paul aside, many of the Republican failures were Tea Party candidates. Indeed, the establishment Lisa Murkowski looks to have won as a write in. Just as the Democratic swing in 2008 did not represent a large change in ideology (many of those Dems ran as moderates), the current crop of new arrivals represents only a slight move to the right (the Republicans ran more conservatively but the more “mainstream” candidates seemed to have faired better).
- Spearhead: Despite Record Number of Female Candidates, Women Lose Seats in Congress
- Whiskey: The Election Results: Go Hunk, Avoid Women
- In Mala Fide: How New York’s ballot system undermines democracy (and not in a good way), plus other election thoughts
- OneSTDV: Is the Conservative Shift Permanent or a Cycle Repeating?
- Renegade: I Called It Two Years Ago
Mark Steyn, amongst others, has warned of demographic decline. His big fear is that white Western populations are not replacing themselves. While imbalances in the welfare state (pensions) do pose a problem, I am less sure that the problem is demographic decline rather than demographic change. The problems faced by many Western nations do not just revolve around demographic decline, they revolve around demographic change. The relatively tiny island of Britain once ruled the World. America was at the height of its influence when it had a population was no more than two thirds of today’s . Switzerland has achieved its prosperity with a relatively small population.  Its population represents about six years of United States immigration. Yes, at current US immigration rates we could empty the population of Switzerland in six to seven years. Now that would be demographic change (and might be a better deal than current policy).
Japan faces a demographic decline, but their response is to develop robotics. A recent Citizen Renegade post on sexbots illustrated the strides they have made in giving human form to machines. Sexbots are probably not where such robotics will find their biggest markets. The caring and hospitality services offer a potentially huge market. While the United States develops expertise in English as a Second Language, the Japanese are developing expertise in robotics. Which would you rather as the basis for a prosperous society? Even if robots cannot completely relieve labor shortages, so what? Labor shortages equal higher wages and higher wages equal greater optimism. It is true that higher wages lead to higher prices but that does not mean workers (that is most of us, by definition) are falling behind. The workers that assemble Ferraris, Bentleys, and Bugatti’s may not be able to afford their product, but they can certainly afford to house, clothe, and feed their families.
This is not just about human capital either. Even if the demographic change was in the direction of importing only smart outsiders (and almost no country completely adopts this policy) you have to account for cultural change.
Although usually dismissed by technocratic open borders types, it is vital to the well being of any society. Culture is the infrastructure upon which we deploy human capital. Diversity creates the human equivalent of gridlock: what should be able to move fast and free, ends up caught in jams and crashes. A smart new machine is no good if it cannot work with the existing plant.
It amazes me that many who call for maintaining and upgrading our physical infrastructure are so blithe to the degradation of our human infrastructure. Those who insist we “invest” (spend tax money) in a 21st century workforce also insist on importing 19th century workers.
In short: I believe that any nation can bounce back from demographic decline. Cheaper land, higher wages, and increased optimism can possibly raise birth rates once again. What no nation can survive is demographic change of the type many Western countries impose upon themselves.
Why are rising property values considered such a good thing? When a property moves from $250,000 to $500,000 it does not get larger or more comfortable. The price change generates no wealth (although money may shift around). When you move you still need to purchase another home that has presumably risen likewise in value. Is it really a good thing that your children will not be able to afford your neighborhood? Is it really a good thing that to have so much of your wealth tied to an illiquid asset?
I understand the pain of those who have lost money in recent property price declines. I am asking why rising property values was ever declared a good thing in itself.
Some may see high prices as a way to prevent undesirables from moving in, but I don’t see that. If an average house cost $5,000 and a luxury house cost $20,000, even the luxury house would be affordable to almost everyone. However, once a cheaper alternative is available I see no reason why poorer people would rush to the swanky neighborhoods. The same price differential exists between a secondhand clunker and a new shiny sedan, yet poorer people tend to drive the clunkers while middle class opt for the sedan. Indeed, I suspect that more poor people would choose the sedan over the fancy house.