Some egghead at The Atlantic has a pretty interesting read on how the recent economic collapse is going to change the demographics of America. He traces America's internal migration all the way back to the Industrial Age, which saw people leaving their subsistence farming lifestyles for cities, to the post-WWII era, which saw the rise of the burbs. He cites the decline of rust belt cities (Detroit, Buffalo, Dayton) due to a shrinking manufacturing sector, and the rise of the sun/geezer belt (Vegas, Phoenix and its associated burbs) due to real estate speculation. Basically, he says we need to nix the idea of owning a home as somehow being the American dream and we are all going to end up in the city. Seeing how home-ownership is on the moral plane of spreading anthrax with all the negative press its getting, renting more modest dwellings in the city might not be such a bad idea. From The Atlantic:
For the generation that grew up during the Depression and was inclined to pinch pennies, policies that encouraged freer spending were sensible enough—they allowed the economy to grow faster. But as younger generations, weaned on credit, followed, and credit availability increased, the system got out of hand. Housing, meanwhile, became an ever-more-central part of the American Dream: for many people, as the recent housing bubble grew, owning a home came to represent not just an end in itself, but a means to financial independence.Wired had a similar ethos a few months back, but that was due to living urban being more environmentally friendly. But this doesn't address the rampant corruption on the city councils in some of America's larger cities, and the obscene city taxes in others. With owning a home being infeasible and living in the city being too damn expensive, the only option seems to be fleeing the country. That's my plan, how about you?
On one level, the crisis has demonstrated what everyone has known for a long time: Americans have been living beyond their means, using illusory housing wealth and huge slugs of foreign capital to consume far more than we’ve produced. The crash surely signals the end to that; the adjustment, while painful, is necessary.