Monday, November 17, 2008

If There is an Oversupply of Houses, Why is the Government Building Walls and Driving Down the Supply of Potential Homeowners?

The American Dream of home ownership has been a driver in our economy for at least six decades. Our large, beautiful country with its abundant lakes, open spaces, hills, mountains, rivers, and freedom has always been a major magnet for foreign capital in the form of individuals and families with active minds, creative hands, strong work ethics, and personal savings. Like most people in the US, I can point to several ancestors who were born elsewhere but came to America to build a life that was not achievable in their original home.

As I look around at the growing number of "For Sale" signs, and read about entire neighborhoods where there are beautiful new homes that are empty for lack of buyers, I wonder why the US government has shifted its policies to so actively discourage the flow of immigrants that could be helping to alleviate the situation? We even seem to have some people in government who believe that it is smart to interrupt functioning businesses to capture and send potential homeowners away.

That seems dumb to me. We really should be pressing our government to stop hurting its own efforts to turn around the economy. After all, there are two ways to solve a supply-demand imbalance. You can choke off the production lines that have been providing the supply or you can work to find new demand that can buy the excess supply.

The later is often far more profitable for all concerned, though it seems that B school graduates educated in the past couple of decades have learned more about the former method. For the people at the very top, and over a short time horizon, it is easier and potentially more profitable (again, with a short time horizon) to stop producing than to increase sales efforts.

In America, we are really good at building homes and we have always depended on a mobile and growing population - some from other countries - to fill those homes to build productive communities. We have benefitted by the natural selection process - people who have the gumption and drive to leave everything that they know generally have what it takes to succeed in a new location.

It seems to me that part of the problem is a jaundiced view of humanity, a view that people who currently do not have very much are a cost, not a resource. That is the wrong way to view human beings who were all endowed by their creator with rather incredible productive capabilities.

Another part of the problem might be a sense of entitlement by people who believe that they should be handed something simply as a result of where they were born or who their parents are. People who feel that way often look down at people whose initial luck of the draw at birth put them in a place with fewer opportunities or gave them parents with less money and education.

I would rather bring in capital to sustain our way of life in many small chunks from people that become Americans themselves than to beg for indulgence from sovereign wealth funds for large chunks of capital that can then be used as a club to influence our international policies.

Bottom line - rational immigration rules with welcoming actions are good for business. They allow America to market one of its major "exports" without sending jobs and capital somewhere else. When we market the American dream and allow people to come here - with their cash, talent or simple drive and determination to work hard, we all profit.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Introduction to Questioning Attitude

For those who are stumbling on Questioning Attitude without coming from one of my other publications, allow me to introduce myself. I have been a commissioned officer in the United States Navy or US Naval Reserves since May 1981. Like most people who have served in a large organization for many years, I have held a variety of positions, but within the Navy my career has been rather unusual. There are not many officers who served through their post department head shore tour, left active duty for six years for entrepreneurial endeavors and returned to active duty to eventually return to being a "regular Navy" vice a US Naval Reserve.

There are also not many who have spent 7 years (and counting) in a row in three very different Washington DC based Navy headquarters assignments at essentially the same level. I have been in an IT job, an analysis job associated with manpower and training, and now in a financial analysis job associated with maintenance. I have been a Commander (O-5) for more than 12 years. This has given me a rather unusual perspective.

As part of my navy nuclear power training, I learned a lesson that has been an important part of my outlook on life ever since - the importance of a questioning attitude. As I move though life and get blessed with the opportunity to observe important events, participate in wide ranging discussions, meet interesting people, and hold different jobs, I often think about why certain things are the way they are, whether or not those things match expectations or potential, and whether or not they can be changed.

It is often prudent to keep some questions out of the immediate conversation, but it can be useful to use the situation for deeper reflection or for starting a conversation with a new group of people who might be interested in learning or helping implement a change. In large organizations, sharing such thoughts and observations may be a way to initiate a change in policy, attitudes or priorities.

My intention with this blog may be a bit grandiose and even a bit hazardous to my current career, but I think that the effort will be worth while. I am using my given name and will maintain a professional level of conversation that respects the need for discretion and security. Comments will be allowed and encouraged, but they will be moderated. I reserve the right to delete any that are objectionable, threatening or obscene.