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.

No comments: