Thursday, September 12, 2013

Unintended Consequences

I've harped on this before, but it's so mind-boggling that it bears repeating.  George W. Bush found out somewhere that people who own their own homes tend to be financially more responsible, harder-working, and are characterized a bunch of other good things. Not being terribly bright, like most Presidents, Bush got the cart before the horse, and instead of concluding that financial responsibility, etc. lead to home ownership, he decided that it works the other way, and that if you arrange it so that somebody owns a house, he will automatically become financially responsible and all that other stuff. In fact, of course the first version is true, and if anything, virtually giving somebody a house makes him less likely to be financially responsible because hey, you get stuff free, right?  Anyhow, this led Bush to go along with the whole mess that created the housing bust, which makes him, in Orwell's terms, a true intellectual.  Tom Sowell, an actual economist, tells us about that, and other unintended consequences:

Unintended Consequences
By Thomas Sowell | One of the many unintended consequences of the political crusade for increased homeownership among minorities, and low-income people in general, has been a housing boom and bust that left many foreclosed homes that had to be rented, because there were no longer enough qualified buyers.

The repercussions did not stop there. Many homeowners have discovered that when renters replace homeowners as their neighbors, the neighborhood as a whole can suffer.

The physical upkeep of the neighborhood, on which everyone's home values depend, tends to decline. "Who's going to paint the outside of a rented house?" one resident was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times story.

Renters also tend to be of a lower socioeconomic level than homeowners. They are also less likely to join neighborhood groups, including neighborhood watches to keep an eye out for crime. In some cases, renters have introduced unsavory or illegal activities into family-oriented communities of homeowners that had not had such activities before.

None of this should be surprising. Individuals and groups of all sorts have always differed from one another in many ways, throughout centuries of history and in countries around the world. Left to themselves, people tend to sort themselves out into communities of like-minded neighbors.

This has been so obvious that only the intelligentsia could misconstrue it — and only ideologues could devote themselves to crusading against people's efforts to live and associate with other people who share their values and habits.

Quite aside from the question of whose values and habits may be better is the question of the effects of people living cheek by jowl with other people who put very different values on noise, politeness, education and other things that make for good or bad relations between neighbors. People with children to protect are especially concerned about who lives next door or down the street.

But such mundane matters often get brushed aside by ideological crusaders out to change the world to fit their own vision. When the world fails to conform to their vision, then it seems obvious to the ideologues that it is the world that is wrong, not that their vision is uninformed or unrealistic.

One of the political consequences of such attitudes is the current crusade of Attorney General Eric Holder to force various communities to become more "inclusive" in terms of which races and classes of people they contain. (Read the rest HERE.)

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