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“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”
— Thucydides

“A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”
— Jean-François Revel

McCain, the Subprime Kerfuffle, and the Election

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Interesting item that went by this week while I was too busy to blog about it:

An excellent, uncharacteristically long post over at Instapundit about the subprime mortgage crisis and, somewhat peripherally, Senator McCain's recent comments on the matter. One especially interesting reader comment:

According to many in congress and social commentators, one of the main causes of the subprime mess was mortgage brokers doing loans for people that we knew could not repay the loan.

As a mortgage broker if I had a customer sitting in front of me who qualified for a loan (according to lender guidelines in place at the time), I was supposed to tell them that I was not going to do a loan for them because I don't think they will make their payments? Can you imagine the uproar if lenders and brokers did that to customers? Especially if the customer happened to be a minority. It comes down to a case of brokers being damned if they do, damned if they don't.

Worth reading the whole thing for a variety of comparably interesting perspectives on what's happening. And be sure not to miss this excellent 2006 SNL sketch guest-starring Steve Martin. I had never seen it before myself, but the radically "new" idea being pitched pretty well sums up what my approach to credit has been all my life: if you don't have the money now, don't buy it! I don't know to what experiences I might owe my natural aversion to spending beyond my means, but it has certainly served me well. Buying a house, of course -- especially in California -- is one purchase for which the need to borrow money is nearly unavoidable, barring truly extraordinary business or investment talents. But even given that, one does have a choice about whether and under what conditions to proceed. A couple of years ago, the assortment of house prices and lending instrument terms being offered in the SF Bay Area entered the realm of the truly absurd. I'm certainly glad I exercised restraint and didn't buy then.

As for McCain, I'm generally inclined to like the guy better than any of the presently available alternatives, but I didn't much appreciate his comments about "greedy people on Wall Street", which Glenn Reynolds followed up on here, here, and here. As James Taranto put it in the WSJ:

He seems to view the making of money -- that is to say, the production of goods and services that people want, and the act of supplying them through voluntary exchange in a free market -- as a less than honorable pursuit.

Certainly, I feel obliged to point out, this is not the point of view I would choose if I were assembling my idea of an ideal candidate from scratch. But I'm a practical man, and politics is rightly enough the art of the possible, not the ideal. I'm still sad about Fred Thompson having withdrawn his candidacy, as are others, but even as my first choice he wasn't someone with whom I agreed on all issues. If anything, I appreciated his straightforward honesty about his convictions, whether I agreed with him on a particular philosophical point or not. Much preferable to crowd-pleasing evasion and fungible, poll-driven responses-du-jour in my book.

In any case, Fred's bowed out of the race, and all the write-in votes the country has to offer seem unlikely to change that. So for now at least, I'm with McCain. I'm no big fan of McCain-Feingold, or of his recent, left-echoing "econo-baiting", but he's got it right on the one issue that overrides all others for me: seeing things through to a tenable conclusion in Iraq, and showing the Jihadists who mean with demonstrated determination to bring harm to the United States and the West at large that we will not back down.

Update 2/3: If he doesn't win re-election to the Czech presidency on February 8th, can we draft Václav Klaus?