Monday, July 28, 2008

The housing bill

A friend of mine texted me the other day to let me know that he was disappointed in the housing bill, because he doesn't want to see his taxes going to bail out people who got greedy and are now being burned. Or something like that. Anyway, he was unhappy.

I don't think anyone is happy about bailing out people who bought houses and signed mortgages for the wrong reasons. But this is a crisis, and it has to be addressed. If we don't help these people out, there will be a lot more economic damage. And I'm not a big fan of increasing our population of the homeless.

Daily Kos has a rundown of the legislative history of the bill, which is fascinating if you're part of that subgenre of political junkies who are seriously into the minutiae of getting bills actually passed. For a policy take, Paul Krugman approves, with some serious caveats. He writes, for about the zillionth time, about how unrestrained greed in unregulated or lightly regulated financial markets allows people to make really stupid decisions.

My take on it is this: it's probably the best of a bad situation. But if we want the greatest possible range of freedom, we must accept the greatest possible range of error. If we want the freedom to be able to make mistakes, we have to allow others the same freedom. And if, when we make mistakes, we occasionally depend on others to help us out of the jam we have gotten ourselves into, we must be prepared to offer the same in return to others. If we want forgiveness with a minimum of judgment, we must be prepared to, again, offer the same in return.

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