Sunday, May 27, 2007

It Can't Happen Here

The title phrase is a reference to a book by Sinclair Lewis published in 1935. From the Wikipedia page:
It Can't Happen Here is a semi-satirical political novel by Sinclair Lewis published in 1935 . It features newspaperman Doremus Jessup struggling against the fascist regime of President Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, who resembles (to some extent) the flamboyantly dictatorial Huey Long of Louisiana and Gerald B. Winrod, the Kansas evangelist whose far-right views earned him the nickname "The Jayhawk Nazi". It serves as a warning that political movements akin to Nazism can come to power in countries such as the United States when people blindly support their leaders.


The phrase came to mind in an entirely different context this morning. I was reading an e-mail from George Crosby, who is now in Provincetown after a dismal two weeks in NYC doing some street painting and selling his paintings. Other than a commission to paint a house ... that is, to make a painting of a house -- he hasn't descended to house painting to earn money yet -- he says that New Yorkers and tourists there aren't spending any more freely than Key Westers and tourists here.

Crosby sent me a link to a NY Times article on housing, which led me to another article on Florida condominium woes. Cayo Dave covers this aspect of The Real Key West well, and Sally O'Boyle has had some interesting things to say in response to Rock Trueblood about it too. Some say "it can't happen here", that Key West is unique and relatively immune from the problems being seen on the mainland, but that seems to be exactly what did happen at one of the condominium conversions recently completed, the Santa Maria. There are a couple of thousand more units of the same kind, or larger, still in their development cycle. To the extent that developers are counting on pre-construction sales to fund their plans, we may also experience a glut of unsold units coming on-line or projects being delayed. That could have a salutory effect on rents. It could also lead to another wave of foreclosures against properties purchased with highly-leveraged mortgages.

'Twas ever thus, ebbs and flows in the marketplace. We were bit twice that way. That's why we've been unwlling to own real property for the past 10 years. Works for us.

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