Monday, September 21, 2009

Bad Karma- Consequences catch up with you, eventually

India is now the new diabetes capital of the world. Cases of hyper tension, diabetes and its subsequent consequences are common place here. But the street vendors and high end shops that sell low quality sweet junk and other similar Trans fat full crap are doing bustling business, even in these recessionary times. A local friend of mine has a cousin, who has been diagnosed with end stage renal failure and is expected to undergo a transplant in the next few months.
Yet, few people are concerned. I’m told that 20 years ago end stage renal failure was less common and people used to get worried over such prognosis. But not anymore. There are millions of people who have bee diagnosed with end stage renal failure and other complications that arise from hypertension and diabetes. Yet, both these chronic diseases are taken lightly. Why? If you are wondering what all this has to do with Alberta or Canadian real estate, please bear with me. At the current rate, roughly 1 in 10 people in Delhi have been estimated to be affected with Diabetes. A combination of bad genes, bad diet and lack of exercise has made this disease an epidemic here.

This is as much a social phenomenon as much as it is a public health problem. People are no longer worried about diabetes, hypertension or kidney disease because it’s normal to do so. The consequences- a drastically shortened life span and poor quality of remainder of life are not given much thought.

What does this have to do with Alberta real estate? A lot, in terms of the underlying psychology.
The Western economies have been afflicted with similar diseases. The severe addiction to debt- zero down housing, cars, massive funding for student loans, consumer credit, multiple credit cards-is similar disease. The consequences, which could especially be ‘at some point in future’ are not given a lot of thought. Especially because everybody else around you is doing it. The underlying human psychology is built primarily around ‘fight or flight’-things get our attention only when we see an imminent danger. Deleterious consequences especially that might happen at a time in the not so visible future are generally disregarded as ‘pessimist thinking.’
The sharp rise in housing sales this year in Canada is equivalent to the behavior of a diabetic patient who has been advised by the sane doctors to curtail the carb consumption, yet he increases his insulin dose and goes on a carb eating spree. Because at this very moment he doesn’t see any ill effects other than a few higher than normal medical test numbers. And this is considered ‘normal’ because he sees a lot of people around him doing the same thing. But in the slightly long term (anytime after immediate today), there will be repercussions. More debt today will result in greater pain tomorrow. Slower growth, higher taxes, higher unemployment and more bailouts. All leading up to end stage renal failure which might require a very painful transplant. Unfortunately, we do not know the treatment from this end stage debt bubble collapse.
Too bad, it is very hard to dissociate yourself from the less responsible in the society. We’ll be paying a price for the zero down mortgages, 35 to 40 year amortizations, and continued rise in prices. Even though we were responsible and did think of ramifications of our actions.

On a different note, I’m back in Alberta after spending a few months in India. Blog entries will become more frequent now.
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