As the flying party that is the debt-fed US economy and the super-special Seattle housing market experience more and more turbulence, I feel that the following quote from Douglas Adams’ novel Life, The Universe, and Everything (third book of five in the must-read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy) is even more pertinent than it was when I first posted it a year and a half ago.
I guess you could look at the flying party as being either the national (or worldwide?) economy, or more specifically the Seattle real estate market. Either one could work (if your mind is as twisted as mine is, anyway).
The longest and most destructive party ever held is now into its fourth generation, and still no one shows any signs of leaving. Somebody did once look at his watch, but that was eleven years ago, and there has been no follow-up.
The mess is extraordinary, and has to be seen to be believed, but if you don’t have any particular need to believe it, then don’t go and look, because you won’t enjoy it.
One of the problems, and it’s one which is obviously going to get worse, is that all the people at the party are either the children or the grandchildren or the great-grandchildren of the people who wouldn’t leave in the first place, and because of all the business about selective breeding and regressive genes and so on, it means that all the people now at the party are either absolutely fanatical partygoers, or gibbering idiots, or, more and more frequently, both.
Either way, it means that, genetically speaking, each succeeding generation is now less likely to leave than the preceding one.
So other factors come into operation, like when the drink is going to run out.
Now, because of certain things which have happened which seemed like a good idea at the time (and one of the problems with a party which never stops is that all the things which only seem like a good idea at parties continue to seem like good ideas), that point seems still to be a long way off.
One of the things which seemed like a good idea at the time was that the party should fly — not in the normal sense that parties are meant to fly, but literally.
One night, long ago, a band of drunken astro-engineers of the first generation clambered round the building digging this, fixing that, banging very hard on the other and when the sun rose the following morning, it was startled to find itself shining on a building full of happy drunken people which was now floating like a young and uncertain bird over the treetops.
Not only that, but the flying party had also managed to arm itself rather heavily. If they were going to get involved in any petty arguments with wine merchants, they wanted to make sure they had might on their side.
The transition from full-time cocktail party to part-time raiding party came with ease, and did much to add that extra bit of zest and swing to the whole affair which was badly needed at this point because of the enormous number of times that the band had already played all the numbers it knew over the years.
They looted, they raided, they held whole cities for ransom for fresh supplies of cheese crackers, avocado dip, spare ribs and wine and spirits, which would now get piped aboard from floating tankers.
The problem of when the drink is going to run out is, however, going to have to be faced one day.
The planet over which they are floating is no longer the planet it was when they first started floating over it.
It is in bad shape.
“Floating over the treetops” = magical growth, unsupported by fundamentals.
“Looting and raiding” = ever-increasing, crushing personal debt (followed now by increasing foreclosures).
The time “when the drink is going to run out” = the point at which debt (both personal and national) reaches critical mass.
I admit, it’s not a perfect analogy, but I think it works.
In a lot of ways, the artificial economic high we have been on the last ten years (the dot-com bubble followed by the housing bubble) could indeed be described as “the longest and most destructive party ever held.”